Speaking to friends south of Hadrian's Wall, one great feature of the Scottish elections is the choice available to the electorate, meaning that you don't need to hold a peg over your nose while casting your vote.
I'm one of Thatcher’s children (not literally - stop sniggering), and it was quite something when New Labour shot to power in 1997, giving my generation a government other than a Tory one for the first time in our lives. As a Scot, we’ve actually been in a one-party state for longer. Scottish Labour have exercised power not just in the post-devolution phase, but for decades have been the major political force nationally and in local authorities. And now for the first time in my lifetime, the polls appear to be showing that they will no longer be the largest party, and it is the SNP that will come up trumps.
What difference will this make politically? The major disappointment in 1997 was that Blair turned out to be little different in reality to the Tories that went before. The SNP have similarly gone through modernisation in recent years, albeit without loud Clause 4 moments. Economic policies have moved from raising taxes, to arguing that cutting them will stimulate the economy in a way that other nearby small countries have done to great success. We have to have a competitive edge vis-à-vis the south-east of England to be more successful.
When Alex Salmond took the party reigns less than three years ago he said he would appeal to the head and the heart of Scotland. One of the defining aspects of the Blair era has been its heartlessness. New Labour was billed as social democracy, but it forgot the social – and the democracy. Modernisation for the SNP has not meant reversal to opposition of Trident and illegal wars. They think Scotland should at least be speaking out - if they don’t have the power to act - on US torture and bunker-busting bomb flights refuelling at our airports. Dawn raids on asylum seeker families are inconsistent with a civilised society. On the environment, they have set a vision for Scotland to be a powerhouse in terms of renewable energy, with our offshore wind power untapped despite being a potential Saudi Arabia in terms of how much can be produced.
This is a new type of politics. I wouldn’t enjoy the prospect of voting in England. If you’re progressive on international affairs, treatment of minorities and nuclear weapons you’re pretty much left with the far left, regardless of the prospects of them actually winning and whatever you may think of their economic policies. It’s a pretty destitute level of choice available to the electorate, which thankfully is not replicated in Scotland.