No Campaign parties would face annihilation in Westminster election if new poll is accurate.
The demand for more powers looks set to dominate next year’s general election and to destroy the No campaign parties.
A new Ipsos Mori survey for STV shows that support for the SNP has surged to 52%, giving them a projected 54 seats at Westminster. The Liberal Democrats would have four and the Conservative party would be left without any Scottish MPs. Labour would poll 23% of the Scottish vote, leaving them with just four seats in Scotland.
I have been working on projections for a few days now, prior to the poll, and cannot see how the Liberals will maintain its one seat. Personal votes across the saftest Liberal seats do not seem that high and the YES vote in each Liberal constituency was strong enough to make it doubtful that any Liberal will hold a seat if faced by a YES alliance/more powers candidate.
Compare the projection based on the STV poll above with the current state of play (left) .
Following the independence referendum the political reality in Scotland accepted by all parties is that the mandate that exists is for substantial more powers. In an act of monumental irony the No campaign fought tooth and nail to keep Alex Salmond’s Devo Max question off of the ballot paper and effectively added it back on when they realised that NO was going to lose.
Terms such as Devolution Max and something close to federalism were used, and that was enough to give the soft NO and undecided voters permission to vote No in the hope of something better. Some Yes campaigners were furious that the last minute vow meant that an option that wasn’t even on the ballot paper, and wasn’t really examined during the campaign, effectively won it. I think, looking back, future generations will see the referendum result as the time when Scotland decided to take a gradualist route to independence rather than doing it in one big jump.
Scottish voters are canny and have a track record on this: in 1997 we voted for devolution (dipping our toe in the self rule waters) and we have had a few more powers granted to the Scottish parliament since then with the 2012 Scotland Act (happily paddling away). Unhappy with the speed of progress more and more people moved to backing the SNP and now the balance of power sits with the devo maxers who are effectively looking to swim around in the shallow end before diving in for real.
Despite winning, as much as 20% of NO voters who actually want to close the Scottish Parliament and return all power to Westminster are going to be bitterly disappointed. The question is not if there should be more powers, but where do we draw the line? The unionist parties are asking how significant will those new powers have to be to slow the drift towards independence and the Yes parties are asking what powers can we gain that will make a difference and convince the Scottish people that we can do better than Westminster with every power we are granted?
The Smith Commission
I can see two plausible outcomes from the Smith Commission:
- The commission recommends a significant set of powers that will help Scotland to address some key issues and these recommendations will be more than the unionist parties have suggested.
- The Commission recommends a weak set of powers, pandering to the Westminster parties who will try to dress it up as significant change when everyone in Scotland will know it’s a sow’s ear and not the silk purse they expected.
Option one will either be more than the unionists parties can stomach/get past their English-based MPs so they will water it down in implementation and risk a major Scottish voter backlash. A far less likely scenario is that Westminster will accept the report and we move a giant step towards independence with home rule, but I just can’t see that getting past English-based MPs and getting on the statute books.
So both of the above scenarios will backfire on the unionist parties. Even Devo Max, were it offered, is a boost to independence campaigners: a strongly defined term, it basically means everything devolved except Defence, Foreign Affairs and possibly Welfare. Imagine going into a referendum in a few years’ time with the No camp making the case that Westminster retaining the power to have nuclear weapons, get involved in foreign wars, take us out of Europe and implement benefits policies such as the bedroom tax would make us better together. Those are not the last powers Scotland needs to control – they are the first.
Against this very tricky political environment for the unionist parties Labour, the only one with any chance of winning an election across Scotland, is imploding. During the campaign Johann Lamont insisted that Scotland was not a second class citizen in the UK. Having argued this for more than two years it’s ironic that her stated reason for resigning is that the Scottish Labour Party was treated as a branch office and that her Westminster colleagues were dinosaurs who don’t understand Scotland.
Jim Murphy, a Westminster MP, is seen as the favourite for the Labour leadership but he would have to nominate someone to lead Labour in the Scottish Parliament till he could be elected there himself in 2016. In other words, Scottish Labour would categorically be taking its orders from Westminster, which the SNP will have lots of fun and games with.
There is also the likelihood that having been selected as leader Murphy could indeed lose his Westminster seat at the 2015 General election. His seat, a three way fight with the Tories and SNP, could see a YES/more powers alliance candidate specifically targeting the new Labour leader and with more than 85,000 members the SNP will be able to target key seats with thousands of supporters, massive funding, street stalls and even a carnival atmosphere. If the Yes voting Labour supporters are convinced to vote for the alliance candidate then he won’t keep his seat.
Is this likely? Well in the rest of the UK the General Election will be a contest about immigration, EU membership and both major unionist parties trying to keep UKiP out. This is what Scottish TV viewers and newspaper readers will hear from Milliband, and in Scotland the election will be about more powers and who is best to fight for them. That won’t be seen as Labour. Don’t take my word for it listen to:
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish who says many of Scottish Labour’s supporters no longer know “what the party stands for”, and said Labour had proposed the “least attractive” Unionist plan on more powers for Holyrood.
In General Election debates after debate in Scotland the issue will be who is best to deliver more powers for Scotland and the Scottish voter will have a stark choice. The SNP, who will not support a Tory Government, and if they have enough to hold the balance of power will grab all the powers Scotland needs as part of the coalition deal with Labour. Or vote Labour and rely on the party with the least interest in more powers to deliver more powers.
The full breakdown of the STV poll is SNP 52%, Scottish Labour 23%, Scottish Conservatives 10%, Scottish Liberal Democrats 6%, Scottish Green Party 6%, Ukip 2% and 1% support for others.
Today a YouGov poll continued the trend towards the SNP in Westminster voting intentions: SNP 41%, LABOUR 28%, CONSERVATIVES 18%, UKIP 5%, GREENS 4%, LIBDEMS 4%.
Let’s compare what Scotland’s Westminster MP constituencies look like now and how that would change if there were a General Election tomorrow and people voted as the YouGov poll suggests.
Now – Labour 41 seats, Liberal Democrats 11 seats, SNP 6 seats, Conservatives 1 seat
Now you have to add all sorts of caveats, there is not an election tomorrow and Labour and the Liberals may well recover somewhat, but it is hard to predict a result that doesn’t lie somewhere between the SNP gaining more than 30 new seats and a repeat of the Holyrood SNP landslide in first past the post contests.
Let’s be clear, if the Smith Commission fails to deliver, or it gets it right but the Westminster parties baulk at implementing its recommendations or attach tax and budget traps, then there will be a huge voter backlash and support for independence will increase significantly to a majority position. Either way the political landscape has changed immeasurably and the 45% YES vote is enough, if it is motivated and correctly managed, to deliver more powers via the SNP presence at Westminster in May 2015. Of course more powers is not a result, it is the second best solution for Scotland, but it is what the Scottish people have voted for – for now.
In years to come when you look up the definition of pyrrhic victory it will say ‘see Scottish Independence referendum’.