Archive for the 'SNP' Category

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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




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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



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If CON, LAB, and the SNP each got 30% of the Scottish vote Sturgeon’s party would be down to just 6 MPs

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017


The Times

Why the SNP could be in trouble

There’s a fascinating analysis in the Times by James Kanagasooriam of Populus of what would happen in Scotland’s 59 seats if the hree main parties there CON, LAB and the SNP each secured 30% of the vote. The projected seat totals are in the chart.

The balance of the 59 Scottish seats would go to the LDs which would once again return to its historical position as the third party st Westminster.

The reason is, of course, the first past the post voting system which favours those with large variations in support in different seats and penalises those parties whose support is more evenly spread.

Kanagasooriam notes:

“..Labour’s “youthquake” delivered surprising levels of support for the party. This was especially true in Glasgow and Edinburgh; particularly when comparing the Labour 2017 general election performance (27 per cent) with the Scottish parliament election the previous year (19 per cent on the constituency vote). It’s clear that younger voters, and those more inclined to want an independent Scotland defected to Labour in large numbers during the general election campaign. The Tory surge was, to a degree, expected. The return of Scottish Labour less so. Both together lead to losses that SNP politicians and advisers could scarcely believe on election night.

… a large number of 2015 SNP supporters simply stayed at home this year. Areas with the highest SNP vote share in 2015’s general election experienced the biggest decline in turnout in 2017…”

Back at GE2015, on 26 months ago the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats north of the border which was reduced to 35 at GE2017. Given the volatility of UK politics big changes can happen in short period as we saw with UKIP between 2015 and June 8th.

With so many rich picking apparently available in Scotland with the SNP’s decline the UK parties, as I was suggesting last week, should select leaders who are Scottish. LAB under Gordon Brown increased its Scottish vote share at GE2010 while falling back sharply elsewhere.

Mike Smithson




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How much of Scotland and will still be in SNP hands on June 9th?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

DavidL looks at the prospects and the betting

In 2010 Scottish politics look set in some Jurassic age. Not a seat changed hands. Scottish Labour dinosaurs ruled the roost and played on the national stage. In 2015, post referendum, the asteroid struck; an astonishing SNP tsunami, whose power was foreseen by few except Alastair Meeks, swept the SNP to a stunning 56 seats. The old Labour dominance was destroyed forever. What does 2017 hold for us?

We have a few clues. Into the vacuum created by the implosion of SLAB came Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories. They finished a creditable second in the Holyrood elections in 2016 depriving Nicola of her majority. They repeated the trick on 4th May taking second place again in the local elections from a Labour party that did not quite implode the way people had been predicting. But FPTP is a sterner test. The SNP remain the dominant party in Scotland vulnerable at the margins but certain to win the vast majority of the Scottish seats.

Where, at the fringes, are they vulnerable? Probably at the fringes of Scotland. The 3 border seats look very likely to go to the Tories. Orkney and Shetland looks nailed on for the Lib Dems with reasonable prospects in Charlie Kennedy’s old seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye and Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. The Liberal Democrats are 7/4 in the former and 11/10 with Ladbrokes in the latter, both quite attractive to my mind and a better bet than the favoured East Dunbartonshire where Jo Swinson starts off more than 2,000 behind and yet is favourite or Edinburgh West where the Lib Dems start more than 3,000 behind and yet are 2/5.

Beyond this the sheer scale of the SNP tsunami in 2015 daunts. What should have been marginal seats have huge majorities. In Perth and North Perthshire, for example, the Tories are odds on with Ladbrokes but Pete Wishart sits on a majority of 9,641. This seems an extremely unattractive bet for me at those odds. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine looks very good for the Tories but 1/7? East Renfrewshire requires the Tories to come from a fairly distant third but again they are odds on. It demonstrates another problem in Scotland with the Unionist vote split between the competing parties. My expectation is that in several cases, notably in Edinburgh, this will result in the SNP coming through the middle and holding on. Bet365 has the SNP at 5/6 for more than 46.5 seats. Much though it pains me that looks a buy to me. My guess is that the Tories will get 6 plus some close seconds, Labour maybe 2 (Edinburgh South and East Lothian being the most likely) and the Lib Dems 3 leaving the SNP on 48. I’d love to be wrong.

DavidL is a long-standing poster on PB



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New YouGov Scottish poll suggests the Tories could make 7 gains in Scotland

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Graphic – The times

And the LD could triple their Scottish seats

The main General Election polling news overnight has been a YouGov/Times survey of Scotland which suggests that the Conservatives could start to win back some of the seats in Scotland that they held more than a quarter of a century ago.

The Lib Dems could also stage a small recovery tripling the Scottish total to three seats.

Labour, which at GE2010, won 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats, is still projected to be down at just one. It was that Scottish wipeout that was the dominant feature of the 2015 election and enabled the Tories to portray Ed Miliband as being in the pockets of the SNP.

We will get a better idea of opinion in Scotland next Friday when we have the results of the Scottish local elections which were last held in 2012.

Mike Smithson




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Why Sturgeon’s SIndy2 isn’t a gamble; it’s a necessity

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Her window of opportunity could be closing

The SNP exists to achieve independence for Scotland. This simple fact shouldn’t really need stating but keeping it at the forefront of our minds is crucial to understanding why what’s going on is going on, and how events might pan out in future.

As with other nationalist-seperationist movements across the world, including UKIP within the UK, independence is an ideological objective; one that ranks so highly that other considerations pale by comparison. Short-term pain is justified by long-term gain. To the extent that short-term pain needs to be minimised, it’s a matter of the tactics and politics necessary to gain the support that will launch independence but otherwise only a secondary consideration.

Which is why Sturgeon is going back on the once-in-a-generation/lifetime expectation given during the last referendum. Salmond, when he was making that claim, was no doubt doing so in part so as to pressurise doubtful Yes voters to stick with the cause for fear that they might otherwise miss the bus but also because he probably believed that it would indeed be a once-in-a-generation event, at best; that the SNP wouldn’t have the opportunity to call another vote for many a year.

Given the extent of the SNP’s dominance north of the border, that might sound strange but it’s not. For a start, it was far from obvious that the SNP would continue their hegemony if they lost. Losing the 1979 referendum preceded the party entering the doldrums for most of the 1980s, and that despite a more legitimate sense of grievance than this time. Labour certainly wouldn’t have acted as they did had they known how events would turn out. Without Salmond and with potential division over the way forward, with uncertainty over both the 2015 and 2016 elections, who could have known in advance when another opportunity for the SNP might come?

And that opportunity only exists because of the maths in the Scottish parliament: the crucial factor that hasn’t been much mentioned this last week. It isn’t even certain now that Sturgeon will be able to call a referendum: the SNP doesn’t have a majority in Holyrood and while the Greens might well support IndyRef2, or at least abstain (which would be good enough for the SNP), their compliance can’t be taken for granted.

Therein lies the rub, and the reason for assuming that 2014 would be a once-in-a-long-time chance: the Scottish system makes winning an outright majority very hard. To have done it once and to have come close to doing so again were extraordinary achievements but no-one – and particularly the SNP – can assume they’ll pull off a hat-trick in 2021. Even a small slip in support would drop them back to the 2007 situation: able to govern but not to impose. Fourteen years in office leaves a legacy and it’d be a highly optimistic strategist to assume that electoral gravity can be defied so long. Indeed, as mentioned, the likely thinking pre-2014 was that it couldn’t even be defied this long.

Hence why Sturgeon is agitating so strongly now. Yes, there is a sense of a win-win in that if the vote is denied, it’s good propaganda for a grievance to be nurtured into the future but that’s consolation material. The more pressing factor is that her window of opportunity remains surprisingly open and Brexit provides a saleable reason for calling a second vote. Sure, it’d be messy and rooted in confusion but those can be fertile conditions for constitutional change, and launching a new country is constitutional change on the biggest scale. Carpe diem, and all that.

David Herdson





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As we edge towards the enactment of the A50 Bill Nicola has just made Theresa’s task harder

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The political price of hard brexit could be a smaller UK

TMay’s reaction to Sturgeon’s InyRef2 announcement was that the Scottish FM and SNP leader was “playing politics” – a term I generally conclude to mean that what’s been said has been highly effective.

Certainly the suggestions that TMay might defer invoking A50 until the end of the month suggests there’s a need to look again at her strategy and the rhetoric she will deploy when the formal process of extraction is triggered.

On the politics of the Sturgeon move there’s an excellent analysis by the FT’s Janan Ganesh who notes that the short timetable put formard by Sturgeon is one that is “designed to be rejected, giving her, at the very least, a grievance with which to stoke nationalism.” Ganesh goes on

“..She has also earned herself some leverage over the negotiations themselves. Mrs May cannot sign off on hard exit terms without risking the loss of Scotland, three-fifths of whose electorate voted for the EU. Such terms would not just threaten material harm to a small, trading economy, they would communicate England’s hauteur to the smaller nation. But if Mrs May softens her line, she must forgo the right to make external trade deals (to stay in the customs union) or accept free movement (to stay in the single market). The first would be death to her governing vision, the second would be unsurvivable…”

The threat of losing Scotland and thus creating a much smaller UK is a powerful one.

This is going to run.

Mike Smithson




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The opening IndyRef2 odds make it odds-on that it’ll take place and odds-on that Scotland will vote YES

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Lots of activity from the bookies following Nicola Stugeon’s announcement that the SNP is going for a second IndyRef because of the vastly changed circumstances as a result of BREXIT.

The Ladbrokes betting:

Ladbrokes latest betting
Next Independence Referendum
4/6 Before end 2020
11/10 Not before end of 2020
Year of next Independence Referendum
25 2017
7/4 2018
5/2 2019
10 2020
11/10 2021 or later
Result of next Referendum
8/11 YES
11/10 NO
(If held before end 2020)

WILLIAM HILL….

SECOND SCOTTISH INDIE REF BY END 2020..….4/6 Yes; 11/10 No

SECOND SCOTTISH INDIE REF BY END 2024……2/9 Yes; 3/1 No

OUTCOME OF NEXT SCOT INDIE REF BY END 2024.……………..4/6 Yes to Independence; 11/10 No

 

To my mind none of the above odds either way are attractive.

The First Minister hads timed her statement for this critical day as the Article 50 bill gets close to becoming an act thus allowing Theresa May to formally tell Brussels that the UK is leaving .

Mike Smithson