Category Archives: Westminster

Death through hexangulation

donald dewar
donald dewar by Tom Donald, on Flickr.
I moved to Scotland in 2002, so I don’t have any memories of the creation of the Scottish Parliament — when I moved here, it was already a fact of life. However, based on what I’ve read, I believe Labour’s thinking in the ’90s could be paraphrased as follows:

When we’re in power at Westminster, the Scottish Office works great, but when the Tories are in power, they control the Scottish Office, too, which is a problem because they’re not us. So if we create a Scottish Parliament with a Scottish Executive to replace the Scottish Office, it’ll work exactly the same as before when we’re in power in both places, but when the Tories are in power, we can at least rule Scotland and use it as a showcase for our superior policies.

Unfortunately for Labour, there were a few problems with this analysis. For instance, voters tend to get fed up with all parties at some point with the inevitable consequence that the SNP would eventually get into power in Scotland. Also, Scottish voters would naturally expect the Scottish parties to respond to their concerns and desires, so it would become impossible to have the same policies on both sides of the border, which would be a bigger problem for Scottish Labour than for the other parties.

However, I believe the biggest problem is that New Labour is based on triangulation (“the tactic of shifting party policy in to a broadly perceived “centre-ground” in order to increase electability and outmanoeuvre the opposition, who subsequently become associated with extremism and anachronism”), but you can’t triangulate against two different parties at the same time without exploding like a chameleon on a piece of tartan.

The reason for this becomes clear when you consider than triangulation really means moving towards your opponent. However, when you have one opponent on the right and another on the left, doing triangulation towards both — let’s call it hexangulation — will tear you apart.

The alternative is to triangulate only in one direction and completely ignore the other opponent. This seems to have been Labour’s solution, focusing on triangulation against the Tories while allowing the SNP to monopolise all the popular policies in Scotland. The result is that they have deserted the centre-left in the process, making it easy for the SNP to supplant Labour as the dominant party north of the border.

Of course it hasn’t helped Labour that their best talent has always been sent to Westminster rather than to Holyrood, and their disastrous idea to keep the constituency candidates off the regional lists got rid of a lot of their best people at the last election.

However, at the end of the day the decision to sacrifice ideology on the altar of triangulation while introducing devolution must be the main reason for Labour’s collapse in Scotland.

Can the SNP realistically take East Renfrewshire?

Rouken Glen 08b
Rouken Glen 08b by TechDaveStudios, on Flickr.
Of all the seats that the SNP would like to win in May 2015, surely East Renfrewshire must be the jewel in the crown. In 1997, when Jim Murphy won what had until then been a safe Tory seat, it demonstrated the strength of New Labour. Today Jim Murphy is still one of the most faithful believers in Tony Blair’s project and it is with this background that he’s trying to become leader of Labour’s Scottish Branch Office. If the SNP manages to win his seat, it will symbolise the final defeat of the New Labour project in Scotland.

However, how likely is it? First of all, let’s have a look at my recent prediction:

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4535 12570 9922 24287 12829
LAB 25987 20511 15343 23413 21314
LD 4720 0 980 4252 2488
CON 15567 15823 11254 14025 14167

The way to read this is as follows: The SNP got a poor result in 2010, ending up as number four just behind the LibDems. Once we’ve applied uniform swing (according to last month’s opinion polls), the SNP is up at number three, getting close to overtaking the Tories; however, Labour is still far ahead. The prospects look similar if we look at the 2011 Holyrood election. Only if we look at the referendum results and assume the No voters would divide up in the same way as in 2010 would the SNP win, providing a Yes Alliance was in place. However, once we look at everything together, an SNP victory looks like quite a challenge.

This table doesn’t show the full picture, however. For instance, if we apply uniform swing based on the recent sensational Ipsos MORI poll, the result would be SNP 20,964, Labour 16,263, Cons 12,138 — in other words a very safe SNP victory.

There’s another reason to believe the SNP can win East Renfrewshire, and this has to do with voter psychology and tactical voting.

Many people like to think of East Renfrewshire as a Tory stronghold although Labour has been the strongest party for two decades. The number of Conservative voters seems to be relatively constant, normally fluctuating between 26% and 33% of the votes — Westminster Tory support: 46.8% (1992), 33.5% (1997), 28.7% (2001), 29.9% (2005 [boundary changed]), 30.4% (2010); Holyrood: 32.7% (1999), 26.3% (2003), 33.6% (2007), 33.4% (2011); East Renfrewshire Council: 40% of seats (1999), 35% (2003), 35% (2007), 30% (2011).

Given that it strikes me as unlikely that very many people would vote Tory tactically to get rid of Labour, it’s probably safe to assume that the Conservatives will get about 30% of the vote in 2015.

If the Tories get this many votes and the LibDems get less than 5% (the uniform swing predicts they won’t get any votes at all, but let’s be generous), it follows that Labour + SNP are fighting over 65% of the vote. This means that if they split it evenly, both get 32.5% of the vote, which is more than the Tories, and in all other scenarios, the winning party will be significantly larger. This means the Tories cannot realistically take East Renfrewshire back.

However, just because the Conservatives cannot win it doesn’t automatically imply that the SNP can do so (although both the referendum result and the recent Ipsos MORI poll suggest that they can).

The reason the SNP has traditionally done so badly in East Renfrewshire is because the Tories have been seen as a real threat. In other Scottish seats, the Tories disappeared from the horizon a long time ago, but here the Tories have been seen like real contenders until recently. Many people have therefore voted for anyone-but-the-Tories, and that has normally benefited Labour.

However, if we can convince the voters that the Tories cannot win in East Renfrewshire (based on the arguments above), it follows that there’s no point in voting Labour tactically to keep them out. This might weaken the probably significant number of tactical anti-Tory voters in this constituency.

At the same time, many people are strongly against Murphy. Of course the Yes voters from the SNP, the Greens and Labour for Independence want to see him lose, but there must also be many No voters who cannot stand the man for various reasons. If they believe the SNP has the best chance of getting rid of him, they might vote tactically for the SNP candidate.

Finally, Jim Murphy’s candidacy for the leadership of Scottish Labour means that one of the following will be the case in May 2015:

  • He lost the leadership battle and now looks like a loser condemned to returning to Westminster when he really wanted to become First Minister. This is hardly a good platform for winning East Renfrewshire.
  • He won the leadership battle but is returning to Westminster for a year until the next Holyrood election because Labour’s rules say you have to be either an MP or an MSP but not both to be leader. This means that he isn’t committed to representing the constituency and a good candidate should be able to use this against him. Also, it means a good SNP candidate will get a second shot in the subsequent by-election.
  • He won the leadership battle and managed to get into Holyrood through a by-election. In this case a new Labour candidate will be fighting this seat, and the incumbency effect practically disappears.

In other words, because the Tories cannot win, because Murphy is hated by a large number of voters and because Murphy will be weakened in this seat by the leadership battle, it should be possible to get an SNP candidate elected in May 2015. It will require a strong candidate however — it remains one of the most challenging seats for the SNP in the entire country.

The only thing that matters for UK Labour

Ed Miliband being interviewed in Glasgow
Ed Miliband being interviewed in Glasgow by Scottish Labour, on Flickr.
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.

UKIP in the leaders’ debate? Broadcasting must be devolved!

Britain's PM choices - screenshot
Britain's PM choices – screenshot by Scorpions and Centaurs, on Flickr.
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.

Which Westminster seats can the SNP realistically win?

[London] Westminster
[London] Westminster by Fabrizio Sciami, on Flickr.
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.

Firstly, I implemented a uniform swing based on Scot Goes Pop!’s latest poll of polls (SNP 35.6%, Labour 31.3%, LD 5.8%, Con 17.2%).

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:

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6 24 45 56 28
LAB 41 30 12 1 27
LD 11 3 1 2 3
CON 1 2 1 0 1

A map of the constituencies showing my rankings. The white ones are formidable, and the dark yellow ones are safe.
A map of the constituencies showing my rankings. The white ones are ‘formidable’ and the dark yellow ones are ‘safe’. Based on this map.
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.

List of formidable constituencies

Dumfries and Galloway

The MP elected in 2010 was Russell Brown.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6419 14610 14401 24503 14983
LAB 23950 18367 14273 24914 20376
LD 4608 0 1473 4793 2719
CON 16501 16762 15805 17165 16558

Orkney and Shetland

The MP elected in 2010 was Alistair Carmichael.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 2042 5079 3178 10552 5213
LAB 2061 0 1078 2557 1424
LD 11989 9455 7374 14876 10924
CON 2032 2129 1016 2521 1925

List of challenging constituencies

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Moore.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4497 12192 15017 23593 13825
LAB 5003 0 5830 5366 4050
LD 22230 15809 9772 23844 17914
CON 16555 16800 14937 17757 16512

Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Clarke.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7014 13551 19277 32998 18210
LAB 27728 23273 21580 25319 24475
LD 3519 0 789 3213 1880
CON 3374 3582 2870 3081 3227

West Dunbartonshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Gemma Doyle.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8497 15133 12197 33720 17387
LAB 25905 21383 12618 22880 20697
LD 3434 0 1402 3033 1967
CON 3242 3453 3208 2863 3192

Dunfermline and West Fife

The MP elected in 2010 was Thomas Docherty.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5201 12886 19510 29281 16720
LAB 22639 17402 19912 18830 19696
LD 17169 10757 6570 14280 12194
CON 3305 3550 3519 2749 3281

Glasgow East

The MP elected in 2010 was Margaret Curran.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7957 13007 20441 54143 23887
LAB 19797 16355 22619 40260 24758
LD 1617 0 879 3288 1446
CON 1453 1614 2269 2955 2073

Glasgow North East

The MP elected in 2010 was Willie Bain.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4158 8775 26476 66750 26540
LAB 20100 16953 28657 45916 27907
LD 2262 0 2627 5167 2514
CON 1569 1716 3907 3584 2694

Inverclyde

The MP elected in 2010 was David Cairns.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6577 12466 12244 27243 14633
LAB 20993 16979 12705 18809 17372
LD 5007 93 1952 4486 2885
CON 4502 4690 2187 4034 3853

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

The MP elected in 2010 was Gordon Brown.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6550 13741 18831 29281 17101
LAB 29559 24658 19664 27831 25428
LD 4269 0 1590 4019 2470
CON 4258 4487 3083 4009 3959

Motherwell and Wishaw

The MP elected in 2010 was Frank Roy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7104 13246 16154 31261 16941
LAB 23910 19724 17139 22798 20893
LD 3840 0 662 3661 2041
CON 3660 3856 2933 3490 3485

Paisley and Renfrewshire South

The MP elected in 2010 was Douglas Alexander.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7228 13508 22327 30254 18329
LAB 23842 19562 23695 25517 23154
LD 3812 0 2493 4080 2596
CON 3979 4179 6069 4258 4621

East Renfrewshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Jim Murphy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4535 12570 9922 24287 12829
LAB 25987 20511 15343 23413 21314
LD 4720 0 980 4252 2488
CON 15567 15823 11254 14025 14167

Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Greatrex.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7564 14940 19438 31812 18439
LAB 28566 23539 19769 28289 25041
LD 5636 0 1634 5581 3213
CON 4540 4775 3911 4496 4431

List of tough constituencies

Airdrie and Shotts

The MP elected in 2010 was Pamela Nash.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8441 14069 21107 30104 18430
LAB 20849 17013 20215 22369 20112
LD 2898 0 921 3109 1732
CON 3133 3312 2984 3361 3198

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

The MP elected in 2010 was Sandra Osborne.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8276 15481 15964 26432 16538
LAB 21632 16721 11780 19771 17476
LD 4264 0 844 3897 2251
CON 11721 11950 10572 10712 11239

Central Ayrshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Brian Donohoe.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8364 15259 20998 27249 17968
LAB 20950 16251 15654 19987 18211
LD 5236 0 1106 4995 2834
CON 8943 9163 10778 8532 9354

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

The MP elected in 2010 was Gregg McClymont.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 9794 16255 20724 27927 18675
LAB 23549 19146 16364 23478 20634
LD 3924 0 1667 3912 2376
CON 3407 3613 3375 3397 3448

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

The MP elected in 2010 was David Mundell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4945 12150 19752 21473 14580
LAB 13263 8353 19143 12611 13343
LD 9080 3068 4607 8633 6347
CON 17457 17686 12650 16598 16098

East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael McCann.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 11738 19737 23910 33832 22304
LAB 26241 20790 19369 28246 23662
LD 5052 0 521 5438 2753
CON 6613 6868 4923 7118 6381

East Lothian

The MP elected in 2010 was Fiona O’Donnell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7883 15601 17771 27467 17181
LAB 21919 16659 16776 24346 19925
LD 8288 1848 2392 9206 5434
CON 9661 9907 6316 10731 9154

Edinburgh North and Leith

The MP elected in 2010 was Mark Lazarowicz.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4568 12003 19947 28813 16333
LAB 17740 12673 19526 18790 17182
LD 16016 9812 7526 16964 12580
CON 7079 7316 6174 7498 7017

Edinburgh South

The MP elected in 2010 was Ian Murray.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 3354 10231 24887 20340 14703
LAB 15215 10528 21613 14727 15521
LD 14899 9161 10826 14422 12327
CON 9452 9671 12304 9149 10144

Edinburgh South West

The MP elected in 2010 was Alistair Darling.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5530 12668 30824 24659 18420
LAB 19473 14609 24440 19884 19602
LD 8194 2238 15761 8367 8640
CON 11026 11253 19254 11259 13198

Glasgow North

The MP elected in 2010 was Ann McKechin.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 3530 8179 18436 44811 18739
LAB 13181 10012 18693 21010 15724
LD 9283 5404 2339 14797 7956
CON 2089 2237 3158 3330 2704

Glasgow North West

The MP elected in 2010 was John Robertson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5430 11016 19257 45552 20314
LAB 19233 15426 19239 28055 20488
LD 5622 961 2339 8201 4281
CON 3537 3715 3462 5159 3968

Glasgow South West

The MP elected in 2010 was Ian Davidson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5192 10182 12713 31076 14791
LAB 19863 16462 12466 21405 17549
LD 2870 0 612 3093 1644
CON 2084 2243 1645 2246 2055

Glenrothes

The MP elected in 2010 was Lindsay Roy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8799 15158 26004 27296 19314
LAB 25247 20913 21924 26983 23767
LD 3108 0 1489 3322 1980
CON 2922 3125 3647 3123 3204

Lanark and Hamilton East

The MP elected in 2010 was Jimmy Hood.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 9780 17089 29748 31812 22107
LAB 23258 18277 23492 25145 22543
LD 5249 0 744 5675 2917
CON 6981 7214 7350 7547 7273

Paisley and Renfrewshire North

The MP elected in 2010 was James Sheridan.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8333 15195 18931 25212 16918
LAB 23613 18936 17879 19258 19922
LD 4597 0 1581 3749 2482
CON 6381 6600 7086 5204 6318

Ross, Skye and Lochaber

The MP elected in 2010 was Charles Kennedy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5263 10733 14956 21292 13061
LAB 5265 1537 4335 4522 3915
LD 18335 13771 9603 15748 14364
CON 4260 4434 2904 3659 3814

List of average constituencies

North East Fife

The MP elected in 2010 was Sir Menzies Campbell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5685 11975 14469 28289 15105
LAB 6869 2582 6006 7136 5648
LD 17763 12515 8595 18453 14332
CON 8715 8915 6037 9054 8180

Glasgow Central

The MP elected in 2010 was Anas Sarwar.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5357 10158 29409 63792 27179
LAB 15908 12636 25020 38414 22995
LD 5010 1004 2091 12098 5051
CON 2158 2311 4235 5211 3479

Glasgow South

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Harris.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8078 14373 21763 43576 21948
LAB 20736 16446 16692 26783 20164
LD 4739 0 1608 6121 3117
CON 4592 4792 3796 5931 4778

Kilmarnock and Loudoun

The MP elected in 2010 was Cathy Jamieson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 12082 19391 21489 32251 21303
LAB 24460 19479 14615 25578 21033
LD 3419 0 827 3575 1955
CON 6592 6825 4730 6893 6260

Midlothian

The MP elected in 2010 was David Hamilton.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8100 14261 12657 26370 15347
LAB 18449 14250 8363 21017 15520
LD 6711 1570 3329 7645 4814
CON 4661 4857 2640 5310 4367

List of easy constituencies

Aberdeen North

The MP elected in 2010 was Frank Doran.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8385 14304 26484 28781 19489
LAB 16746 12712 17538 24019 17754
LD 7001 2062 4752 10042 5964
CON 4666 4855 5841 6692 5514

Aberdeen South

The MP elected in 2010 was Anne Begg.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5102 11858 19273 24213 15112
LAB 15722 11117 12483 14626 13487
LD 12216 6579 5752 11365 8978
CON 8914 9129 5692 8293 8007

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

The MP elected in 2010 was Sir Robert Smith.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7086 14182 24404 25907 17895
LAB 6159 1323 5720 6530 4933
LD 17362 11441 10603 18408 14454
CON 13678 13904 11002 14502 13272

Argyll and Bute

The MP elected in 2010 was Alan Reid.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8563 15660 18885 26324 17358
LAB 10274 5437 10360 10772 9211
LD 14292 8370 3652 14984 10325
CON 10861 11087 6555 11387 9973

North Ayrshire and Arran

The MP elected in 2010 was Katy Clark.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 11965 19205 23346 35304 22455
LAB 21860 16926 15561 23845 19548
LD 4630 0 931 5050 2653
CON 7212 7443 5361 7867 6971

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

The MP elected in 2010 was John Thurso.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5516 10033 12423 24840 13203
LAB 7081 4003 4880 8696 6165
LD 11907 8138 5730 14623 10100
CON 3744 3888 2633 4598 3716

East Dunbartonshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Jo Swinson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5054 12582 23227 25751 16654
LAB 16367 11237 22009 14939 16138
LD 18551 12270 3573 16933 12832
CON 7431 7671 6013 6783 6975

Dundee West

The MP elected in 2010 was James McGovern.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 10716 16545 22082 28124 19367
LAB 17994 14022 10005 15155 14294
LD 4233 0 1453 3565 2313
CON 3461 3647 3497 2915 3380

Edinburgh East

The MP elected in 2010 was Sheila Gilmore.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8133 14392 34167 27500 21048
LAB 17314 13048 31765 18025 20038
LD 7751 2529 11578 8069 7482
CON 4358 4557 10928 4537 6095

Edinburgh West

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Crockart.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6115 13407 30985 22615 18281
LAB 12881 7911 24096 13716 14651
LD 16684 10599 15814 17765 15216
CON 10767 10999 15468 11465 12175

Falkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Eric Joyce.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15364 23336 26936 33659 24824
LAB 23207 17774 18391 26306 21420
LD 5225 0 1220 5923 3092
CON 5698 5952 3965 6459 5519

Gordon

The MP elected in 2010 was Malcolm Bruce.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 10827 18485 27569 24418 20325
LAB 9811 4592 6273 9810 7622
LD 17575 11185 7724 17574 13515
CON 9111 9355 7026 9110 8651

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

The MP elected in 2010 was Danny Alexander.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8803 16196 22437 31937 19843
LAB 10407 5369 8678 10417 8718
LD 19172 13004 7443 19191 14703
CON 6278 6513 4868 6284 5986

Linlithgow and East Falkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Connarty.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 13081 21159 33053 36981 26069
LAB 25634 20129 24516 29501 24945
LD 6589 0 1789 7583 3990
CON 6146 6403 5162 7073 6196

Livingston

The MP elected in 2010 was Graeme Morrice.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 12424 19945 30256 33191 23954
LAB 23215 18089 21458 28163 22731
LD 5316 0 1464 6449 3307
CON 5158 5398 3992 6257 5201

Ochil and South Perthshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Gordon Banks.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 13944 21868 18612 31212 21409
LAB 19131 13731 6635 22543 15510
LD 5754 0 2077 6780 3653
CON 10342 10594 8533 12186 10414

Stirling

The MP elected in 2010 was Anne McGuire.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8091 15445 23251 25010 17949
LAB 19558 14546 15295 19321 17180
LD 6797 661 1941 6715 4029
CON 11254 11488 6827 11118 10172

List of safe constituencies

Angus

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Weir.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15020 20980 15487 24969 19114
LAB 6535 2473 3561 9409 5495
LD 4090 0 1256 5889 2809
CON 11738 11928 6050 16901 11654

Banff and Buchan

The MP elected in 2010 was Eilidh Whiteford.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15868 21907 29768 27408 23738
LAB 5382 1266 4105 10403 5289
LD 4365 0 4033 8437 4209
CON 11841 12033 7290 22888 13513

Dundee East

The MP elected in 2010 was Stewart Hosie.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15350 21719 29102 35571 25436
LAB 13529 9188 9983 17616 12579
LD 4285 0 1588 5579 2863
CON 6177 6380 6160 8043 6690

Moray

The MP elected in 2010 was Angus Robertson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 16273 22711 18467 27232 21171
LAB 7007 2620 3839 10945 6103
LD 5956 584 1421 9303 4316
CON 10683 10888 6324 16687 11146

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

The MP elected in 2010 was Angus MacNeil.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6723 9034 8496 9195 8362
LAB 4838 3263 3724 7750 4894
LD 1097 0 228 1757 771
CON 647 721 563 1036 742

Perth and North Perthshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Peter Wishart.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 19118 26696 23577 26613 24001
LAB 7923 2758 3999 11142 6456
LD 5954 0 1948 8373 4069
CON 14739 14980 10835 20727 15320

More pandas than Unionist MPs

panda
panda by Camilla Hoel, on Flickr.
The Unionist MPs from Scotland (such as Jim Murphy, Gordon Brows and Alistair Carmichael) dominated Better Together strongly because they were the only people with a strong personal interest in the status quo. The majority of MSPs and councillors didn’t care all that much, and neither did most rUK MPs.

It’s therefore really important that we get rid of as many Scottish Unionist MPs as possible at the next Westminster election in May, because this will weaken as future No campaign a lot. However, how realistic is it?

To find out, I looked at the votes cast for Unionist parties in 2010 and compared it with the Yes vote in the referendum. Unfortunately, at the moment referendum data is not available on a constituency basis, so I had to group some constituencies and council areas together to achieve comparable areas. In the table below, the first three data columns show first the votes cast for pro-independence parties in 2010, then the votes cast for Unionist parties, and finally the votes cast the the largest Unionist party (given that this is a FPTP election); the next two columns provide the referendum results, and the last column lists the difference between the votes cast for the largest No party in 2010 and the Yes vote in 2014:

2010 Election Independence Referendum
Area Yes parties No parties Largest No party Yes No Diff.
Glasgow 41977 177703 128818 194779 169347 65961
Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire 47268 160549 79246 130727 192700 51481
Angus / Dundee 41086 72042 43261 88664 85072 45403
Edinburgh 30797 188849 86426 123927 194638 37501
East Ayrshire / North Ayrshire / South Ayrshire 40687 140919 88902 121236 140705 32334
East Dunbartonshire / North Lanarkshire 37407 166140 114587 146407 159236 31820
Falkirk / West Lothian 40869 106188 72056 103831 123712 31775
Highland 19582 86449 49414 78069 87739 28655
Clackmannanshire / Perth and Kinross 33062 63843 33870 57825 81750 23955
Dumfries and Galloway / Scottish Borders / South Lanarkshire 44943 240783 141702 165510 247392 23808
Fife 26235 145823 95208 114148 139788 18940
Moray 16273 23646 10683 27232 36935 16549
Argyll and Bute 8563 35427 14292 26324 37143 12032
Renfrewshire 15561 66224 47455 55466 62067 8011
Midlothian 8100 29821 18449 26370 33972 7921
West Dunbartonshire 8497 32581 25905 33720 28776 7815
Inverclyde 6577 30502 20993 27243 27329 6250
East Lothian 7883 39868 21919 27467 44283 5548
Stirling 8091 37609 19558 25010 37153 5452
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 8135 6582 4838 9195 10544 4357
Orkney Islands / Shetland Islands 2042 16082 11989 10552 19955 -1437
East Renfrewshire 4535 46274 25987 24287 41690 -1700

As an example of how to read the table, the constituency of Argyll and Bute in 2010 saw 8563 votes cast for Yes parties and 35427 votes for No parties; however, the latter were divided between three parties, and the winning party (the LibDems) only got 14292 votes, which is 12032 votes less than the 26324 votes cast in favour of independence last Thursday.

(I should point out that SNP constituencies haven’t been eliminated — for instance, Na h-Eileanan an Iar currently have an excellent SNP MP.)

It’s clear that almost everywhere, more votes were cast for Yes than for the largest No party. The two exceptions are Orkney and Shetland, where there is a very strong Liberal tradition, and East Renfrewshire, which was a Tory stronghold until recently and so Labour benefits from a lot of tactical voting to keep out the Tories.

In other words, in most of the country it should be possible to unseat the sitting Unionist MP if we can mobilise all Yes voters from the referendum. I do have my doubts about Orkney and Shetland, but I guess it would be quite useful to keep one Unionist MP so that we don’t have to stop telling panda jokes.

Of course, this analysis is rather crude because I didn’t have access to the referendum data on a Westminster constituency basis. If I manage to find this, I’ll publish a new version of this blog post.

Why I’ll be voting Yes on Thursday

Although I’ve written hundreds of blog posts over the past couple of years, I’ve never described my personal journey to Yes. With just a few days to go before the referendum, here it is.

Getting to know Scotland

When I moved to Scotland from Denmark in 2002, I hadn’t thought much about Scottish independence, but I was broadly in favour of it. It would be hard not to when you come from a successful independent country the same size as Scotland.

Yes Scotland's first annual Independence rally
Yes Scotland’s first annual Independence rally, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
However, at first I wasn’t really aware of the differences between Scotland and the other UK nations. I think I thought the differences were mainly cultural and linguistic, but I gradually started to notice the differences were much more fundamental than that, that Scotland really isn’t just another region of Britain (something which most English people never seem to have realised).

Indeed, surprisingly to foreigners, most Scots seem to consider Scotland to be a country within a political union called the UK. Sometimes believed to be too wee, too poor and too stupid to be independent, perhaps, but a country nonetheless. This is very different from how the UK is seen abroad. In most languages, ‘Britain’, ‘the UK’ and ‘England’ are used with exactly the same meaning. For instance, I have often received letters from Denmark addressed to ‘…, Glasgow, Scotland, England’.

The reason that it took me a long time to work out that Scotland wasn’t just a region wasn’t helped by the media. At first I watched BBC News, Channel 4 News and all that, and it took me some time to realise that half the news stories they were reporting weren’t relevant to Scotland. (Thank goodness I picked The Scotsman as my daily newspaper — I could just as easily have gone for The Independent!) The lack of devolution of the media is bizarre — it should have been a very easy thing to devolve.

However, once you start to realise that Scotland is indeed a country, a lot of things fall into place. You also start noticing how the native culture of Scotland is considered inferior by many people. For instance, although I had learnt some Gaelic before moving to Scotland, I only really started learning Scots after I moved here. It was very difficult, however, because most people will look at you like you’ve got three heads when you speak Scots with a foreign accent. It’s such a strange situation — a language that is spoken by almost half of the population but that people treat as an embarrassing dialect. The language of Dunbar and Burns, for crying out loud! It should be celebrated and be an obligatory subject in all schools as far as I’m concerned!

A political journey

During my first few years in Scotland, very little seemed to happen on the independence front. The SNP wasn’t getting close to power, and I started to think there would never be a majority in favour of independence in the Scottish Parliament (those were the days before Salmond returned to Holyrood), and so I gradually started thinking that perhaps a more realistic solution would be a reformed UK — a written constitution, proportional representation in Westminster, proper federalism, an elected House of Lords. I even joined the Liberal Democrats, thinking they had the determination to reform the broken union.

However, I rapidly grew disillusioned with the LibDems. I think it started when they refused even to sit down with the SNP in 2007 to explore whether a coalition could be formed. It started dawning on me that their commitment to federalism was just skin-deep, and that their real instincts were pro-Union and pro-Empire.

When the LibDems entered government with the Tories, I was initially hopeful that they would manage to get some meaningful reforms out of it. However, they repeatedly got outsmarted by the Conservatives. The introduction of tuition fees was of course a huge betrayal, but from a Scottish perspective it was even worse that they failed to introduce the AV system and to reform the House of Lords. Clearly the voting system referendum should have been about proportional representation (and not AV) if the Tories were going to be campaigning against it — AV should only have been accepted if the Tories committed themselves to campaigning in its favour.

More importantly, if the UK political system couldn’t even implement such a minor reform, what hope was there of ever enacting the far bolder reforms that I considered necessary?

These political events (on top of the Iraq war and the numerous other scandals that New Labour presided over) convinced me that the UK was a failed state that couldn’t be reformed. Many political parties seem quite idealistic when they’re far from power, but as soon as they get involved with the civil servants, they become part of the establishment machine and become carbon clones of the previous government.

In the meantime, the SNP had demonstrated that they could do things differently at Holyrood, and as a result they gained an absolute majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament, which then made an independence referendum an inevitability. I finally realised that I was a member of the wrong party, and I joined the SNP.

A different journey

At the same time I had been pursuing a career at a large publishing house in Bishopbriggs. Every other year, a redundancy round would move more of the best-paid jobs down to London, and I realised that you can only progress so far in your career in Scotland — at some point, you need to spend some years — or even the rest of your career — in London.

This might seem obvious to Scots, but to a Dane like me it was hugely shocking. Unless you want to be CEO of a multinational company, Danes expect they can have fulfilling and rewarding careers without leaving Denmark. If people do move abroad for work reasons, there’s not a single destination that dominates — Brussels, London, Berlin, New York, Oslo and Zürich are all equally likely.

I also fell in love with one of my colleagues, and one thing led to another. With five children in the house, I now see the educational aspect of devolution, too. Because they’re at Scottish schools, you can’t easily move to England for a couple of years, and you worry whether they can have a good career here. You also notice that the school holidays here aren’t in sync with the BBC’s school holiday programming and with the back-to-school products in supermarkets. The separate school system is making it hard to move to England and back, but you need to do that for your career. In this regard, the current system gives us the worst of both worlds.

Reforming the UK

If it was likely that the UK would be fundamentally reformed soon, my natural instinct would be to give it a chance. However, given that very few meaningful reforms have happened after more than a decade of Labour governments followed by a coalition government that includes the Liberal Democrats, I cannot see where the willingness to reform the UK will come from.

The main political parties in Westminster don’t seriously want to overhaul the system (because it’s working exceptionally well for the Westminster and City of London elites), and there’s not even a party that can carry the beacon of hope (in the way the LibDems did before 2010). The only untested party that has a chance of gaining power within the next decade is UKIP, and that will most certainly be a change for the worse!

If we have a choice between being part of a failed state or a new, potentially very successful one, the choice is easy.

Some people have suggested that the main diving line between people voting Yes and No is whether they feel Scottish or British. This national identity question is not what makes me a Yes. I don’t feel British in the slightest — I would probably describe myself as a Danish-Swabian-Scottish European, but I’m not against unions per se.

If somebody suggested creating a single country out Denmark, Norway and Sweden, I would look carefully at the proposal. If the new Scandinavian Union could achieve things that the existing countries couldn’t do themselves, and if all three countries were going to get a fair share of political power, I might be in favour. If, on the other hand, the Union simply meant putting Stockholm in charge of Denmark and Norway too, making Swedish the official language in all three countries, and the main benefit of the Union was to give the Swedish generals a bigger army to wage wars with, I would most definitely be against it.

The same applies to the UK. I haven’t found any area where we’re better together inside the UK. Externally, the UK might be stronger than its constituent parts when the country tries to punch above its weight in the UN and on the world stage generally, but unfortunately the result is not anything that furthers peace, democracy and the rule of law elsewhere on the planet, and what’s the point then?

Scotland can lead the way

Then what? Nordic Horizons!
It’s also very clear that Scotland and the majority of the rUK have very different visions for the future. An independent Scotland would want to retain and improve the welfare state (the Common Weal), whereas the rUK (led by London) is on its way to becoming a terribly unequal global city state. I believe Scotland could even inspire the other Nordic countries, where a certain degree of welfare state apathy has set in, but where Scotland’s experiences with living under Thatcher and Cameron will galvanise the resolve to do better.

What I want

I want to live in a rich, egalitarian country. Where my children can have a decent career without moving away. Where a welfare state provides healthcare and education for everybody. Where people get a hand when they’re down instead of being kicked further down. Where important rights are guaranteed by a constitution. Where immigrants are welcomed because most families consist of immigrants and emigrants. Where people are focusing on building the best small country in the world, not feeling disempowered and disenfranchised. Where nobility has been abolished, and ideally where the monarchy has been voted out too. A country that is growing at a normal speed, rather than seeing all other countries overtake it. A country that is a happy EU member state, not suffering from the Little Englander syndrome. A politically normal country, where people discuss the economy and foreign policy, not independence all the time.

The choice is simple. It has to be Yes.

(I haven’t mentioned the currency of Scotland, the transition costs or anything like this, because those aren’t reasons to vote Yes or No to independence — they’re purely practical problems to be resolved.)