Archive for category Scottish Unionism

Is this the real reason for English votes for English Laws?

consolidation

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Scotland desperately needs a new political party

The SNP looks set to dominate Scottish politics, in the same way that the ANC have dominated South Africa or the ZANU-PF have dominated Zimbabwe. The prospect of the SNP winning the popular win in 2015 is extremely rare in a parliamentary democracy – to my knowledge no single party has won the popular vote in Westminster.

Having a government without opposition is dangerous – the government gets complacent and can do pretty much what it wants – Scotland after all has no checks and balances on the executive or legislature – if Sturgeon is able to command a landslide majority, she will be able to do anything she wants – including another referendum on independence (which would doubtless be successful).

The Scottish Parliament uses PR – therefore the dominance of the SNP cannot be blamed on the voting system. The fact the other three parties are struggling to make gains is pitiful – and can only be attributed to the Scottish Referendum – which has changed the face of Scottish Politics indefinitely. The voters it seems are no longer interested in the Scottish brand of Westminster based politics. Corybn’s election has made zero impact on the Labour party’s polls in Scotland. There is currently nothing to stop the SNP from dominating for decades.

This is where the need for a new political party comes in. Political dominance is never good – the Labour Party and the Conservative Party did not exactly end their lengthy tenures with a bang. New parties in Scotland are not restrained by the ridiculous Westminster system. If a new party gained 12.5% of the votes, this would translate to 12.5% of the seats (compared to the 0.15% of the seats that UKIP gained for their 12.5% of the votes).

The prospect of Wales seceding from the UK, doesn’t seem to inspire many Welsh people. In the last election to the Welsh Assembly Plaid Cymru got less than a fifth of the vote (winning 11 out of 60 seats). In the 2015 general election they got 3/40 seats.

In contrast the four main parties in the Northern Ireland assembly are either Unionists or Nationalists. The Green Party and UKIP gained a mere 1.5% of the votes (a fraction of the vote they gained in England). It’s unlikely to imagine Labour or the Conservative Party being successful in Northern Ireland.

Self-determination has become the main issue in Scotland – the case for Unionism needs to be put forward by a Scottish Unionist Party – one which only stood for elections in Scottish Constituencies and had no formal links to Westminster Parties. The Westminster parties are haemorrhaging seats – they have made losses at the last two elections to the Scottish Parliament – and this trend will continue at the next election. This will secure the SNP 15 years in office.

I am not telling the Scottish what to do – rather I am telling the Westminster parties to step aside – let Scottish people represent their own views in their own parliament. Whatever happens to Scotland they need new blood in parliament.

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Can Corbyn save the Union?

Corbyn’s unexpected election as Labour Leader, could be the greatest blow for the union, in decades. The SNP’s historical landslide, has been attributed, not to nationalism but to the fact the SNP offers an ideological alternative to the Conservative Party. New Labour spent 13 years in government abandoning any left-wing policies – it’s surreal to think the Party of Atlee and Macdonald, introduced ESA, Atos assessments and £3000 tuition fees. People who disagreed with the Labour/Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition struggled to find a clear alternative in England and Wales (with some five million people opting Green or UKIP). There was however a clear choice in Scotland. The SNP had never claimed that the financial crisis was the fault of students, the homeless, single mothers or disabled.

The person who best explains this is none other than the Baby of the House, Mhairi Black:

“Like so many SNP Members, come from a traditional socialist Labour family, and I have never been quiet in my assertion that I feel it is the Labour party that left me, not the other way about. The SNP did not triumph on a wave on nationalism; in fact, nationalism has nothing to do with what has happened in Scotland. We triumphed on a wave of hope—hope that there was something different from and better than the Thatcherite, neo-liberal policies that are produced from this Chamber, and hope that these representatives could genuinely give a voice to those who do not have one.”

Ed Milliband was the man who drafted the first contract with Atos. Ed Balls was Brown’s prodigee. Rachel Reeves promised to ‘outtory the Tories’. Corbyn, McDonnell and Smith could not be accused of such pseudo-Thatcherism.

The real test will be the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2016. Prior to Corbyn’s election the polls predicted a landslide victory for the SNP. It’s unlikely Labour can win the election – they have less than nine months to regain their lost votes. Nevertheless if Corbyn can reverse their declining fortunes, it will save the Labour Party and the United Kingdom.

Update: The first poll, conducted since Corbyn’s leadership, suggest his promotion has made no difference at all.

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An open letter to the Scottish Labour Party

Thanks to our absurd voting system the Labour party now faces the largest electoral mountain faced by an opposition party since the Blair years. According to Michael Meacher, the swing required to win the next general election is larger than the one secured in 1997. A coalition government is therefore the Labour’s party’s best hope of installing a Prime Minister in Downing Street in 2020.

The Scottish Labour Party presents the Labour Party with it’s biggest barrier to forming a coalition government, let alone a majority one. The prospect of Nicola Sturgeon holding the balance of power, was a gift to the Murdoch Empire. In a matter of years the Labour Party have gone to being the natural party of Scotland to being pariahs.

In 2007 Alex Salmond became the First Minister of Scotland. His minority government increased to a majority one in 2011. By all accounts Sturgeon (his successor and former deputy) will increase that. If the pollsters are correct, Sturgeon will secure the biggest landslide in the Scottish parliaments 17 year history. The rise of the SNP was at the expense of the Labour party – the other parties have made much of an impression – relying on proportional seats to garner seats in the Scottish parliament. In the local elections of 2012 the SNP narrowly won.

That brings me to the small matter of the last general election. The SNP won an historical 56/59 seats. This can partly be blamed on the first-past-the-post voting system. The question has to be asked, what caused the Labour party to lose 40 out of 41 seats?

Siding with Tories in the Referendum or just Siding with Tory Austerity?

It could be argued the Labour brand was tarnished in Scotland prior to the referendum. After all in the Bradford West by-election of 2012, Labour lost heavily to George Galloway. However, this trend was not reflected in the Scottish Parliament with successful Labour by elections in 2013 and 2014.

In the by-election held in January 2014, Labour won on a 11.25% swing from the SNP. Within two months of the referendum on Scottish Independence the Labour party started haemorrhaging in the polls. Micheal Dugher MP later criticised the Labour Party’s strategy in the referendum arguing that the SNP set a “massive elephant trap” for the Labour Party.

I personally think the Labour Party are not only a tarnished brand, but the SNP offered a clear positive alternative.

The SNP stood in 59 constituencies in 2015. They promised further opportunities for young people, by creating jobs, making education affordable and increasing the minimum wage. 

Their manifesto also promised electoral reform, more equality, better jobs – and a fair more equal society. Result? They won 56/59 seats – an historical result. It’s clear that Sturgeon’s appealed to voters across the border – after the debate, various voters based in England tried to find out if they could support her. In comparison no-one in Scotland (or indeed England) was that enthusiastic about voting for the Labour Party (Jack Monroe cannot be the only labour member who defected to the Greens).

The message is clear; people are fed up with a society in which you have to work all hours, just to survive, whilst the rich grow richer, they are fed up with money being taken away from disabled people, whilst bankers collect bonuses. The Labour Party offered (at best) a watered down version of the status quo.

If Labour had matched the SNPs manifesto pledges, SNP supporters may have held their noses and voted for Labour. The SNP offered prosperity – the Labour Party offered Austerity-lite.

The Labour Party needs to divorce itself from the Scottish Labour Party. A merger of Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrats could help provide an opposition to the SNP. There is nothing to prevent the SNP from dominating for decades, regardless of whether or not they remain in the United Kingdom (I personally hope they remain, but that is another issue).

Charles Kennedy was Right – time for a Scottish Unionist Party

One of Charles Kennedy’s last wishes was to form a progressive, left of centre unionist party in Scotland. His argument it seems was the Liberal Democrats and Labour are ‘knackered‘ in Scotland. He is absolutely right. The two parties were all but wiped out in Scotland.
I support the concept of a federalised United Kingdom, with decentralised legislatures and executives. I believe also that Scotland should remain in the UK. The referendum in 2014, was won by the ‘no thanks’ vote, but nevertheless we cannot ignore the overall result. A vote of 55-45 is hardly a convincing margin, coupled with the historic volume of SNP MPs, it is clear that alot of people are unhappy with the status quo. Therefore reform is needed – both sides need to be listened to.

At the moment in Scotland there are two options for the voters – right-wing unionism (labour, lib dem, conservative) or left-wing independence. For the left-wing unionists, there is no representation (nor is there a voice for pro-independence people who favour a right-wing agenda – although there is little evidence to suggest such people exist in Scotland).

55% of the Scottish voted to remain in the UK and yet the SNP won by a landslide – so clearly the case is strong for a centre-left Scottish Unionist Party(SUP). Kennedy texted this idea to Alistair Campbell – I hope he messaged other people as well and that other people can continue his vision – I can’t imagine Northern Ireland surviving all these years if the voters had been given a choice between the NI Labour/Conservative/Lib dem party or Sinn Fein.

Being called the Scottish Labour Party or Scottish Conservatives, is a bit of an inferior brand name after all – the parties are led from Westminster not Scotland.

Kennedy’s legacy should have been a revived Liberal Democrat Party (under his leadership they won the most seats since the 1920s). Nick Clegg’s decision to form a coalition (against Kennedy’s better judgement) destroyed that. Let’s hope we can at least let his name live on with the SUP (or whatever name the new party opts for.

There are of course other options – introducing proportional representation for instance – however such a move cannot be enforced in opposition.

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