The English media have to a large extent described the LibDem collapse in Scotland in terms of dissatisfaction with the CoLD coalition.
However, although this is bound to be part of the explanation, I don’t think one should underestimate the part played by their own sheer incompetence in the Scottish Parliament.
As I blogged exactly four years ago, the LibDems behaved very strangely in refusing to even sit down with the SNP.
Back then, the obvious interpretation was that they only wanted to form a coalition with Labour, but now that they’re in a coalition with the Tories in Westminster, insisting on a Labour coalition up here seems a bit odd.
I think many voters asked themselves who would govern efficiently and stand up to Westminster in a constructive manner, and almost nobody thought that the LibDems were the answer to that question.
They need to redefine themselves. Perhaps, as suggested by Liberal Vision, there is a gap “on the pro-independence centre-right” that they could fill. I’m sure that would work better than whatever it was they tried over the past four years.
Let’s see what the new leader decides to do!
If I haven’t blogged very much about the new UK government, it’s mainly because it’s so hard to blog about from a Scottish perspective.
Most of the interesting things they do don’t apply to Scotland, and you can only blog so much about their deficit reduction plan.
I’ve found two good articles about this.
The first one is by Iain Macwhirter:
[F]rom a Scottish perspective it’s hard to pass much of a judgment on the performance of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition so far because, in terms of domestic policy at least, it’s almost completely passed Scotland by. Of the many initiatives that have been launched by the coalition in its first 100 days, very few actually apply here, apart from the deficit reduction programme and that hasn’t been implemented yet.
The second one appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, and it describes well how radical the new government is in England:
England is embracing the free market, a smaller state and weaker local authorities and Scotland is sticking with what it’s got – comprehensive education, a totally state-run health service and powerful councils.
So, if all this is happening in England, where does this leave Scotland? The blunt answer is: in a mess. Scotland is going to get the cuts but without the reforms. It is going to see swathes of public servants thrown out of work but without anything new structurally to take their place.
Although it might not have been the coalition’s intention, I think it’s becoming abundantly clear why Scotland needs full independence, or at the very least full economic autonomy. The alternative is the abolishment of Scottish devolution, and that wouldn’t go down very well north of the border!
Sir Ming said in a recent interview that “there is a sense in which liberalism and nationalism are the antithesis of each other.”
I guess he means that liberalism is partly about creating equal opportunities for all people, and that doesn’t mix well with borders and national laws. However, I’m sure Sir Ming doesn’t seriously propose to abolish all countries anytime soon, and if he did, he would be violating another liberal principle that says that decisions should be taken as close to the involved people as possible.
Scottish independence is not about building up new borders – Scotland is already a legal and political entity – but about removing a superfluous and top-heavy construct: Great Britain.
So long as Scottish independence happens within the EU, there is no reason to assume it would violate any important liberal principles.
Besides, if Scottish independence is so terrible, is Sir Ming implicitly asking for Ireland and all the British colonies to come back to the UK? Surely Scottish independence isn’t any less acceptable for a liberal than Irish independence?