Nicola Sturgeon has proposed to give Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a veto over the UK’s exit from the EU. According to the BBC, she said:
If you look at states like Australia and Canada there are some circumstances where changes to their constitution requires not just a majority across the country but in each of the provinces as well.
The UK is not a unitary state it is a family of nations, it is made up of the four home nations.
We were told during the referendum that each of these nations had equal status, that our voices mattered.
If that is the case I think it is right that something that would have such significant consequences for jobs, for the economy, for our standing in the world, it should require the consent of not just the UK as a whole but that family of nations.
It’s quite an attractive proposition. The Unionists clearly talked up federalism during the referendum campaign, and this is an obvious consequence.
If the Unionist parties don’t agree, it’s just another sign that they didn’t themselves believe the very arguments they used to win the referendum. If the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU but Scotland votes to stay, it will therefore be prudent to hold a second independence referendum to allow the people of Scotland to chose which of the two unions they want to remain in, the British one or the European one.
While we’re on this topic, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted something rather party-political today:
Whether good or bad idea, anyone else think it's ironic that SNP want scot parly vote on leaving EU but only Scotland voted on #indyref?
A political union is best described as a club. It’s always the case that members have the right to leave if they so desire — it can never require the consent of all members. This was why the Scottish independence referendum took place only in Scotland and not in the entire UK, and this is why the Brexit will be decided in the UK and not by a referendum in the entire EU.
However, clubs and political unions can decide on their own rules for what they do collectively. They can decide that new members can’t vote, they can decide who gets to join, and they can require unanimity for accepting new members or for joining other associations.
In most political unions the membership rules are described in the constitution or at least a political treaty, but because of the UK’s unwritten constitution many of those rules are based on precedent and political statements. It therefore makes good sense for Nicola Sturgeon to point out that the Unionists’ frequent talk about the family of nations has constitutional implications.
If Laura Kuenssberg wants to compare this proposal to the independence referendum, it would have been the equivalent of Shetland asking for a veto. However, nobody has ever described Scotland as a family of nations comprising Shetland and mainland Scotland, which is why nobody seriously considered doing this.
At the moment the front-runner to take over the leadership of Labour’s Scottish Branch Office appears to be Jim Murphy.
Mr Murphy is my local MP, so I’ve taken a certain interest in his career in the past, and he’s as New Labour as they come. If he becomes leader, it means that Scottish Labour is finally accepting its natural home is to the right of the SNP. Socialism will be dead as a dodo inside the Scottish Labour Party.
This means that Scotland will have three right-of-centre Unionist parties: Labour, the Tories and the LibDems. It’s possible English voters can tell them apart, but in Scotland they’ll be virtually indistinguishable.
The logical step will therefore be for the Unionist parties to merge. The most obvious name would be the Better Together Party, and I’ve designed a logo for them above that they’re welcome to use free of charge.
Obviously this merger will be impossible without cutting the ties to the Westminster parties, so it’ll probably not happen any time soon, but it would be the logical way forward for three parties that clearly enjoyed working together in their No Thanks coalition.
When Johann Lamont announced that she was going to step down as leader of Scottish Labour, she also pointed out what needs to happen now: “The Scottish Labour Party must be a more autonomous party which works in partnership with the UK party. We must be allowed to make our own decisions and control our own resources.” Some people are even suggesting that Scottish Labour should become a separate party that works together with rUK Labour in the House of Commons, in the same way that CDU and CSU always work together in Germany.
I totally agree that this is sorely needed to enable the party to compete successfully with the SNP again. However, as far as I can tell, nobody in Scotland can make that kind of decision — just like devolution in the UK, it would have to be granted by the centre. This was exactly Lamont’s problem — she didn’t have any real power and constantly got overruled by Miliband and the other Labour MPs, and whoever succeeds her will have the same problem. Unless they want to form a brand-new party and resign en masse from Labour, they’ll have to convince UK Labour to grant them the internal devolution they need.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe UK Labour will do this. The only thing that matters to them is whether they get a lot of loyal MPs sent down from Scotland at each general election, and the SNP’s electoral successes have so far been limited to Holyrood, the European Parliament and the councils. From their point of view, Scottish Labour is still supplying the goods.
Because of their focus on Westminster, UK Labour HQ also won’t agree to a separate party in Scotland — that would create the possibility of disloyal MPs that wouldn’t vote for UK Labour’s ideas all the time, and thereby potentially undermining a UK Labour Government. (This is of course also why they’re against Evel — if they can’t rely on Scottish MPs, they’re useless from their point of view.)
The only thing that will make them reconsider is if lots of Scottish Labour MPs lose their seats in May. If Miliband doesn’t become PM becomes his party was decimated in Scotland, UK Labour will start thinking that the only way forward is to give the Scottish party the autonomy it has craved for so long. Interestingly, this means that the only way to save Scottish Labour in the long term is by voting SNP in May.
As many other people, I’m absolutely appalled by the announcement that the BBC and the UK’s other main broadcasters will host a leaders’ debate in the run-up to the General Election that includes the Tories, Labour, the LibDems and UKIP, but neither the Green parties nor the SNP.
This is simply ludicrous! I blogged recently about how the pollsters should stop treating Great Britain as one unit, given that the party political systems are very different. In Scotland, the SNP is either the incumbent or the main challenger in most constituencies, and UKIP is nowhere to be seen.
The purpose of a leaders’ debate is to guide people on what to vote, and this selection of parties gives voters in Scotland the misguided idea that UKIP is more of a real party than the SNP. It’s barking mad!
On the other hand, I can understand that people in England don’t really think it’s very relevant to see Nicola Sturgeon in such a debate, given that they cannot vote for her party.
At the same time, the BBC’s idea about a Scottish debate simply doesn’t makes sense, because they want to invite the people leading their parties at Holyrood. However, the Westminster election is about the non-devolved subject areas (e.g., foreign policy, the military and pensions) — exactly the ones that the Holyrood politicians don’t have any influence on.
I hope the BBC and the other broadcasters will change their minds as a matter of priority, but the best way to avoid failures like this in the future is to get full devolution of broadcasting, so that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can have completely separate debates hosted by their national broadcasters.
In this way, the English leaders’ debate could include whoever they thought were important (and that might include UKIP), but the Scottish debate would replace the English debate, not supplement it, and so the debate up here would most likely include Nicola Sturgeon (or maybe the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson), David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and perhaps somebody from the Scottish Green Party, and everybody would be happy.
If broadcasting doesn’t get devolved, I guess the SNP will need to start putting up candidates in most English seats, even if it leads to a lot of lost deposits, simply so that it cannot be dismissed as a mere regional party.
It’s very clear that the best way to ensure that Westminster keeps paying attention to Scotland and to the promises they made during the referendum campaign is to elect as many Yes MPs in May 2015 as possible.
I’d love to see some Scottish Green MPs elected together with a strong SNP contingent, and a Yes Alliance might be the way forward. However, given the weak Green performance in 2010, I’ll concentrate on the SNP’s chances in the following.
How many seats can the SNP realistically win? To find out, I decided to look at the question from three different angles.
Secondly, I took the constituency votes cast at the 2011 Holyrood election and calculated the equivalent Westminster result. For instance, my calculations showed that Banff and Buchan consists of 74.8% of Aberdeenshire East plus 90.2% of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, so I simply applied these percentages to the 2011 results.
Thirdly, I took the independence referendum results, assigned the results to the Westminster constituencies (in a way similar to the above, just based on the council areas instead, except for Glasgow, which published the results for the Holyrood constituencies, and Edinburgh, which used Westminster ones), and mapped the Yes vote to SNP votes and the No votes to Labour, LD and Conservative votes according to their distribution at the last UK election. Of course the referendum was very different from an election, but it shows what a united Yes Alliance could potentially achieve.
Finally, I calculated the average of the three predictions described above and the actual 2010 result, which should take the incumbency effect into account.
The results are very interesting:
This means that according to uniform swing, the SNP stands to win 24 seats, but if we can convince the voters to vote like they did in 2011, the SNP will get no less than 45 seats, and if we can replicate the referendum result, a total of 56 seats is possible. However, if we look at the average of the predictions and of the 2010 result, the SNP will get 28 seats, one more than Labour.
I’ve listed all the Westminster constituencies below, ranked from formidable ones (where the SNP is not in the lead according to any of these measures) to safe ones.