Archive for the 'SNP' Category

h1

The question supporters of a ‘People’s vote’ need to answer. If another referendum is good enough for the UK, then surely it must be good enough for Scotland?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Even though I’m someone who considers Brexit the greatest blunder this country has undertaken since appeasement I’m not a fan of another referendum until we’ve actually left the EU for a variety of reasons such as democracy must be honoured.

The risk of No Deal was repeatedly communicated to the voters during the 2016 referendum campaign there’s no point mewling now. But one of the primary reasons I’m most opposed to another referendum this soon is that it creates a precedent to rerun the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum, something that the SNP are skilled to exploit from the fallout from Brexit.

Today’s Sunday Times reports that

SNP ministers believe they can avoid the need for a second independence referendum on leaving the UK if a future Labour government refuses Nicola Sturgeon permission for a fresh vote.

Yesterday Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell rejected the idea of a deal with the first minister on a new referendum in exchange for supporting a minority Labour government.

He told The Times there would be no horse-trading with the nationalists to install Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.

However, a growing number of senior SNP politicians, including some ministers, believe Westminster’s refusal to grant a section 30 order to Holyrood to hold another referendum would not be enough to prevent secession.

With the possibility of Theresa May’s government collapsing over Brexit, SNP insiders suggest the party’s next UK general election manifesto will contain a commitment to another referendum.

Party insiders say if another referendum were to be blocked, then winning a large majority of Scottish seats, or Scottish votes in a Westminster election, may suffice as a basis for negotiations.

The SNP won a majority of Scottish seats with under 37% of the vote in last year’s general election, it is possible we could see Scottish independence occurring on a similar or lower threshold than that.

If you consider yourself a Unionist and you voted Leave then it appears you have well and truly soiled the bed, after all warnings about Brexit leading to the breakup of the United Kingdom were also strongly communicated during the referendum campaign.

TSE



h1

The affairs of state. How the personal can become very political indeed

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Love him or loathe him, Alex Salmond is one of the towering political figures of the age.  He has taken the cause of Scottish independence from a fringe idea to one of the great themes of Scottish and indeed British politics.  With a ready wit and an unsurpassable sense of his own importance, he has assembled an army of Nats on and offline, all straining to be unyoked from the United Kingdom.

This last week, Scottish politics has been convulsed by allegations of sexual misconduct against him.  These allegations, which Alex Salmond vehemently denies, have led to him taking legal action against the Scottish government that the party he led for so long runs and resigning from that party in order that he might clear his name.

To be clear, Alex Salmond has every right to assert his innocence and he must be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.  It is easy to understand why he might feel aggrieved that the complaints are being investigated in the full glare of publicity, with his name being dragged through the mud in the meantime.  But this story potentially matters.

For this particular incident has echoes of the politics of a former age, also involving a nationalist movement. In the 1880s, Westminster politics were overshadowed by another nationalist figure: Charles Stewart Parnell. He was instrumental in pushing the cause of Irish Home Rule to the centre of British politics. As a result of his efforts, the Irish Parliamentary Party were kingmakers.

The Liberal party split as a consequence and Parnell worked closely with Gladstone to construct a form of Home Rule that could command broad support in Ireland and was acceptable to the rest of the country. The outlines of a potentially lasting settlement were visible.

This came crashing down when he was cited as co-respondent in a divorce case. The ensuing scandal made him unacceptable both to the Catholic church that formed a central support of Irish nationalism and the non-conformists who comprised much of the Liberal party.

The Irish Parliamentary Party split, with supporters and opponents of Parnell feuding. With the loss of his talents, the cause of Irish nationalism was set back a generation. By the time it re-emerged, attitudes on all sides had hardened.Ireland lives with the consequences of that to this day.

As even Nicola Sturgeon would probably accept, Alex Salmond is still by some way the most prominent nationalist politician of the age. The Parnell precedent shows the potential impact on the cause of a long-running squalid sideshow.

We have already seen Alex Salmond launch a crowdfunding campaign for his legal fees to demonstrate that he has popular support, and the risk of factions forming looks substantial. So the stakes are potentially high.

Right now, it’s far from clear that this is going to come to anything.  Alex Salmond’s innocence may be quickly established beyond all doubt.  This is something for a watching brief, no more at present.

If this went somewhere, what might it mean?  The cause of Scottish independence is too well-entrenched now to disappear indefinitely.  Even if the SNP’s formidable discipline were to break down and we were to see an outbreak of savage infighting, its ideas would remain, seeking new political outlets.  It might, however, take time for those new political outlets to emerge, just as it did at the beginning of the 20th century in relation to the politics of Irish Home Rule.  In that time, the political landscape might change dramatically.

The politics swirling round another individual are similarly important.  Jeremy Corbyn has unleashed a new interest in unabashed and updated social democratic policies.  He has enthused a new generation with retail socialism.  In the process, however, he has also attracted a torrent of hostility from those who are repelled by the numerous unsavoury connections that he has made and his questionable actions over the years: his approval ratings, never good, are once again abysmal. 

He is getting in the way of the social democratic intifada that he claims to seek to lead.  But no other figure inspires anything like the same level of loyalty on the left.  He is both indispensable to Labour and a huge impediment.  How this is resolved may change the course of future British politics.

They say that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.  Sometimes, however, people and events can have effects that change the course of history.  When a person is so important to a cause, the impact of that person being laid low can be profound.  However regrettable it might be, there are far more small minds than great minds.  So it follows that people, and their personal attributes, can sometimes really matter.

Alastair Meeks




h1

If Corbyn’s LAB can make progress in Scotland there are some easy SNP pickings

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018


Table – Commons Library

But recent polls suggest LAB will lose Scottish seats

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is in Scotland for a big speech at today’s Edinburgh television festival and more importantly to try to revive the party north of the border where under Ed Miliband in 2015 it was virtually wiped out.

Then LAB’s Scottish contingent of MPs was reduced from 41 seats to a single MP. At the general election last year some recovery was made and the party came out with 7 Scottish MPs. This was still a long way down from the glory days but it was progress. A big challenge is that with the rise of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives LAB is now seen as the third party in Scotland where they used to be totally dominant.

The table at the top above shows the quite precarious nature of the SNP position in many seats. It also shows how a party with broad support can achieve an amazing seat haul (just under 60%) under first past the post with 36.9% of the vote. Even in the SNP’s safest seat Nicola Sturgeon’s party only secured 47% of the vote and as can be seen there are quite a number which were retained in June 2017 with majorities of less than 1,000.

As an election junkie I love the potential for huge changes in seats in Scotland with relatively small vote shifts. If the next general election north of the border finished up like the latest polls than LAB could be down to a single seat. However if they made just a little bit more progress they could be back as the top party there.

One of the things you have to factor in is that you can’t make projections for Scotland based on GB polls. What you need to do is look at the Scotland only ones because north of the border there is a very different political ecosystem and conventional swing analysis from a national perspective doesn’t work.

Unfortunately you don’t get that many Scotland only polls and the Wikipedia list above represents all of those that have been published since the general election. The next round of them will be particularly interesting given the Corbyn’s current initiative seeking to step up a gear. Will that be enough to put them in contention yet again there?

If Labour can improve in Scotland then the chances of the party coming top overall at the next general election are that much higher.

Mike Smithson




h1

Scotland and the electoral system: Why winning the next GE is huge ask of LAB

Friday, August 17th, 2018

The system bias is now strongly pro-CON

We all recall that at the 2005 general election Tony Blair’s Labour won the GB vote by a margin of just 3% but that was enough to give them an overall majority of 64. There was little doubt that the electoral system then favoured the red team.

Things have changed dramatically with the collapse of the LDs and the post-IndyRef rise of the SNP.

Even without the proposed new boundaries the electoral system is biased towards the Tories in that for the same vote share the blue team wins most seats. Thus feeding the recent CON 38% LAB 38% poll numbers into the Electoral Calculus seat calculator and find CON with 21 more MPs than LAB.

That is on the existing boundaries. If the latest Boundaries Commission plan goes through this autumn then the gap would by 40 seats. To put these numbers into context Corbyn’s LAB was seen to have had an extremely good GE2017 making overall net gains of 30 seats but still finished 56 seats behind the Tories.

    Perhaps the biggest reason the system no longer works for LAB is the failure of the party to recover in Scotland where it used to be so dominant as can be seen in the chart above showing the percentage of Scottish Westminster seats by party for each election since GE2001.

    Just imagine how GE2017 would have turned out if LAB had taken 41 of the 59 Scottish seats as it did at GE2005 and GE2010.

At GE2015 the SNP surge saw LAB reduced from 41 Scottish MPs to just one. Last year Corbyn’s party won 7 but the first past the post system meant that the SNP took the bulk of the seats north of the border with barely 37% of the Scottish vote. Scots LAB became the third party in Scotland behind the Tories.

Whatever national polls might be showing the Scotland’s only ones since the general election have had Corbyn’s party in an even worse position than the last election. Current projections based on the latest Scottish polls have Labour once again being reduced to a single Scottish MP.

Without a Scottish recovery the prospect of a Labour majority is very remote indeed.

Mike Smithson




h1

This looks like a spectacular bust up between the SNP and the Speaker but it does look staged

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

TSE



h1

Double blow for SNP in new YouGov Scotland poll: support for independence down & more MP losses projected

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

But they should still be top party at Holyrood

We get so few Scotland only polls these days that when a new one comes out, as this morning, it is quite an event.

It is extraordinary to recall that just two years ago the SNP could do no wrong. In the aftermath of Scotland’s September 2014 IndyRef for the party surged and at the 2015 General Election the SNP picked up 56 of the countries 59 Westminster seats.

In doing so Labour was absolutely smashed. From holding 41 Scottish seats in 2010 they were reduced to a single MP.

All this meant that after the 2015 General Election the SNP became the third party at Westminster pushing the Lib Dems out of the position they had held for decades.

Then came the June 2017 surprise General Election which the SNP was the only major party at Westminster to oppose. The 56 MPs of 2015 were cut to just 35 and its Scottish vote share declined by 14 points.

Today’s new YouGov Scotland poll suggests that worse things are in store for Sturgeon’s party north of the border. It could be down to 27 MPs and support for a second IndyRef and independence are declining.

The poll suggests that in MP total terms the main beneficiary of the change would be LAB which could see its total of Scottish MPs increased by 10. So good news for Mr Corbyn provided the poll is right and of course this holds until the next general election whenever that will be.

Mike Smithson




h1

The new election reality: The Tories need the SNP to impede LAB’s revival in Scotland

Thursday, October 19th, 2017


Table – Commons Library

Why BoJo/Andrea/Phil/David/Amber might be cheering Nicola on

The group of constituencies that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past two general elections have been the 59 seats in Scotland.

At GE2010 when Labour lost power there were no changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the huge changes in 2015 in the aftermath of the IndyRef nine months earlier. LAB lost all but one of the 41, the LDs lost 10 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

The SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats and displaced the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

Move on to June 8th this year which proved to be something of a disaster for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto the 35 listed above all of them with much reduced majorities.

    Two years after gaining 50% of the Scottish vote the SNP’s biggest vote share in any constituency was 46.7% leaving a lot prospective rich pickings for the main national parties particularly LAB

If LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will be made up from battles with the SNP not the blue team.

One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger.

So in many ways whoever is Tory leader at the next election might be secretly cheering the SNP on.

Mike Smithson




h1

What a small pensions policy problem says about the current state of the SNP

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Getting beyond rhetoric and identity politics

These are unsettling times for Scottish nationalists. Just over a year ago, in the wake of the EU referendum, support in Remain-voting Scotland for independence was spiking. With the British government scrambling to form a coherent line on Brexit, the Scottish government hoped to turn the crisis into an opportunity by forcing the pace for a further independence referendum

It hasn’t worked out that way at all. On the one hand, the Conservatives have successfully presented themselves as the party of the union while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn have reclaimed the badge of progressiveness. In 2017 the SNP’s coalition did not completely unravel, though they lost 21 seats, but with their support evenly spread and with their opponents’ strength geographically concentrated, the SNP face the next general election with trepidation: they could easily lose more than half their remaining seats with only a small drop in their vote share, depending how their opponents do. A Clegg-like pasting is entirely conceivable if the SNP cannot find fresh momentum.

What has gone wrong? The SNP had achieved hegemony in Scotland by presenting itself as the face of progressive politics in Scotland, binding Scottish identity to progressiveness and both to the SNP and independence. This zeugma is no longer working. The Conservatives are confronting them on identity while Labour is outbidding them on progressiveness. It seems that campaigning on the politics of identity is not enough in the long term.

How has this happened? The SNP can reasonably point to the fact that no one had anticipated the success Labour would have in the general election campaign. However, many observers had pointed out that they had employed all difficult policy decisions in the service of the campaign for independence. That was never going to work indefinitely and the only question was when it was going to stop working. The answer, it seems, is sometime around now.

There’s a useful recent case study. In the 1990s, the UK government decided to equalise state retirement ages for men and women at 65. This was enacted in the Pensions Act 1995 and would take effect for women born after 6 April 1950 on a phased basis. In 1995, the women potentially affected would have been 45 or younger. The change was much-discussed in the newspapers at the time, as you would expect. No direct communications were sent out, perhaps because it took effect from 6 April 1997 during the 1997 general election campaign, so the incoming Labour government did not pick up the baton from the outgoing Conservative government that implemented it.

This programme was accelerated in 2011 so that the state retirement age for men and women could be increased to 66 after October 2020. Again, the change was phased in.

In the last two years an action group of affected women has sprung up called WASPI. Egregiously named (Women Against State Pension Inequality is the very reverse of what they are campaigning for) but with a strong sense of injustice, they are seeking compensation for what they perceive as inadequate notice of the changes. They claim not to ask for the state pension age to revert back to age 60?, but since they are asking for a non-means tested bridging pension to provide an income until State Pension Age, this looks like a distinction without a difference.

The government has stood firm – rightly, in my opinion (I find it hard to conceive of a much less meritorious campaign in a time of straitened public finances: the main change was introduced at least 15 years before it took effect). However, WASPI campaigned vigorously for support during the general election and those opposition politicians who were on the hunt for votes were willing to offer their support. This included the SNP, who have loudly proclaimed their support for WASPI, lamenting that:

“In government, we will always use the powers at our disposal to protect the poorest in our society and mitigate the worst excess of the Tory government. However, with the limited social security powers devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to create new pension benefits”.

Unfortunately, the SNP has been caught out on this. Scottish ministers have the power to make discretionary payments if they so wish. Labour have pointed this out to the SNP, who have abruptly changed their tack and said that it was not for the Scottish government to pay for injustices in the UK-wide social security system.

Hmm. It’s hard to see how this is “using the powers at our disposal to protect the poorest in our society and mitigate the worst excess of the Tory government”. It looks more like a cynical attempt to exploit a sense of grievance without offering any meaningful assistance (probably because the SNP, like me, does not think this is a worthwhile priority). But Labour have been able to outflank the SNP on this because of the powers that the Scottish government has but is not using. When are the SNP going to move beyond words and start acting?

For the Scottish government now has very substantial powers. Just under two years ago I pointed out that the SNP had very cautious about using the Scottish government’s powers. I suggested then that the extent of those powers meant that: “The SNP has successfully for many years positioned itself as a party for all Scotland. That time may well be drawing to a close in the next couple of years.”

I’ve made some rubbish predictions in the last couple of years so it’s nice to return to one that has aged well. Labour have enjoyed increased success with their unabashed pitch from the left and I firmly expect them to go into the next round of elections promising to use Holyrood’s powers to the utmost, including the powers to tax and spend. What will the SNP be offering? More cautious actions and stirring words? Because if they are, I don’t think that’s going to be enough. Time for the SNP to start thinking through some radical new policies for Scotland and not just rhetoric and identity politics.

Alastair Meeks