Archive for the 'SNP' Category

h1

The SNP’s Brexit conundrum

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Drink, says the Porter in the ‘Scottish Play’, is an equivocator with lechery: “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance…. it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him”.  So it may prove with Brexit and Scottish Independence.

Nicola Sturgeon loses no opportunity to remind Scots that Brexit is taking them out of the EU ‘against their will’, citing this as justification for holding another independence referendum so soon after the last one.

It’s a good political argument, as far as the provocation of desire is concerned; Brexit does indeed seem to be acting as a lever prising Scottish self-identity further away from the Union.  For now, Boris Johnson has ruled out authorising another independence referendum, but that does not look sustainable for very long; no doubt it will be another of his promises which he can’t keep

You can expect Brexit to continue to figure very strongly in the SNP’s case both for another referendum, and for a Yes vote when they eventually hold one. Yet the objective effect of Brexit will be to make Scottish independence much more difficult than was envisaged when Scots voted in the 2014 referendum.  The Scottish government at the time claimed that Scotland could ‘remain in the EU’ and that therefore there would be very little disruption to trade not only with the Continent, but much more importantly with the rest of the UK. 

Of course there was a lot of hand-waving here: it was never clear how the transition from being part of the UK to becoming a member state of the EU was going to happen, and the then EU President Jose Barroso emphasised how difficult it would be, requiring a full accession process and the formal consent of all member states. This is disputed by some experts, but, whatever the exact legal position, the SNP’s broad point was surely correct: it was inconceivable that Scotland would be excluded from the EU for very long, and in practice some transitional mechanism would have been agreed to avoid disruption to trade and the economy.

EU membership is not only central to the emotional and identity-based case for Scottish independence, in 2014 it was central to the economic case.  There would have been no need for a ‘hard border’ between Scotland and the rest of the UK; closely-integrated trading relationships across the border, accounting for 60% of Scottish external trade (the EU accounts for just 18%), would have continued undisturbed.

Not any more.  Although the Scottish border thankfully doesn’t have the violent history of the Irish border, in other respects the same problems of creating an external EU border within the British Isles, as would happen if Scotland left the UK and then joined the EU, would apply.  Brexit makes Scottish independence more difficult, and more economically damaging, with the damage being more severe the more the UK detaches from the Single Market.  The SNP’s siding with Corbyn and the ERG to torpedo Theresa May’s softish Brexit, which would have produced a much more frictionless border than Boris Johnson is aiming at, looks short-sighted. 

Further, the political argument that Scotland would be ‘remaining’ in the EU can no longer be deployed.  There will be no status quo of Scotland being part of the EU, with the UK’s opt-outs, to build from.  That in turn makes accession to the EU more problematic: adopting the Euro, and perhaps even joining Schengen, would be harder to resist.

To make things worse, the North Sea oilfields, once seen as the primary economic opportunity of independence, now look much less attractive, with the oil price much lower and climate change concerns mounting.  The SNP’s economic case, already thin in 2014, has been severely damaged by all these ‘changes in circumstances’. Enough to scare Scottish voters off independence in a second referendum?  Maybe not; we should know by now that identity politics often trumps economics, and perhaps Brexit will, as many believe, lead to Scotland breaking up the Union, in an act of self-harm ironically similar to Brexit.  But it doesn’t look a slam dunk: desire may have been boosted by Brexit, but performance would be even more difficult than looked to be the case in 2014.  Project Fear v2 will have plenty of material to work with.

Richard Nabavi



h1

New Ipsos-MORI Scotland poll suggests SNP gains from LAB and CON north of the border

Friday, November 29th, 2019

This could make Johnson’s majority bid that bit harder

The part of the UK that has seen the most turbulence with many seats changing hands at the past two general elections has been Scotland which is why special attention needs to be paid to Scotland only surveys. Scottish cross-breaks in GB really don’t give a full picture and this is where the seat calculators can slip up.

Ipsos-MORI, most accurate pollsters at the May Euros has just published the above which sees CON down with LAB down even more on what happened in June 2017. Then it will be recalled hat then the Tories jumped from one to 13 MPS, LAB from one to 7 MPs and the LDs up from one to 4 MPs. At the same time the SNP dropped from 56 MPs to 35.

This was something of a reverse compared with the GE2015 Scottish outcome which had the SNP winning 56 MPs north of the border with CON, LAB and the LDs picking up one each.

This polling suggests that big change there could be happening again with Sturgeon’s party the main beneficiary at the expense of LAB and CON.

If the Tories do indeed suffer losses there then Johnson’s party is going to have to make that up with gains in England and Wales something that current GB polling suggests they should do.

Mike Smithson




h1

Before we can make judgements about the outcome of an early general election we need new Scotland only polling

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

The last one was in June

There’s been a lot of GB voting intention polling since Mr Johnson became the new Tory leader and Prime Minister but none of it has been Scotland specific. One thing we do know is that is can be highly misleading keying the latest GB poll shares into Baxter and getting anything that is relevant to Scotland.

North of the border, as we all know, is the part of the UK which has seen the most turbulence in recent general elections. In 2010 Scots LAB won 41 of the 59 seats only to lose all but one of them in the SNP landslide 5 years later.

Then 2017 the Tories made something of a recovery and picked up 12 gains to add to the single seat making them the second party in Scotland .

What is hugely interesting for election watchers is that the largest majority that the SNP secured in any of its 36 Scottish seats at the last election was 47%. A large proportion of what they hold is vulnerable something that applies to almost all the parties there.

As the Wikipedia panel above shows the Tories were in something of a mess in the most recent surveys. The numbers suggest that Ruth Davidson’s party could be on the point of losing all but one of the hard won gains from 2 years ago. But is that really going to happen?

So much has happened politically since the last Scottish poll and we have no real sense yet of how the new PM is going down for of the border. Will having Johnson in charge help or hinder the blue team?

Hopefully we should be seeing some new Scotland polling in September. There is tendency for these to come out just before the SNP conference.

Mike Smithson


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