Does the prospect of Scottish Independence make electoral reform more likely?

Most electoral reformers were looking the other way when Scotland elected its first majority government in the devolved age and many haven’t taken on board the importance of this shift. We were busy trying to change the electoral system on the same day. But this change could actually be one of the main catalysts for the parties south of the border to revisit the way we do business at Westminster.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Greens and UKIP are committed to electoral reform but the Labour Party, whether before or during the AV referendum, has been almost equally split on the issue. But, with the possibility of the electoral mathematics being different in post-independence Britain could the combination of principle and self-interest move the Labour Party into a position where they see the benefits of electoral reform more clearly.

Although Labour has dominated Scottish politics since the mid-1960s (the last time the party did not win in terms of seats in Scotland was 1955) it has regularly failed to turn this pre-eminence north of the border into government at Westminster. However, with the Conservatives now so weak in Scotland the Labour Party have returned between 40 and 50 seats since the mid-1980s and the Liberal Democrats have also returned about 10 MPs from Scotland. Although the boundary changes at present being discussed makes the mathematics against an overall UK Labour majority worse they slightly improve if Scotland leaves the union but nonetheless this is a slightly marginal impact.

Losing 40 Labour MPs would have delivered a Conservative majority in Parliament in 2010

Do the mathematics of possible Scottish Independence make electoral reform more likely for Westminster

and the results would have looked like: Con 306 (307), Lab 217 (258), LD 46 (57) – with a Parliament of 591 seats – a Conservative overall majority of 21. So the decision Scotland makes on independence is important to England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland, as we would now have a different government if Scotland was independent.

So this major shift away from the Labour Party makes the prospect of Conservative government more of the time more likely. Does this sort of major shift in the nature of the country make it more likely that Labour sees the importance of its future policy on electoral reform? Well maybe, but the question is have our political class quite worked out that there is a genuine chance of Scotland being independent within the next five years? And this is where I believe there is a genuine level of self-denial amongst Westminster, and for that matter Holyrood, politicians. Scotland could well be on the verge of it’s the most significant constitutional change since 1707. With Alec Salmond running a popular, anti-Westminster government in Edinburgh there is a chance, without credible arguments and strong campaigning against independence, for it happen.

With this change will English and Welsh politicians come together to deliver a better way of electing Westminster as well as what Scotland decides for its own future?

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‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye,’ from SNP’s Alex Salmond to the Union, but he forgets it’s cuckoo…

The referedum on independence for Scotland may be more negotiating position that set it stone...

It was with some interest that I settled down to listen to Alex Salmond’s official announcement on the proposed independence referendum.

As he explained the multiple options that he was planning to put to the Scottish people I couldn’t help be reminded of the slightly sad song from the Sound of Music, as the von Trapp children head off to bed.

His options are in many ways the ones that make sense to most people; the status quo, the Calman Commission, the ‘devolution max’ option or full-blown independence.

But, throughout I couldn’t help feel, however passionately he spoke, that this was a negotiating position.  It just seemed like he was backtracking from full independence, and seemed to be urging a common position on the ‘devolution max’ option.

Although the White Paper will go ahead as a referendum that includes a choice of independence this proposal should be seen as the SNP just trying to nudge the debate forward, beyond Calman, to a stronger form of devolved government in Scotland, short of independence.

The Scottish Lib Dems should now close any discussion on supporting an Independence Referendum – no one wants it!

Alex Salmond's plans for a referendum and 20 MPs would appear to be in tatters...

The recent discussion within the Scottish Liberal Democrats concerning the possible policy change to support a referendum on Scottish independence seems now to be dead, following a poll released in The Telegraph today.

Although some had suggested, apparently for tactical reasons, that the party should entertain the idea Scottish voters, according to the poll, reject independence and narrowly reject the idea of holding a referendum, preferring Scotland’s politicians to focus on more pressing matters, faced by the country.

63% wanted the Scottish Government to focus on tackling unemployment and only 29% back independence, a fall in support from last year and those opposed have increased to 57%.

Alex Salmond’s objective of trying to win 20 MPs would also appear to be in tatters as the SNP’s support has also dropped again.

All this suggests that any prospect of the Lib Dems supporting a referendum, now that the voters appear to be disenchanted with the false panacea of independence, may well dissipate.

SNP braced for poll drubbing in Glasgow North East – The Guardian

SNP David Kerr

The SNP's David Kerr looks set for a heavy defeat tomorrow!

Ahead of tomorrow’s by-election in Glasgow North East it appears that the SNP is already conceding defeat, if The Guardian is anything to go by.

Alex Salmond’s comment that; ‘The ground is shifting substantially towards us.’ But, importantly, according to The Guardian, fell a long way short of his usual pre-poll enthusiasm and hyperbole, no doubt stung by the dreadful result they suffered in Glenrothes.

SNP candidate, David Kerr said; “We recognise going into polling day that we’re behind,” he said. “We recognise we’re probably 2-1 down with 20 minutes to go. We have a chance going into polling day. Hopefully we have a good chance.”

Hardly the words of a winner to be!

Cape Salmond (well Lossiemouth) would be the launch pad for UK commercial space flight – with a law change

Apollo 11 launch

'Lossiemouth we have a problem!' may not have the same ring but Scotland may be the launch site for commercial space travel

A little known piece of legislation, The Outer Space Act, is the piece of legislation that controls Britain’s involvement in space, and apparently Virgin Galactic is seriously considering Scotland as the place for it’s cosmic launch pad.

Apparently racing driver minister, Lord Drayson, and the Civil Aviation Authority are looking into the possibility of amending the legislation to provide for launches from the UK.

At the moment, mainly because no one thought it likely, it is not allowed to launch, into space, from the UK.

Will Whitehorn, of Virgin Galactic said;

‘Britain has no legislation to allow us to fly here – there is no regulatory authority. The Outer Space Act, which Britain created in 1986, didn’t really envisage a system like this.’

‘It didn’t envisage there would ever be space launches in the UK so there’s no regulator, no insurance, no reliability or structure.

‘But the British National Space Centre, which is a government quango, and Lord Drayson, the minister responsible for space, and the CAA are all looking closely at this issue.’

I can’t help imagine that the SNP Government, in Edinburgh, would feel they should have a say in this, and will probably demand that the launch site was renamed Cape Salmond.