Political Promise

The State of the Scottish National Party

In Graeme Morrison on January 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

“There is a running joke in some parts of Scotland that the electorate would vote for a pumpkin if it wore a red rosette”, says Graeme Morrison. Can the SNP win a second term?

It has been some time since I (dis)graced Political Promise with a post. I’d like to wish my fellow writers and readers a Happy 2011. In what is a big year for Scottish politics, I have decided to focus my first post of 2011 on what I believe will transpire in May this year.

After four years as a minority government, any political party would be more than satisfied with having improved their polling position as they approached the subsequent election. However, the SNP will have looked at their 1% gain in the latest polling and resigned themselves to defeat at Holyrood in May. The collapse of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat vote has benefited Labour, who sit on 49%. Indeed, no matter how well the Nationalists did in 2007, this was always bound to be the case in 2011.

I wrote a while back on Political Promise that the SNP would have to ask itself what direction it would have to take in 2011, as they are essentially a party who would not expect to find itself in government. They won in 2007 by positioning themselves as an alternative to a Labour party perceived to be in the pockets of their London counterparts. Minimising discussions about independence allowed voters to see the SNP as a party that were capable of dealing with more than a single issue.

On the surface, one might expect the SNP to win a second term; they possess the most able politician within the Scottish Parliament as the First Minister, they have performed reasonably well in government and their opposition has a leader that is not well known by the Scottish public. Aside from this the 2010 General Election illustrated the acute political difference between Scotland and England, which would suggest there would be a greater impetus for separation from a nation that continually returns most of Britain’s Conservative MPs. The problem the SNP face currently is that Scots view the antidote to Tory Party rule as being red, not yellow. The duopoly that has existed in Westminster for decades has ensured that. There is a running joke in some parts of Scotland that the electorate would vote for a pumpkin if it wore a red rosette regardless of policy position. Polling at 49% in last week’s poll as well as crushing the SNP in the general last May suggests that Scots view Labour as the safe option to cushion the blow of having a Conservative government in London.

We would thus expect Labour to head the Scottish Government from May onwards, seemingly returning Scottish politics to ‘business as usual’. The SNP will rightfully feel unfortunate considering the Megrahi release and issues over education have been the only prominent areas in which doubts have been raised over their competence. On a positive note for Scotland, however, we are beginning to see an even clearer centre-left consensus emerging from the shadow of the Con-Lib coalition. Consider the results of last week’s poll are to be replicated in the Parliamentary election: Left wing parties (including the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Greens) would command about 90% of Scottish opinion. That can only be a positive thing for Scotland.

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