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.|
|Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire||47268||160549||79246||130727||192700||51481|
|Angus / Dundee||41086||72042||43261||88664||85072||45403|
|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|
|Clackmannanshire / Perth and Kinross||33062||63843||33870||57825||81750||23955|
|Dumfries and Galloway / Scottish Borders / South Lanarkshire||44943||240783||141702||165510||247392||23808|
|Argyll and Bute||8563||35427||14292||26324||37143||12032|
|Na h-Eileanan an Iar||8135||6582||4838||9195||10544||4357|
|Orkney Islands / Shetland Islands||2042||16082||11989||10552||19955||-1437|
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.