Archive for the Scotland Category

Scottish Elections: Results and Fallout

Posted in Election, Government, Labour, Lib-Dems, Politics, Scotland, SNP, Tories with tags , , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by pieman70

Well, the elections are over, over for quite some time, but I wanted to see the fallout of the campaigns before posting, honest.

So, for those who weren’t watching, it was an unprecidented result, in a parliament with a voting system specifically designed to stop any party achieving a majority, with the express goal of keeping the SNP out and an independence vote off the table, the SNP have won the first majority government in Scotland.  Yes, Scotland currently has a government that can be absolutely secure in the fact that it has a mandate from the majority of voters, that’s PR for you.

While the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote helped, with most of their voters clearly turning to the Nats, they also made massive inroads into common Labour safe seats.  The response from the Labour side has varied in the blogosphere.  There was denial, particularly during the election, where Labour were convinced it was merely the Lib-Dem swing, despite loosing safe seats to the SNP, or as seen here, Denial mixed with a shrill terror that the Evil Nationalists are re-building Hadrian’s wall as we speak.  Or here, where they blame the Tories for their loss.

Fortunately, most of the other blogs have correctly started looking inward for the reasons of Labours Defeat.

Part of it had to be the woeful negative campaign.  Put simply it appeared Labour were confident Scotland would sharpen up from its little dalliance with a party that wasn’t them now the Tories were in and all they really needed to do was sit back, make some comments about how terrible the Tories were and the voters would flood back.  It highlights a basic flaw in Labours general national plans so far.  In effect labour are working on the principle that they will win the next election through the virtue of not being the Tories.  That is so far the entirety of their case.  Scotland should be a wake up call that this is not nearly enough.

The other interesting point was Labour’s inability to fight on the Centre left, uncommon in westminster elections where they merely have to fight for the same few swing seats against the Tories, but more common in Scotland.  Furthermore, it shows how Labour still take their working class vote for granted, and they shouldn’t since they are seeking out alternatives as it sinks in that Labour no longer represent them.  Hopefully this will be a kick up the behind for Labour, however so far the party has been pretty quiet.

So, independence, will it happen.  I know a few nationalists (Hell, I’m married to one) and most of them think it won’t happen.  I have to agree, I don’t think there is the appetite.  However, the opposition parties should not think that a loss on an independence referendum will mean the end of the SNP.  A lost referendum will actually show that people clearly liked the SNP’s policys despite the independence issue rather than because of it, and Labour really should be looking at that side of the SNP and learning.

As for the SNP, the training wheels are off, no more excuses this time, no minority status to fall back on and the “It’s Westminster’s fault” argument will grow tired if its wheeled out repeatedly.  Interesting times indeed.


The Scottish Election

Posted in Election, Greens, Labour, Lib-Dems, Scotland, SNP, Tories with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by pieman70

On Thursday Scotland will go to the Polls.  Ok, technically all of the UK will, everyone’s electing councils and selecting a new voting system and Wales is picking its assembly, but I live in Scotland so its my main source of comment.

I initially had a polemic post filled with personal insults to all candidates, but I’m trying to rise above petty name calling in politics for proper discussion (Read as I’m not actually that witty so best stick to discussion rather than insults)

Due to Scotland being civilised enough and clever enough to be able to understand PR we effectively have a 4 party system, The “Big 2” are the SNP and Labour while the Lib-Dems and Tories take 3rd and 4rth, the Greens even get seats, its lovely.

In its first two terms it was a Labour/Lib-Dem coalition.  Yes, we got to see the Lib-Dems ditch their principles over student fees before they did it to the rest of the country.  This last term has been an SNP minority government, and it’s not been the disaster I suspected.

The SNP have had a hard transition from opposition to power, they were caught on the back foot many times at the start, however they have proven a minority government can work, it has meant dumping some key policies, taking some defeats and going through everyone elses manifestos with a fine toothed comb to find compromise and common ground.  It seems to have worked, Labour have been making noises that, particularly with the Lib-Dems toxic reputation these days they may go for the Minority option should they win this time round.

To the parties themselves, the SNP have actually done pretty well this election.  They clearly knew their weak points and studied responses to them, so they weren’t caught out by questions regarding the Lockerbie Bomber release and on the policies they failed to deliver on, Salmond even admitting one of his student policies never appeared because they couldn’t afford it.  In general the SNP are always well served by the leader Alec Salmond.  Salmond is a debater, he likes to argue, many modern politicians, including Labour’s Ian Gray and the Lib-Dem’s Tavish Scott are speech makers, I may blog about the distinction at a later date.

In government the SNP were a refreshing change at the tail end of the previous Westminster Labour Government, their combative stance was a refreshing change from the previous “Rubber Stamp” impression that having the same party in charge of Scotland and the UK gave.  Their policies have definitely been more progressive, there have been some good attempts to put Scotland at the forefront of tidal power generation research, and in more social policy we’ve seen abolition of Student fees, free care for the elderly and free prescriptions for all.  Its quite a buzz hearing envious noises from down south about these in particular.  There have been controversies, the failure to get an independence referendum off the ground is arguably one of their biggest failings, and the M74 extension and proposed Second Forth Bridge lost them support, particularly from the greens.  The continuing farce regarding the Edinburgh Trams hasn’t helped, but in fairness that is almost the definition of an inherited problem, and indeed one they tried to shut down in their first year.

So, the challengers.  First and foremost is Labour, who do still seem to believe they are entitled to rule Scotland by some divine right, they caught out the SNP in its early years in power, but has been fairly quiet of late, Ian Gray only appearing now and again to comment on any policy that seems slightly unpopular.  In fact they really haven’t impressed much at all lately, they have tried to make the focus of the election jobs after simply pointing out where the SNP failed often left them open to criticism on why they didn’t support policy.  This was particularly evident when they promised a council tax freeze and were promptly asked why they had voted against said policy each time it had come up.  They have since been far more careful to avoid being accused of pettily trying to stop the SNP doing anything.  They also have a flagship policy on Knife crime which shows the unattractive authoritarian streak Labour had in its Westminster years is still alive and well.

The Lib-Dems are nervous, very nervous.  Their ditching of policy on student fees at the start of the Parliament was close to being forgotten, they even helped the SNP get the abolition of fees through parliament, so voted against a policy they allowed through earlier.  They were initially quite annoyed, after all, for 8 years they’d been confident that regardless of who won the election, they always got seats.  Needless to say the SNP opting for minority government caught them unawares.  Particularly embarrassing was when the Westminster party decided to try and introduce minimum pricing, after they’d blocked it at Holyrood.  Tavish had a fairly unconvincing scramble trying to convince people that the Westminster policy was not the same thing they’d blocked.  Anyway, now they have bigger problems, Scotland does not forgive those who get into bed with the Tories, who don’t get much support up here.  The Lib-Dem campaign lurches drunkenly between trying to disavow the entire Westminster party and a strange sense of impending doom.  They expect a wipeout, I won’t put money on that just yet, I suspect they will be hit harder in the councils than in Holyrood, they seem to be aiming to take second votes from Labour as a strategy, and it may just work.

So we come to the Tories, they have one advantage, Annabel Goldie, a scrappy debater and match for Salmond, her ability vastly exceeds her parties popularity.  The Tories have actually not performed badly under the minority government, understanding that getting the few areas of policy they have in common with the Nats is better than nothing they’ve been agreeable and co-operative, which should be quite an embarrassment to the Lib-Dems and Labour, Tories being more reasonable than you.  Sadly their campaign has been lacklustre, mostly because rather than letting Goldie do her own thing Cameron decided that the guy who managed to only retain one seat in Scotland during the Westminster election was the one to run the campaign.  Any gains the Tories make will be in spite of him rather than because of him.

So, these are our options, obviously we also have the Greens, where Patrick Harvie has become more front and centre, and has impressed in debates, we also have George “the Cat” Galloway standing, and presumably re-familiarising himself with Scotland having spent the last decade near London.  This election the Part of tommy Sherridan, of the Tommy Sherridan party for more Tommy Sherridan in politics, will be played by his wife as tommy has found out that Barlinnie south is not actually a seat.

So, a motley crew, but ours, vote wisely.