As the referendum day approaches more and more people are beginning to think about what happens after, particularly what happens after a Yes vote. This is certainly true of the wider Yes campaign. Radical Independence among others has already started this new phase in the campaign. But what about the Unionist side? There does not appear to be much evidence of any kind of thinking beyond September 18th. Mainly it seems because they lazily assumed there would be a massive No vote. Even the UK government has apparently made no plans for what to do after a Yes vote. So much for Westminster competence? But what future awaits the leading players in the Unionist campaign after a Yes vote? This post takes a brief look at how a Yes vote might affect some of the politicians.
MPs at Westminster
There are currently 59 MPs elected from Scottish constituencies. With a Yes vote these 59 individuals face political extinction. By May 2016, their parliamentary careers at Westminster will have come to an abrupt and permanent end. All but the current six SNP MPs will regard this as an unmitigated disaster. Some, for example most of the LibDem MPs are unlikely to survive the next election anyway, but most, especially the Labour contingent, will be anticipating a long, if rather uninspiring career on the backbenches at Westminster. For most of this lot, a Yes vote will pretty much mean the end of their political careers, either due to age or to their proven record of invisibility among the Scottish electorate. They will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to find a winnable seat for the Scottish Parliament. While the Tories can be ignored at this level, there will still be a considerable number of ex MPs from the Labour and LibDem ranks who will want to continue in active politics, even in an independent Scotland. I am thinking of the likes of Danny Alexander, Michael Moore, Jo Swinson and even Charles Kennedy from the LidDems. From Labour I imagine people like Douglas Alexander, Margaret Curran, Cathy Jamieson and Anas Sarwar will also want to continue to play a prominent and leading role in politics in an independent Scotland. The big problem they will all face is how can they achieve this after a Yes vote? Pretty much the only way is to get elected to the Scottish Parliament. But this may prove more difficult than appears at first sight. In addition to the problem that they will be perceived as having been on the wrong and losing side in the referendum, they will have to secure a winnable seat or winnable place on a regional list to have any chance of getting elected. To get that far they will have to overcome the sitting MSPs and a possible backlash of the johnny come lately syndrome. While both Labour and the LibDems can expect to do better in 2016 than their dismal showings in 2011, there is little evidence in the polls so far of any significant bounce back. One can understand why all the Unionist MPs are so personally committed to a No vote. They have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain.
Our Noble Lords and Ladies
This is another group of individuals who will face an uncertain future after a Yes vote. In this case it is not at all clear what will in fact happen. I haven’t been able at short notice to find a definitive list of how many members of the House of Lords are resident in Scotland. Residency in this case I am sure will be the crucial issue. There are many Scottish members of the House of Lords, such as Baroness Kennedy, but as she has been resident in England for decades, I imagine she will continue her work unaffected by the result of a Yes vote. Those at risk will be the likes of Lords Roberston, Wallace, McConnell et al. What future awaits them after a Yes vote? They will probably be able to keep their titles, a fairly meaningless gesture. But will they still be able to turn up and speak and more importantly vote in the Lords? I imagine not. Here the residency test will be applied. Only those Lords and Ladies normally resident in the rUK will be entitled to vote in the House of Lords. Which will leave many a Scottish Lord and Lady with even more time to spend with their families or whatever else they do with their time. It will be particularly galling for this lot, as there is pretty much zilch chance of an independent Scotland creating its own little House of Lords. Even a second chamber is most unlikely. Our Scandinavian neighbours manage quite successfully without the need for one. As most of these Lords and Ladies will be failed or retired politicians I imagine they will bow gracefully or ungraciously out of politics altogether. Some may fancy their chance as a political commentator, but the demand for their wisdom and insights is likely to be of limited appeal in an independent Scotland.
We need not fret too much over the future of Unionist politicians after a Yes vote. Most have contributed little to the betterment of Scotland and their disappearance from the political scene will be scarcely noticed. A few of the more enterprising among them will no doubt somehow secure a foothold in our own Parliament. Which will be to our advantage – the more diverse voices in Parliament the better. However the loss of a 100 or so politicians will be a net gain to the rest of us. One of the many, if smaller benefits of a Yes vote. A not inconsiderate sum of taxpayers’s money will be saved and who knows, some of them may even find more useful and productive ways of earning a living.