Tag Archives: Nicola Sturgeon

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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General Election 2017 – Scottish Leaders’ Debate

Sunday night saw BBC Scotland hosting the first (not sure if only) debate featuring the Leaders of the main Scottish parties, and, err, UKIP. For those reading my blog who aren’t perhaps up to speed with Scottish politics, we essentially only have one wholly Scottish party, the SNP, who stand just in Scotland. The other party leaders could be looked upon as

(L to R) David Coburn (UKIP), Kezia Dugdale (Scottish Labour), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives), Willie Rennie (Scottish Lib Dems), Patrick Harvie (Scottish Greens)

heads of their respective Scottish branches. Not meant in a disrespectful way, but you get the picture. Currently the 59 seats up for grabs are split as follows: SNP (56); Tories (1); Labour (1); LibDems (1). While it’s probably unlikely that the SNP will get as many seats this time, there is little doubt that they will win the election in Scotland, with anything from 45-50 seats being predicted. The Tories are expected to bite back in a few marginal seats as the Unionist parties continues to trade votes to lessen SNP numbers.

As for the debate it was along standard lines. An opening 40 second salvo from each of the panel followed by a Q/A with an invited audience. I won’t get into the “audience” in this piece, but suffice to say it was the usual array of interest groups, plants and those who clearly had no idea of the difference between a Scottish and UK election. What then followed was a rather confused broth of Devolved (ruled on by Scottish Parliament i.e. Health, Education) and non-Devolved (ruled on by Westminster i.e. Defence, Foreign Policy, Brexit) policy questions. For reasons unclear the BBC decided to allow effectively irrelevant questions on devolved policy for the reason that “those were the questions people asked”. My response to that would have been to find other people who were prepared to ask relevant questions i.e. ones meaningful to a UK election. However, it is what it is, and as really pretty much any forum involving Scottish Leaders inevitably ended up focusing on the Scottish Parliament and in particular the job done by the SNP government.

Scotland’s Woman Leaders – Kezia, Nicola and Ruth go at it

The expected “No to second referendum” line was trundled out early doors by all concerned. It’s something the Scottish FM has heard a million times before and dealt with it comfortably. Really Nicola had a fairly easy night, and it was her Conservative counterpart who posted one of her weakest performances on television. Fact is Ruth Davidson has been cosseted by the Scottish media but in the last couple of weeks the gloves have finally come off. Last night she was actually treated as a Tory and asked questions a Tory (the UK Govt) would be expected to be asked. Ruth isn’t at her best when being put under pressure and she quickly resorted to shouting and looking extremely angry. Kezia Dugdale didn’t input much. I sort of admire Kezia for taking on the challenge of Scottish Labour leader but she just doesn’t have the substance to match any potential style. Willie Rennie was placid by his usual standards and saved his most savage attacks for the Tories, a change from his usual tirades on the SNP. Green party man Patrick Harvie spoke well. Not perhaps the most riveting public speaker, but he is passionate and did a good job. Not going to comment on David Coburn. He simply shouldn’t be there as he and his party are utterly irrelevant.

My overall feeling when it finished was one of frustration. While I enjoy politicians having a tear-up there was just too many areas and questions not pertinent to the up coming vote. Bit of an opportunity lost – a feeling shared by some in the post-debate spin room section. The only real loser on the night was Ruth Davidson who crumbled under the unusual sensation of pressure. All the rest stood their ground and can be happy with their night’s work. Sadly for Ruth, her national leader has also just had a day to forget with an interview by Andrew Neil being particularly grim viewing for those of a Tory persuasion. Things are definitely beginning to get a bit more interesting.

Thanks for reading.

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 Takes Centre Stage

Today saw the launch of the Scottish National Party’s manifesto for the 2015 General Election. Now, as best I can remember this sort of event normally takes place in front of the media pack and that’s about it. The politicians sit at the top table, show their slides, sip water and get their spin across. A few questions follow and then it’s off to the pub. Let’s remember the SNP only stand in the 59 Scottish seats, can’t win a UK Election and at best aspire to have some influence in a hung parliament. In the past this would have seen their manifesto launches restricted to the hardened hacks of the Scottish press corp. Those days are clearly over. For now, at least, the whole of the UK has their eyes on Scotland.

The video below contains all 62 minutes of today’s event. This is made up of roughly 20 minutes of presentation, followed by a 40 minutes Q and A with the assembled press.

I don’t deny I regard Nicola Sturgeon as the UK’s best politician, by a distance. However, as I’ve said before, no matter your allegiances it’s hard to not give at least grudging respect for the way she handles this sort of occasion.Not once was she remotely flustered. Her demeanor remained positive and only rarely did she show any signs of understandable irritation.

manlaunch2

The questions asked covered all the expected areas i.e. another independence referendum, Full Fiscal Responsibility, Ed Miliband and of course the big one, “Why is England scared of you?”. In truth the last type of question is a gift as it gives her the chance to reassure voters in rUK that there is nothing to be scared of, unless progressive democracy and Scotland having a voice frightens you.

manlaunch

I was feeling really buoyed having watched today’s event. However, my mood has darkened somewhat since. The expected trail of xenophobic and misogynistic bile flowing up from Westminster and Fleet St has actually surpassed my worst fears. Some of it is truly shocking. I won’t repeat any of it on this blog. The part which my poor brain is struggling to cope with is this: the UK pleaded for us to stay, we stayed and now they complain when we take part in the very system they wanted us to remain part of. The reality is the UK establishment has misjudged the mood for change in Scotland. Their current approach is to insult us rather than to work with us. Any short term gain will surely be more than matched by a continuing decline in Scottish respect for a system creaking at the seams with corruption and self-interest.

Thanks for reading.

Leader’s Debate – A Review

MAIN-Election-2015Anyone with even the remotest interest in UK politics was likely tuned it. That said, viewing figures of barely over 7 million perhaps points towards a disenfranchisement of people from politics, and politicians. In days of yore a program like this would have easily pulled in twice that audience. However, I freely admit that I sat glued to it for the entire two hours, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The lack of audience reaction jarred slightly, against the lively action on the debate floor, but it would seem that was intentional to avoid a sense of bias in favour of one candidate or another. Just the one heckler, shame, but in these santised times, perhaps not surprising. Like a lot of other people, I want to see Ed Miliband and David Cameron in a real ‘head to head’, alas it would appear that particular delight has been denied us by Cameron’s refusal to take part. Pity.

Like others who watched, I had my favourites before it started. I don’t pretend that I’m not a Scottish Nationalist, but I was willing to give everyone a chance. Here therefore is my placings for each of the debaters. Before I start I would add that none of the candidates ‘bombed’. Each was probably happy that they connected with those they felt the need to connect to. Saying that, some did better than others.

7th. Nigel Farage (UKIP)

Don’t like the man or his politics. UKIP in Scotland barely register in opinion polls. Yes, we unfortunately have one UKIP MEP, but we all have our crosses to bear. Nigel did what he does i.e. pretends to be different, blames everything on immigration, acts as the people’s voice. He is of course no such thing. His nose is as deep in the trough as any of the Euro politicians he continually ridicules. His ‘jack the lad’/’Arthur Daly’ wide-boy impression has never worked on me. However, it seemingly does work on a certain strand of English/Welsh opinion. His supporters will be pleased with his showing. The rest of us cringed, and at times just got plain angry at the things he said. Nope, not for me I’m afraid.

6th. Nick Clegg (LibDem)

His job on the night appeared to be to put clear blue water between himself and his coalition partners, the Conservatives. Fairly obvious strategy, and to an extent it was successful. Problem for Nick and the Lib Dem’s is that the electorate won’t forget his party’s role in the last five years as easily as they would like. That said, Nick himself does seem happy with what his party has achieved. Must admit to being confused by his ‘let us finish the job we’ve started‘ mantra. Is he suggesting the ConDem coalition get another five years? Is he suggesting we vote Tory? Surely he can’t be seriously suggesting a Lib Dem majority. In fairness there was the odd spark of the old Nick Clegg in there which flashed at what might have been. For me though his ship has sailed. He had made his bed and needs to lie in it. His thoughts should quickly turn to somehow saving his own seat, and with it his career.

5th. David Cameron (Con)

Dave clearly doesn’t like this sort of platform. He looked the most uncomfortable of the seven. A sweaty top lip in the opening statements suggested he was feeling the heat, in more ways than one. His plan was, unsurprisingly, to attempt to engage directly with Ed Miliband as much as possible. Seems he’s ok tackling Ed if there are other’s around – Head to Head he’s not so keen. I’ve always viewed Cameron as a poor man’s Tony Blair i.e. style and soundbytes over substance. Tends to prattle on about the past, his children and make vague future pledges which mean almost nothing. He is the classic empty suit of a politician. On the night he held his own, although he clearly dodged any questions with tough answers. In his defence it was a bit of ‘six on one’, but as PM that’s the way it should be, so he can’t really complain. Didn’t do terribly, didn’t to overly well. Treaded water but that’s what he does.

4th. Natalie Bennett (Green)

Have to be honest and say I had no idea who she was until very recently. She looked the most nervous at the start and was the only one who appeared to have to read her opening remarks from her notes – everyone else looked straight out, presumably at an autocue. After her nervy start she warmed into it. Her Australian accent took me unawares, but it gave a slightly different tone to what she had to say. In my view her performance wilted a bit through the two hours. Towards the end she became too stuck on big green issues. Nothing wrong it that per se, but the point of this debate was to appeal to the voters on a wide range of issues – especially as another coalition could be on the cards. By the end she had reverted to a cliche of what you might think a Green candidate would be. Bit of shame, but this must have been a tough assignment for her. Overall she did fine but could have done better, and may well do with more experience of the big stage.

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…and now onto the top 3!

3rd. Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru)

Along with Natalie Bennett, I thought Leanne was the most nervous, perhaps even more so at times. The Welsh Nationalists aren’t anywhere like on the same scale as their cousins up here in Scotland. As such Leanne simply won’t have had exposure like this before. However, for taking on Farage when the Tories, Labour and Lib Dem’s seemed afraid to, earned her kudos in my book. She should have addressed more UK issues, and where her party could fit in with them. Yes, she is the leader of PC and Welsh politics is her area; however, as I’ve mentioned before a hung parliament is in the offing and as such all parties need to think outwith the box, and their comfort zone. She didn’t stumble or get figures wrong at any point. It was a competent performance, even if I think she could have pushed herself more onto the UK agenda.

2nd. Ed Miliband (Lab)

Ok. Tory press say he did badly; Labour press say he did well. I’m not a Labour or Ed fan, but I thought he did well. There appears to be low expectations of Ed Miliband in debate, and at times it was a bit forced/fake i.e. appeals directly into the camera, cow eyes etc. For all that I thought he showed a good grasp of his subject and was able to score some direct hits on Cameron and Farage. Main negative for me was that he almost ignored the three women. His focus was on the camera and Cameron. I’d say he ‘appears’ much more genuine than David Cameron. He admits mistakes, too many in truth, but that makes him feel more human. Less soundbytes too which is a bonus. He didn’t win the election with this performance, but I seriously doubt he lost ground either. In truth I was surprised at how well he did.

ns21st. Nicola Sturgeon (SNP)

Ho hum. I’m an SNP member so I would say that. Fine, I don’t deny it. However, the fact that the YouGov poll of over 1,000 viewers gave her the win, as did most of the serious political pundits, I think I am justified in my selection. It would seem watching viewers in Scotland were particularly impressed as nearly 2,000 of them joined the SNP during, and after the debate. Nicola’s task was two fold. Firstly to appeal to Scottish voters ahead of the vote on May 7th. Secondly she had to appease voters elsewhere in the UK that she was not the tartan devil the mainstream media painted her to be. Instead she made it clear that the SNP, if elected in good numbers, would be good for other parts of the UK too i.e. seeking to protect the NHS from privatisation in England, Wales and NI.

Nicola is just an outstanding politician, and no matter the colour of your rosette it’s hard to deny her qualities. Oh, and one last thing she nailed was that she, Nicola Sturgeon, and not Alex Salmond is the leader of the SNP.

Thanks for reading.