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Scotland and Britain’s General Election Mayhem

Sebastian Payne looks at the latest polling in Scotland and finds that the SNP are still set to win the vast majority of Scottish seats in the May general election:

The SNP remain on 52 per cent of the vote — exactly the same as in October. According to STV, this would give the SNP 55 seats in Westminster, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would be left without any MPs north of the border. The Scots also appear pleased with the new SNP leadership: nearly 70 per cent stated they are satisfied with Nicola Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister.

Continued high levels of support for the SNP in general election polling suggests that the post-referendum boost for the nationalists wasn’t a brief or passing phenomenon. Labour’s weakness hasn’t been remedied at all by the change in local party leadership, and Labour is still on track to be all but wiped out in Scotland. That would make it practically impossible for Labour to win the general election on its own, which it was already going to have some difficulty doing without its problems in Scotland. That could put Scottish nationalists in a position to extract huge concessions from Labour as part of a coalition deal, or it could leave Britain with no party that is able to form a stable government. No matter which party emerges to lead the next government, Scottish voters are about to give a huge endorsement to the SNP, or at least a huge vote of no confidence in the other parties. It is difficult to see how Scotland can be kept part of the union for that much longer when most of its voters don’t want to be represented by any of the unionist parties and instead mostly support the parties that want independence.

Cameron just announced some new powers for the Scottish parliament on taxation and welfare, but inevitably they do not devolve enough power to Edinburgh to satisfy the nationalists:

But the Scottish National Party, which spearheaded Scotland’s independence campaign, immediately accused the prime minister of not going far enough in devolving powers. The party said aspects of the legislation appeared to be significantly watered down from what was originally promised and that too many of the proposals impose restrictions on the powers given to Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said the proposals for full devolution of unemployment benefits fall short of what was promised, reserving important levers in the hands of U.K. minister.

Of course, the SNP has every incentive to dismiss any concessions from London as insufficient, but the trouble for the unionist parties is that they led Scottish voters to expect far more than they were ever going to be able to deliver. The SNP’s refrain that Cameron isn’t going far enough is likely to appeal to many “No” voters that backed staying in the union on the assumption that the promises made during the campaign would be fulfilled. Since those promises can’t be fulfilled, anything that the government does offer will be seen as lacking, and that will strengthen the SNP still further.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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