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?

‘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.

It’s 3 months today since Mr Al Megrahi was released and no news from Tripoli…!

Al Megrahi's arrival in Tripoli brought shame on Scotland and three months later he's still going!

Despite protestations from the SNP Government in Edinburgh about the quality of the advice they received concerning Mr Al Megrahi’s medical condition he would still appear to be alive and well, living in Libya.

Having depended so heavily on the evidence that he should be released on compassionate grounds, as he had less than three months to live, it now seems that the medical advice, that the SNP were so reliant on, would appear to have been wrong.

The SNP’s Kenny MacAskill needs to give a clear answer now why the medical advice he claimed supported his decision would appear to have been so wrong, or misinterpreted.

It occurs to me that perhaps, under an SNP Health service in Scotland, Mr Al Megrahi might well have only survived three months with his illness, but clearly the non-SNP run health service in Libya is of a higher standard!

Lessons from Glasgow North East?! – The Labour Party isn’t as dead as the Tories were before 1997 and prepare for the longest election campaign ever…

David Kerr SNP - disappointing

The result in Glasgow North East has more to do with Labour success than SNP failure!

The result of the by-election yesterday will have come as a surprise to many people, and a disappointment to the SNP and to the media, which is increasingly biased towards the sensational.

Let’s look at the evidence: SNP Failure?

Well to be fair I never though they stood a chance in this by-election, and many will put this down to a failure of the SNP government in Edinburgh and a slump in support for independence. It’s probably not either of those, well not entirely. The SNP were always soft peddling their chances, after the surprise failure in Glenrothes. 

The SNP’s candidate was superficially a strong one with apparently good local credentials, and apparent media savvy.  Neither of these turned out to be true.  His media performances were weak, which surprised many, and his local credentials turned out to be paper thin.

Labour learning from the lessons of Dunfermline and Glasgow East?

I favour this analysis myself and the other main parties need to learn that Labour is relearning how to campaign.

Their Scottish by-election defeats in this Parliament, in Dunfermline and Glasgow East, have shown them very much on the electoral back foot. This has been due to them being out of touch with local public opinion, combined with a national malaise in their fortunes.

In both Glenrothes and Glasgow North East they have managed to campaign effectively on local issues, which are more important in by-elections, and toned down their national misfortunes.

This will obviously be very difficult for them to manage on a national scale at a general election but may be possible on a limited basis if they can successfully deploy human and financial resources.  The Labour Party is relearning targeting.

The main thing for the other parties to learn from this election is that long campaigns help the Labour Party; it helps them to reconnect with their electorate. The lesson is that, like John Major in 1992, this might be the longest election campaign in history.  Although the election might well still happen in early May it seems likely that Gordon Brown will go the palace to ensure that the campaign will be as long as possible, something in the region of 6 weeks, as it was in the 90s, to give them the chance of managing this reconnection.

It will also dent the impact of the financial advantage the Tories have on a constituency basis, making them spread the cost due to the restrictions on constituency campaigning, making it more of a doorstep campaign.

Labour is back in the electoral race.