Tag Archives: 2015 elections

Will the SNP 56 change England?

The return of 56 SNP MPs to Westminster has generated much comment on just what they can hope to achieve. 56 is a lot in Scottish terms, but still a small minority in the grand scheme of things at Westminster, where they make up less than 11% of the total. Most, if not all, the focus has therefore been on what they can achieve for Scotland. Or more accurately what they will not be able to achieve for Scotland – stopping Trident, reversing austerity etc. However there is another aspect to the increased presence of SNP MPs at Westminster – their potential to change attitudes and perceptions in England.

56 MPs, though a minority, nevertheless represents a quite significant visual presence in the chamber. Particularly if they sit together and turn out in numbers to support each other, as seems to be the case. Such a presence is difficult for the media to ignore completely. The print media will probably try to, unless it is to highlight something they regard as improper behaviour, clapping for example. However the broadcasters will find it more difficult to ignore this presence. Angus Robertson will get two questions every week at PMQs, while there will be SNP members on every select committee. TV and radio will find it very difficult to simply not show this in their reports. The SNP should also find that one of their number appears much more frequently on Question Time and other discussion programmes.

The question then is what effect might this increased visibility have on people and politics in England? The Tories are unlikely to be impressed by anything the SNP do or say, so they can be discounted. Their voters may react differently and more positively, but in the end Tory voters or UKIP voters are most unlikely to change their votes due to anything the SNP say or do. This is not the case though with the Labour party or their voters and potential voters. The same may be true for the remaining and potential LibDem voters, assuming they can ever recover. I suspect that it will be the broad swathe of Labour and LibDem voters who are most likely to be impressed and surprised by the increased coverage of the SNP.  What might impress them?

The first surprise will probably be that the new Scottish contingent looks and sounds a lot like them. A variety of Scottish accents will be heard, but all will speak in ways that will be clear and understandable to everyone across the UK. Taken as a whole, the SNP group is probably more reflective of the country than either Labour or the Tories. They represent a better  balance in terms of gender, age and previous experience.

A particular and in many ways the stand-out example of this is that there are no Oxbridge graduates in the SNP group. Unlike Labour, which seems to have been taken over by an Oxbridge and London elite, at least at its leadership level. Many Labour members and voters may begin to ask why the Labour party has allowed itself to become dominated by such a narrow and restricted base.

The most important difference of course will be in the political message that the 56 will articulate with clarity and passion. They will challenge the Westminster consensus on austerity, immigrant bashing, punishing the poorest etc. They will also vigorously oppose the attempt to revoke the Human Rights Act. In general they will put forward a more positive alternative. Not based on the narrow individual aspiration that Labour seems to have borrowed from the Tories. But a positive vision that is more collective, people working together to improve the public services that benefit all of us. Dare I say it, a kind of pooling and sharing of resources. But one that involves the rich and better off contributing a bit more, and finally challenging the damaging dominance of the UK economy by an out of control financial sector, that only seems to benefit London. And only some Londoners at that.

While the SNP will of course continue to present the case for independence, during the life of this parliament they will also argue for more powers for Scotland within the UK. This too is likely to strike a chord with many people not just in England, but in Wales and Northern Ireland too. For greater powers for Scotland can be presented in the context of fundamentally changing the UK into a Federal country.

There is thus every possibility that many Labour voters will begin to ask why the Labour party is not more like the SNP in terms of its progressive and challenging policies. This will take time and any change will come too late for the current Labour leadership contest. But five years is a long time in politics and if the SNP get the coverage their numbers merit, their presence and actions can only be a positive force in England.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Scotland, UK

Election 2015 – Initial Reflections

So no coalition then! The final result was a big surprise to just about everyone. Some joy in the big SNP vote and dismay and fear in the overall Tory win. There will be time to pick over the bones of the election, but here are my initial thoughts on what happened and what might happen next.

1. The size of the SNP win was almost unbelievable. Surely they could not win 56 seats in Scotland and wipe out not just Labour but also the LibDems? But they did, all but one Labour and LibDem survived the onslaught, alongside our statutory Tory MP. The scale of the victory was a bit surprising, but the victory itself was never in doubt.

There were early indications of the coming tsunami immediately after the referendum. Way back last September there was an impromptu public gathering in the centre of Dundee. The meeting was taken over by ordinary members of the public who, possibly for the first time in their lives, stepped forward to speak out at a public meeting. Their message was almost 100% anger and bitterness, especially against Labour. Their call was to join the SNP or at least vote SNP.  All such comments met with rapturous applause. Now Dundee was a Yes city, so such a response was maybe to be expected, but it soon became clear that this simple message – join or vote SNP – was to be repeated and shared across the whole of the country.

Part of the success must also go to Nicola Sturgeon, who was probably the star of the campaign, and not just in Scotland. As the election drew nearer, the support for the SNP grew even larger. To win just over 50% of the vote on a high turnout was incredible. To win 56 out of 59 MPS is down to the absurdities of our First Past the Post election system. FPTP is inherently unfair and undemocratic, and every so often produces really exceptional results. Interestingly the SNP oppose FPTP, while Labour supports it. Perhaps time for Labour to think again about this one?

2. While the SNP ran a very positive campaign, Labour in Scotland ran a truly awful campaign. Their two key messages to the Scottish electorate boiled down to a) vote Labour to stop the Tories, and b) SNP are bad, bad and even badder. I know they had more things to say, some quite positive, but these other messages were continually drowned out by the above two claims. Both were ludicrous and everyone knew they were.

Firstly, in 2010 Labour played the same card, vote Labour to keep the Tories out, and Scotland by a large majority did. And what happened? The Tories still got in, admittedly with the support of the LibDems. However the key lesson that Scottish voters learned from 2010, was voting Labour did not guarantee a Labour government at Westminster. Only English voters can do that. Repeating a failed mantra from five years ago was a not particularly bright idea.

Secondly, constantly claiming that the SNP are bad and not to be trusted was a incredibly stupid line to take. The SNP was and is very, very popular in Scotland, witness its electoral success in 2011. It is also respected and trusted by very large numbers of Scots, including voters of other parties. In large measure due to their record in government in Scotland where they are widely seen as both competent and caring. Then of course we have the Nicola factor. The most popular party leader by far, and yet Labour try to portray the SNP as bad, bad, bad. Truly dreadful stuff, and who advises Labour on these matters?

Labour in Scotland were also not helped by Labour in England who ran a mildly austerity-lite campaign, which never succeeded in inspiring anyone. Jumping on the anti-SNP bandwagon did them no favours neither in Scotland nor in England. Not a very good show by Labour in England.

3 The LibDem wipe-out was a just reward for a party that betrayed its roots and its electorate. Putting party prestige and ministerial posts before the needs of the country in 2010, condemned them utterly and not just in Scotland. They were elected in 2010 primarily on an anti Tory and anti austerity platform, which had more in common with Labour. Yet within days they had sold out to the Tories and signed up as willing supporters of economic polices that have led to the worst and longest recession ever. And in return they got a few crumbs and nothing of substance, no electoral reform, no steps towards that federal nirvana they keep talking about. The ultimate talking-shop, that is what the LibDems have become.

4. The Tories remain toxic in Scotland. They continue to make little or no progress in their attempts to win back popularity, even in former Tory voting parts of the country. Their current leader, Ruth Davidson, continues to get rave reviews in the media, but has failed almost as much as her LibDem and Labour counterparts. No great surprise there, as our media is overwhelming right wing and keen to talk up the Tories in Scotland. Ruth Davidson, much like her predecessor, Annabel Goldie, is a well enough liked person, but I suspect that both failed to realise that we were not laughing with them, but laughing at them.

A brief word about the Tory campaign in England. This was a disgrace. Their economic and social policies are reactionary and based on a lie – see this excellent series by Simon Wren-Lewis for confirmation of this. Alas their anti-Scottish rhetoric and campaign went beyond disgraceful. Racism, pure and simple, is what the Tories in England descended to in their desperate attempt to cling onto power in England. Truly the nasty party is alive and kicking.

5. Despite my abhorrence of the Tories, I recognise that their victory is perfectly legitimate, even in Scotland. Last September Scotland voted by a clear majority to stay in the UK. Part and parcel of that decision was accepting that it is the electorate across the whole of the UK which gets to decide who forms the government. This was a UK general election and the Tories won an overall majority. No grounds for complaining now. It is true that the Tory vote share across the UK was only just over 37%. But if you add on the 12% who voted UKIP, the right wing bloc won almost half of the votes. The Tory majority comes from the iniquities of FPTP,  but we all know this can happen. If you don’t like FPTP, vote for parties that favour real PR.

6. The election confirmed in a stunning way the extent to which the UK has become an ever more disunited kingdom. Despite their victory overall, the Tories have become effectively an English party with minority support in Scotland and Wales and none in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, Labour remains dominant in Wales, while the SNP are now even more dominant in Scotland, building on its success in 2011. Northern Ireland has always had its own parties and its own political system. The UK appears more broken than ever after this election.

7. What is perhaps more worrying from a Unionist perspective, is that these results seem to reflect a persistent and growing divide on policy issues between England and the Celtic parts of the kingdom. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, anti-austerity parties won substantial majorities. While England continues to elect pro-austerity parties. Clearly there are significant differences across England, but as a country the majority in England seem willing to continue with the Tories’ unnecessary and unjust austerity policies.

This divide in policy preferences probably extends to other key issues such as the NHS, education and housing. It may also extend to our membership of the EU, with pro-EU majorities in Wales and Scotland. Not sure where all the Northern Irish parties stand on the EU.

7. What next? Given all the differences in results and policy preferences exposed by this election, something has to change if the the UK is to survive. While I remain convinced that independence for Scotland is the way forward, this is not likely to happen anytime soon. Therefore it is in my interest to make the UK a more effective and responsive state, for as long as Scotland remains part of the UK. This can only mean a move towards a Federal UK. Already some people from both Labour and the Tories have begun to talk about this. An interesting take on this can be found here, where John Denham writes about the need for an  English Labour party. Who would ever have thought it. Changing times indeed!

Leave a comment

Filed under Scotland, UK

Coalition Anyone?

A week to go before the votes are cast and still both Labour and the Tories refuse to talk about coalitions, or any kind of informal deals. Which is strange, as all the polling evidence points to another hung parliament. This refusal on the part of the two main parties is both undemocratic and insulting to voters. How can people make a realistic assessment of how to vote if the main parties are desperately and deliberately concealing vital information from them? If companies deliberately withhold information from potential shareholders they can be sent to jail! But politicians seem to be immune to even basic standards of decency.

Jim Murphy was at it again this evening on BBC Scotland, refusing point blank to answer any question about coalitions or deals. He even had the effrontery to say he would talk about this only after the election. So much for trusting the voter! Murphy and Labour are not alone in this of course. The Tories follow the same line, though they claim (falsely) that Labour and the SNP have agreed on a deal of some kind. However the Tories refuse to say who they would be prepared to deal with and on what basis.

Paradoxically the only party to openly talk about a coalition is the LibDems. Which is unsurprising as getting into office seems to be the only remaining principle the LibDems have left. The recent nasty coalition between the LibDems and the Tories is without doubt the main reason why everyone else is terrified of talking about coalitions. The LibDems at Westminster seem to have achieved the rare feat of discrediting the whole idea of coalition government for most people.

The LibDem approach to all elections is also very dishonest and undemocratic. Their key pitch is that if you like our policies, then the more MPs we get elected, the more of our policies we can implement. Sounds reasonable, but a moments reflection exposes this claim as dangerous nonsense. Let us say, for example that the LibDems have six key policies and that a majority of their voters really like policies 1, 2 and 3, but either don’t like or are indifferent about the other three policies. However, once in power, the LibDems find they cannot implement policies 1, 2 and 3. Not only can they not implement them they actually vote for something worse. This of course is pretty much what happened in 2010. The LibDems have been rumbled, and big time. Voting LibDem is like signing a blank cheque – you have no idea what, if anything you will get, and worse, you have no idea how much it will cost you, in damages to the economy and society.

So, it is quite understandable if the other parties are loath to talk about coalitions, and most have explicitly ruled one out. However, to stick your head in the sand and refuse to even acknowledge that some kind of deal or arrangement with other parites will be needed to form and sustain a government is perverse. And, as I have argued above, undemocratic and demeaning to voters.

We have a right to know how the various parties will approach the consequences of a hung parliament, if this is what emerges on May 8th. Not just the smaller parties, but Labour and the Tories should be forced to come clean. So far only the SNP has made its position perfectly clear. They will not vote for, or support a Tory government, under any circumstances. They would vote against any money for Trident and would vote for anti austerity measures, reform of the UK constitution(what passes for this) and for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. A progressive alliance which would also be supported by any Green, Plaid Cymru and SDLP MPs. There should be plenty there for a Labour government to endorse. It is alas, most unlikely that Labour would vote to remove Trident, so the SNP would vote against this measure. But with the Fixed Term Parliament legislation, even if a government were to lose a vote, this would not in itself trigger an early election.

So we have a very good idea of what the SNP would support and what they would oppose. Alas, we have nothing from Labour about how they would seek to build on this Progressive Alliance of SNP, Green, Plaid and SDLP. Perhaps when it comes to decision time, Labour would prefer a Tory government. Who knows they might even prefer a Grand Coalition with the Tories, as happens in Germany? It would be nice and in the interests of democracy if we, the voters, were to know just what Labour plans to do in the event of a hung parliament. It is not too late Ed!

Leave a comment

Filed under Scotland, UK

General Election 2015 – Groundhog Day!

The closer the election gets the more the debate gets stuck in a seemingly immoveable groove. It’s getting to be a bit like the film Groundhog Day, only this time every morning we get to hear the same tired old patronising insults. At least as far as Scotland is concerned. All the Unionist parties are at it. They seem to be collectively unable or unwilling to get beyond their Project Fear mode of operating.

Labour for example is still churning out the lie that only the largest party gets to form the government at Westminster. That Jim Murphy & Co are stuck repeating this lie is further evidence that Labour treats us as if we are a bunch of idiots. We need more journalists to challenge the likes of Ed Miliband to confirm that if Labour has less MPs than the Tories, but could form a government with the support of other parties, he would just stand aside and let David Cameron continue as Prime Minister.

Then we have Labour MP Rachel Reeves boasting that the Labour party is not the party of people on benefits.  She went out of her way in an interview to stress that, “We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.” Now the really, really sad thing about this is that Rachel is probably telling the truth here.  Labour no longer wants to represent the poor and disadvantaged it seems. Much better to just insult lots and lots of people. Not to mention insulting the memory of countless thousands of Labour party stalwarts who did think it was their job to represent all working people, including those who became unemployed and had to rely on the welfare state.  Seems the Labour party has decided that the only way to get elected in England is to insult and cast off as the new untouchables the millions of people who continue to suffer the ravages inflicted on them by our nasty coalition. Does this mean that Labour is now just as nasty?

Unionists and it seems most of the media in London are equally happy to indulge in a bit of repetitive insulting. Only this time it is Scots who have to bear the brunt of their ire. How dare we presume to have any kind of influence over the next UK government. Or even worse, God forbid, actually become part of the next UK government. While the Tory party is the most vocal in this almost daily repetition of anti-Scottish bile, neither Labour nor the LibDems are immune from this. All three Unionist parties are determined to rule out any kind of post election co-operation with the SNP at Westminster.

It is all so depressing and shows just how hollow were all those protestations of love coming from the Unionist parties before the referendum. The truly unexpected follow-up from the referendum campaign is that it is the Unionists who are stuck in referendum mode. The Yes campaigners have accepted the result and want to move on. To move on to reforming the UK, if that is possible, and to building a progressive UK wide alliance to bring an end to all this unnecessary austerity, which has caused so much damage to the economy.

One would have thought that the Labour party would want to be at least part of this, if not actually leading. What would be more natural than for the Labour party to be trying to build a progressive coalition with the support of other parties across the UK? But no, it seems that Labour remains trapped in its very own Groundhog Day. The SNP must be opposed and derided at every opportunity and at all cost. Even if the cost includes more Tory rule and more suffering for the poor and disadvantaged. Yet again, if the likes of Rachel Reeves represent Labour thinking, the party hardly deserves to be part of any king of progressive alliance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scotland, UK

Lots of Bombs, but not much Love

In the aftermath of the referendum campaign the real views of English Unionists pretty quickly began to emerge. David Cameron could hardly wait for the result to indulge in a bit of Scots bashing with his barely thought through wish for English votes for English laws, the aptly called EVEL. More of a proposal to turn MPs from Scotland into second class citizens than anything else. That little bit of indulgence is nothing compared to the barrage of anti Scottish hysteria which seems to have gripped almost everyone in the English media.  See here for a glimpse into this mindset, curtesy of Wings over Scotland. The lovebombing from before the referendum has disappeared completely, to be replaced by rather nasty hate bombs.

It is truly remarkable that for a mixture of short term gain and a tribal hatred of the SNP most Unionists are pursuing an approach which can only damage what they profess to hold most dear. What is really surprising is that these Unionists seem to be blissfully unaware of the potential damage they are doing to their beloved UK. Only a few distressed Unionist such as Alex Massie have remained clear headed enough to see the big picture.

This is one in which most Unionist have either crossed, or have come close to crossing the line between opposing the influence of the SNP and rejecting the right of any MP from Scotland to influence the government of the UK. This is particularly dangerous territory for Labour. It is perfectly understandable, if utterly stupid from a pro UK perspective, for the Tories to reject outright any involvement of the SNP in a UK government. They and everyone else knows that the SNP will not have anything to do with supporting a Tory government. So it is a pretty cheap stunt on the part of the Tories to call for Labour to also reject outright any deal with the SNP. The Tories have nothing but David Mundell to lose in Scotland, and his loss is most unlikely to have any effect on the prospects of the Tories remaining in government.

There is though far more at stake for Labour. Even if the party does as badly as some of the predictions, it will remain a major party in Scotland and will hope prosper once again, not just at Holyrood but also at Westminster. Here is the rub though. If Labour were to reject now any kind of deal with the SNP after May, they run the risk that at future UK elections, English Unionists will question why Scottish Labour MPs should get any say in a UK government.  If SNP MPs can be excluded, why not all Scottish MPs?

The recent intervention by Alan Johnston was also misjudged. He wants to rule out a deal with the SNP, not apparently because they are Scottish, but on the grounds that they would want the removal of Trident as part of any deal. However many Scottish Labour MPs also support the removal of Trident. Are they too to be cast out from any deal? What about any English or Welsh Labour MP who also supports the removal of Trident? Are they to be excluded from the formation of a Labour government? This is pretty much inconceivable. Which just exposes that Alan Johnston’s real objection is to MPs from Scotland having any kind of influence on a future UK government. His comments are doubly dangerous for Labour. They confirm that Labour is a pro Trident party, a position that is at odds with most of the potential voters that Labour has to win back. By opposing any role for the SNP in a UK government he is effectively ruling out for the future, any role in a UK government for any MP from Scotland.

Whatever the result of the election in May, the long term effects of this hate bombing of Scotland can only persuade even more Scots that next time, and there will be a next time, the only vote is Yes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scotland, UK

The English Question

As the UK general election inches ever closer, the more feverish becomes the media’s outpourings. All eyes it seems are on Scotland and the implications of the projected SNP surge for coalition building at Westminster. What however seems to go unmentioned is the consequences of the results in England. Put simply, do future UK governments need to have an overall majority in England? This has always been the norm up till now, and pre devolution did not really matter much anyway. It does now, as can be seen from all the furore over the various attempts to introduce some way to ensure that only English votes determine English laws – EVEL to its friends and foes. The problem at heart is of course the lopsided nature of the current devolution settlement with parliaments or assemblies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but nothing for England. Which means that the UK government is also, for all devolved matters, the government of England. Which in turn begs the question, do UK governments need to have an overall majority in England in order to govern in England? Another way to put it would be to ask for how long would the majority in England tolerate “their” government being dependent on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish votes?

This is an English Question that is possibly even more important than any Scottish Question. It is particularly relevant right now as just about all current opinion polls indicate that it will very difficult, if not impossible, for either Labour or the Tories to form a government with an overall majority in both England and the whole of the UK. The difficulty is different for our two main UK parties. The Tories are likely to emerge with an overall majority in England, but will find it very difficult to construct a stable majority in the UK as a whole. While for Labour their problem is the opposite – they are most likely to be in a minority in England, but find it possible to form a majority across the UK.

In England the magic number is 267, the number of seats that ensure an overall majority. The Tories currently have 294 of these seats and even with any losses in May are still likely to emerge with 267 or more MPs from England. This is in large part due to the party’s continuing unpopularity in Scotland and Wales. With only one MP from Scotland and merely eight from Wales, the Tories are effectively already an English party. Even if, against all the odds, the party was to increase its representation in Scotland and Wales, it is most unlikely to be by much. Let us assume, for the purpose of illustration, that the Tories emerge with a total of 13 MPs from Wales and Scotland. That means that with a total of as low as 280 MPs, the party would still command an overall majority in England. Of course if, as expected they do not make any progress in Scotland and Wales, then 275 MPs in total could be sufficient to ensure an overall majority in England.

For Labour, it is looking very grim in England. Currently the party has 191 English MPs and while this number is likely in increase considerably, it unlikely to increase enough to ensure an overall majority in England. This of course is partly due to the party’s strength in Wales and Scotland. While the SNP look like eroding Labour’s Scottish bastion, they may not be quite as successful as the latest polls indicate. Which paradoxically is bad news for Labour in England. By way of illustration, let us assume that Labour in Scotland hold on to 11 seats, retain their current 28 seats in Wales and win a total of 300 MPs. Take away the 39 non English MPs and Labour are left with just 261 seats in England, still a minority. If Labour were to win 300 seats across the UK, their best chance of securing an overall majority in England would be for the SNP to win just about everything in Scotland. If there are only two Labour MPs from Scotland, Labour would then have a comfortable overall majority of seats in England. What this little illustration shows, is that it is more important for Labour to do better in England than in Scotland.

For the UK as a whole, the magic number is 326 or 323, if you assume that Sinn Fein continue to not turn up at Westminster. This is where the projected collapse of the LibDems complicates matters greatly, or adds to the excitement if you prefer. With around 20+ MPs, it is most unlikely that they will be in a position to ensure an overall majority for either Labour or the Tories. Only if one of the large parties win 300 or more seats will the LibDems on their own come into play. Currently most polls show neither Labour nor the Tories getting much above 290, if even that number. Again to illustrate the options, let us take 290 as the figure for both the Tories and Labour. Both then need to find another 36 MPs in order to secure a minimum overall majority.

It is somewhat simpler for the Tories in that they are likely to have an overall majority in England and as the SNP have ruled out any deal, their options are reduced. The only viable option would seem to be a tripartite coalition with the LibDems and the DUP from Northern Ireland. That might just take them over the winning line, but just as likely might leave them a few seats short. Support from any UKIP MPs might help, but on the other hand might put the LibDems off. With 290 MPs this coalition is possible, but with anything less, say just 285 MPs, the Tories would find it almost impossible to lead the next government.

When it comes to Labour, their first problem will probably be to secure an overall majority in England, which almost certainly will mean reaching an agreement with the LibDems. However that would still leave a projected Lab/LibDem coalition around 12 or so seats short of an overall majority. As with the Tories a deal with the DUP would not be enough. The other Northern Irish MPs – the SDLP for example – might be sufficient, but their inclusion might create problems for the DUP. At the margins any Green MPs might help, but again it is unlikely they would want to be involved in a formal coalition. For Labour the SNP are likely to provide enough votes on their own to form a coalition, but without the LibDems Labour would remain a minority in England. A Labour/LibDem/SNP coalition would provide the most stable outcome in terms of numbers, but is probably the most unlikely, given both Labour and LibDem hostility to the SNP.

All the above, and most of the media commentary is base on the assumption that the next government needs to have an overall majority at Westminster. However minority government is not uncommon in many countries and was successful in Scotland from 2007-2011. This is where perhaps the SNP has its clearest role in the next parliament. Abstention by the SNP on a confidence motion would then be crucial in who does get to lead the next UK government. The SNP would remain free to vote against Trident and would not need to actually vote for any of the alternatives. The question then would be what price would the others be willing to pay for SNP abstention?

2 Comments

Filed under Scotland, UK

What happens to Scottish MPs after a Yes vote?

vote_yes_for_an_independent_scotland_pin_badge-r88f7278dfebf4603b69ea31f00de40d9_x7j3i_8byvr_512Angus Robertson, SNP MP, caused a bit of a stir recently when he called for a postponement of the 2015 UK General Election in the event of a Yes vote in the referendum. Thomas Widman has a good summary of the arguments for this here. I do not agree with this idea of postponing these elections. Delaying elections is rarely, if ever, a good idea. I also think there would be outrage all over the rest of the UK if this were to be seriously proposed. However Robertson’s suggestion does rais the very important issue of what happens to MPs from Scottish constituencies after a Yes vote. I offer my own suggestion below.

First of all though the key point to note is that though Scotland will not become legally independent, de jure, until 2016 at the earliest, it will will be de facto independent immediately after a Yes vote. During the period between a Yes vote and the the actuality of independence the Scottish and Westminster governments will be in pretty constant negotiation over the details of the independence settlement. This means that in effect Westminster ceases to be the government of the whole of the UK and becomes instead the government of the rest of the UK. In turn this will meant that any legislation on reserved matters which affect Scotland, welfare for example, could only be enacted for Scotland with the approval of the Scottish government. The alternative is just chaos and plain daft. Whatever the rUK government might think in private, there will be enormous pressure from everyone else, the EU, NATO, not to mention the business community, for a swift, smooth and successful transition. Needlessly alienating the Scottish government makes no sense for the rUK. After a Yes vote everyone will want to see close, friendly and co-operative relations between rUK and Scotland, just as there is today between UK and Ireland.

What then does this mean for the role of MPs from Scottish constituencies. Basically it means they will have no role whatsoever. All the negotiations and decisions will be taken jointly by the Scottish and rUK governments. Scottish MPs will have no input whatsoever. In the first instance this would make the positions of Danny Alexander and Jo Swinton pretty much untenable as government ministers. Then there would be the matter of what to do with the Scotland Office and Alistair Carmichael. However the key decision will be what to do about MPs from Scotland in 2015. Delaying the election is not in my view an option. I can only see one solution, and that is to exclude Scotland from the 2015 election. Given that Westminster has by then become the de facto rUK parliament, and in less than a year’s time this will be confirmed de jure, it seems the logical and most practical solution. After a Yes vote Scotland will not need representation in parliament in Westminster as all the decisions will be taken by the two governments. The rUK will not want a bunch of MPs from Scotland lounging about the place, but unable to influence the outcome of any vote. Any government that emerges from the 2015 election has to based on a majority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislation to limit the 2015 election to those constituencies that will be part of the rUK would be simple to introduce and pass. It allows the people of the rUK to exercise their democratic right to self-government, saves everyone a bit of money and simply gives recognition to the de facto reality of Scottish independence.

9 Comments

Filed under Scotland, UK