Tag Archives: Holyrood

General Election 2017 Fallout – What Now for The SNP?

It was only 10 years ago that the SNP took control of Holyrood for the first time. At that year’s Scottish Parliamentary election the SNP edged out Scottish Labour by 47 seats to 46 and went on to form an Alex Salmond led minority government. This result shocked Scottish politics to the core. For most of their history the SNP had been seen as a fringe party. A party of by-election success and a party of protest. Their call for Scottish Independence was supported by perhaps 25% of people on a good day and independence was not really looked upon as a serious discussion for debate. Despite that breakthrough in 2007 the SNP only won 6 seats at the subsequent 2010 General Election. We then come to 2011, and that’s when things really changed.

For those who don’t know, the Scottish Parliament is based on Proportional Representation i.e. a mix of first past the post and list, or “top-up” candidates. The theory is that this should ensure that no party can possibly get over half the seats and gain an overall majority. However, in 2011 the SNP “broke” the Holyrood PR system with 69 seats and a seemingly impossible majority. The momentum gained from such a crushing victory left the SNP with no choice, they had to take this opportunity to go for independence. As such the 2014 indyref was scheduled. History of course shows that the Scots chose to reject the chance for full independence by 55% to 45%. A bitter blow for many, but the country had spoken. Pundit after pundit predicted a rapid demise of the SNP at this point, but instead the exact opposite happened. Over the coming months their membership rocketed to over 100,000 and at the General Election of 2015 they won all but three of Scotland’s 59 constituencies. A year later the SNP retained control at Holyrood with 63 MSPs, having just failed to break Holyrood PR for the second time, by a mere three seats.

Not long after the 2016 Holyrood elections came the EU Referendum. This was PM David Cameron’s gamble to put an end to the In/Out question brought to the fore by the Tory enclave otherwise known as UKIP. Like most I went to sleep that night not even bothering to watch the results. It was assumed to be a certain win for “Remain”. Unfortunately for the second referendum running I was to be on the losing side as “Leave” won. The campaign was decided largely on the back of English fears and smears over immigration south of the border. This was something which barely touched Scotland who as a result voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. As a consequence the SNP government decided to put a bill to Holyrood to timetable a second independence referendum. The justification was that their election winning manifesto had clearly stated that any major changes, particularly constitutionally, would entitle the call for the Scottish people to revisit the independence question. Leaving Europe certainly qualified as a trigger and so a bill was introduced and subsequently passed with support from the Scottish Greens. At the time polls were favoring independence and many previously hostile commentators agreed it was a perfectly valid path to take.

Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for a second independence referendum

After all of this excitement politics began to settle down. The earliest “indyref2” would take place would likely be 2019. It would only happen once the outcome of the negotiations around UK exiting the EU were defined. In essence it was designed to give the Scottish people the chance to remain in the EU within an independent Scotland, or stick with the UK outside of Europe. We then entered a period of relative calm with only the 2017 Local Council elections on the horizon. Then the unthinkable and unforeseen happened. On April 19th the UK parliament, at the behest of the Conservative government decided to call a snap election. The purpose was to gain a meaningful mandate ahead of the EU exit negotiation process i.e. a mandate to clear up a mess the Tories themselves had created. More than likely, the real reason was to crush Labour who languished 20+ points behind in the opinion polls. On June 8th the second General Election in two years took place. The full result and some high level analysis can be found here. The SNP went into this election with 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. They left it with only 35, a loss of 21 seats and 400,000 votes.

Disappointment as the 2017 loses mount up

So now we are up to date, we can return to the original question – what now? Firstly some perspective. In winning 35 seats the SNP still has 11 more seats than the other parties combined. It was the second best result in SNP General Election history. If you’d said after the 2014 referendum that the SNP would have 35 seats in 2017 you’d have been laughed out of town. However, because 35 is 21 less than 56 any sense of perspective has been lost. Not even the most ardent of SNP supporters expected us to retain 56 seats. That election was a night where all the stars aligned and anyone who had the smallest of reasons to vote SNP did so. This time that wasn’t the case. This time the opposition parties beat us into submission with joint agendas which demanded a second referendum be taken off the table. In the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum opposition from Labour and the media softened towards a second indyref. This was undoubtedly due to the polls favouring such a move. However, over the months which followed the polls slipped back to roughly 2014 levels. Therefore old battle lines were redrawn and once more it was the SNP against the rest. It wasn’t a fight we seemed ready for and it meant we got stuck on the back foot and were rarely able to go on the attack. Tory leader Ruth Davidson was barely questioned on actual UK Tory policy, most of it divisive and unpopular. Instead she and the other Scottish leaders simply stuck to the “No Referendum” line from pillar to post. This resulted in tactical voting, a rise in Tory support as “saviours of the union”, which allied with SNP core vote not turning out led to the results we had. Reality is Both Labour and the LibDems barely moved – they won seats with less votes than 2015 because the SNP vote dropped and the Tory vote rose.

In the aftermath of the result there were the usual calls from both ends of the spectrum. We should talk about independence more. We should shelve indyref2 and get on with governing Scotland. Well, what do I think we should do? Well for one we shouldn’t panic. As things stand the SNP have 35 MPs, 63 MSPs and 431 Local Councillors. We remain the largest and most successful political movement in Scotland. Ten years in government, while not perfect, have shielded Scottish voters from the worst excesses of UK Tory policy. Scotland would be a lot worse off it it wasn’t for the SNP in government.

I’m no political strategist but as someone who is sick of the SNP being on the back foot I’d say we need to go on the attack. We may never again be as strong as we are now. As such we need to be defiant. Show passion. Show we’ve had enough. Stop taking shit from our opponents. Lay it out in Blue and White. Indyref2 is not coming off the table, in fact It’s being nailed to the table. It’s staying. Deal with it. Why should the Scottish people burn the only  lifeboat we may have as the once previously unsinkable UK is about to hit an iceberg called Brexit? The only people who want a second independence referendum off the table are Unionists. The reason they want it scrapped it simple – they think there is a good chance they’ll lose it. Even if polls aren’t necessarily in our favour at this moment, we’re not talking about having the vote now, we’re talking about having it once we know EXACTLY how the UK is to leave Europe i.e. summer 2019. There are no more elections between now and then. No more predicable debates where the opposition are allowed to ignore policy to simply play the same old no referendum tune. Once the grim facts are laid bare voters will then know the true cost and risks of leaving Europe. By then the SNP will have a fully fleshed out plan for independence in Europe. No confusion over currency. No argument over EU membership. No doubt left as to how much staying in the UK will cost the Scottish economy.

For now I’m not going to look beyond indyref2. That’s precisely what our opponents want us to do. To take our eye off the ball and to let slip possibly the best chance we’ll have to be free to run our own country. We can’t afford to do that. If it does all crash and burn at least we’ve gone down fighting the good fight. I’d rather that than stay passive and watch a chance to be a proud independent nation pass us by.

Thanks for reading.

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Election Aftermath 2016

SNP_LOGOmed_copyYesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.

FM Nicola Sturgeon

A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.

Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.

Thanks for reading.

Scotland Has Spoken

bbcsref…and it has said ‘No‘ to the offer of independence. In the end it wasn’t that close; well, closer than most would have predicted a month ago, but in the last three weeks there seemed to be a genuine chance of a ‘Yes’ vote. However, as the results were checked and counted an apparent late swing back to ‘No’ left the final outcome as a bit of a letdown. 

First things first – congratulations to the ‘No’ campaign on their victory. While I didn’t enjoy the oppressively negative style of their pitch, that was the choice they felt they needed to make. In fairness selling a negative such as ‘No’ can’t have been easy. Far more fun to promote ‘Yes’ with all the inherent hopes, dreams and aspirations. Yet, the negative outdid the positive on September 18th as perhaps many decided it a leap too far, from the devolved parliament we have at the moment to full blown independence. Interestingly data published in the last few hours shows that the demographic which won it for ‘No’ was the 55+ group, where over 70% backed the Union. With a more even split of this age-range a ‘Yes’ win would in all likelihood have ensued. However, such is democracy and I don’t deny the older generations their right to vote in whichever way they felt best – nobody should.

Scottish-referendumI suppose it’s now time for a confession of a sort. In truth I worried from the start of this process whether independence would be too big a step for many. Perhaps a halfway house like ‘Devo-Max‘ would have been a better road to go down i.e. get people used to more powers before offering them the lot. However, the UK Govt declined the chance to put Devo-Max on the ballot paper. The thinking presumably was that David Cameron wanted a straight Yes/No, with his bets firmly hedged for a convincing ‘No’. This would have meant no concessions and no new powers – just the status quo. That though all changed when it became clear the status quo wasn’t acceptable to many natural ‘No’ voters. So the Better Together campaign came up with ‘More Powers GUARANTEED’. This was underpinned by a joint pledge in the final days promising to honour this guarantee.

So where does it leave us? Well, the Union remains in tact, but in my view seriously wounded. Overall it feels like nobody actually won. The Independence movement didn’t get what they wanted, but they will get more powers in time. The Unionists got what they wanted, but only by compromising on giving more powers to Scotland. The upshot would appear to be a more general review of democracy in the UK is required. More powers for Scotland will undoubtedly raise objections from regions of England, and perhaps rightly so. However, as with us Scots the English regions need to put forward their case as we have done for over a century.

sref2Ah well, after three years the one, and perhaps only referendum on Scottish Independence in my lifetime is over. Disappointed, yes, but not downhearted. A process has now begun which will surely see things improve for both Scots and the UK as a whole in the years to come. In time I believe people will look back on last night not as an end but merely as a beginning.

Thanks for reading.

Why I’m Voting YES

Referendum-calendar_tcm4-814401On Thursday the 18th of September, 2014 the voters of Scotland will be going to the polls. It won’t be to help elect a UK Government, it won’t be to elect a Scottish Government – it will be to decide whether Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.

Now, I’ve no real feel for where the readers of my blog come from. I appreciate most are probably following because of my formative attempts at creative fiction. Where you are all from is a mystery. However, whether you are from Scotland, other parts of the UK or beyond the shores of the island of Great Britain it doesn’t really matter. However, whoever is out there it’s probably best to start with some facts.

In 1603 Scotland and England shared a monarch (James VI of Scotland, James I of England). At that point we were still two separate countries who simply had the same royal family.

In 1707 Scotland and England (and Wales) signed up to the Treaty of the Union. From this point our parliamentary systems were joined, as what we effectively know as the UK was formed.

The referendum the Scottish electorate – the people of Scotland, irrespective of ethnic background – are about to vote on is in relation to the second point of history i.e. we are looking to remove Scotland from the United Kingdom and let it wholly govern itself once more as an Independent sovereign state. We will therefore still have the same monarchy as the rest of the United Kingdom (rUK) and will remain part of the commonwealth.

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As the title of this blog suggest I shall be voting YES to Scottish Independence. There are a few reasons, but it boils down to this:

  • Cards on the table – I have always favoured independence for Scotland i.e. I am not, and never was, undecided on this issue.
  • We are fundamentally different to the rest of the United Kingdom. As an example, the UK currently has a coalition government, mainly made up of Conservatives. At the 2010 General Election the Conservatives won 307 seats, one of which is in Scotland. This means Scotland is governed by a party who has one, solitary MP within Scotland. For me this undemocratic in that Scotland as a country has its government decided outwith our borders.
  • I want the people who run Scotland to be in Scotland. I want them close by so they can be fully accountable to the Scottish electorate
  • I think our country has untapped potential. For that to be realised it needs to run to its own agenda, not a sub-agenda of the UK.
  • Scotland was an independent country before, we should be again.

scottish-independnece

Look, I’m not political expert. Some of you reading this post may think I’m letting my heart get in the way of my head. Facts are being overridden by a naive vision of an independent Scottish utopia. Fine, if that’s the way you read me then that is of course your right to do so. However, at moments like this, defining moments in our countries history, there comes a time when heart needs to have as much say as heads. Yes, there will be uncertainties. Yes, there will be times of introspection. Yes, there will be ups and downs in all aspects of our society. Yet, isn’t that the case in every country in the world?

It’s time for Scotland to stand on its own two feet. It’s my firm belief, and that of well over one million Scottish voters that not only should we, but we can do so successfully. We will remain firm friends and business partners with the UK we leave behind. Perhaps in time they too will look at a need for change, such as regional assemblies around England. That though is a decision for them. It’s something they would need to campaign for, just as we have long campaigned for Scottish Independence.

Sadly, the Scottish main stream media has solidly backed the pro-Union stance, despite large numbers of their readership not doing so. It has led to an undeniable imbalance in the reporting of facts and figures. If you are taking part in the vote and are still ‘undecided’ then please read the following website which represents a small step in redressing the balance:

http://theweebluebook.com/index.php

Thanks for reading, and whatever way you vote, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it for yourself – do it for future generations; do it because it’s best for Scotland.

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