Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

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The continuing strength of the SNP makes it is harder for Corbyn to become PM

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Scottish turbulence not good for the red team

Today’s YouGov LAB members has one finding that shows the extraordinary optimism of those who backed Corbyn in the last leadership election. 80% of them told the poster that they believed that Mr Corbyn would at sometime become Prime Minister.

Given his age and the current parliamentary situation that essentially means waiting till the next general election and requires two things to happen – Corbyn to retain the leadership and LAB to win most seats or be in position for form coalition. The latter is made much more difficult because of what happened in 2015 when the huge SNP surge in Scotland swept almost all before it and Labour’s seat total drop from 41, north of the border to a single MP.

For decades LAB had been top party north of the border one of the reasons why, alongside the collapse of the LDS, the electoral system appeared to favour them. Their Scottish dominance came was swept away in the general election which took place nine months after the IndyRef

Things changed a bit at the June 2017 election when LAB made a smallish recovery but still found themselves in 3rd place with 7 seats which was well behind the Conservatives in second and of course the SNP still there with 36 of the 59. The red team’s current Scottish total look paltry compared with the heady days of 2010

The most recent Scottish polls have double digit leads for the SNP with LAB still languishing in the 20s.

What sould encourage Labour, though, is that many of the SNP seats are held with very small majorities and a small recovery could bring bigger than expected rewards.

Without a substantial contingent Scottish MPs LAB will need to win more seats in England and Wales if it is to get near to power.

Mike Smithson




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Boundary conditions. How Brexit might be helping to lay the ground for the SNP

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Some international boundaries are easy to understand. The Pyrenees form a natural frontier between Spain and France. The Kattegat conveniently separates Sweden and Denmark. While in the past each pair of countries has seen their border shift over time, the current resting place looks very natural.

The boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland does not come in that category. There are few obvious natural boundaries along the route. Donegal is almost cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland. Roads snake in and out of the border. Despite or because of its fraught history, it is all rather arbitrary.

The boundary was established in some disorder at the height of the Irish war of independence. As a quick solution, the six most north-easterly counties were retained within the UK on their existing county lines. This made no particular sense on religious grounds, since substantial parts of those six counties were majority Catholic even at that time. The boundary was originally supposed to be reviewed but in the end the review proved too controversial to see through to its conclusion. So the impromptu boundary stuck.

The contrast between the border’s informal origins and its fraught history is stark. After a lot of bloodshed, a way forward for Northern Ireland was brokered through the Good Friday Agreement. Any Brexit settlement is going to need to deal with not just the way in which the EU and the UK wish to establish their ongoing relationship but also to address the hopes and fears of both Northern Irish communities.

The Northern Irish border will be the main land border between Britain and the EU (pedants will note that there will also be EU/UK land borders at Gibraltar and in Cyprus). If Britain is to be outside the customs union, as hardline Leavers are suddenly insisting is essential to honour the Brexit vote, the UK is going to need to put in place a system for monitoring the new trade boundary.

If it fails to do so, it will in substance be giving the EU preferential access over other nations with which the UK trades. It is hard to see how that is consistent with Britain’s Most Favoured Nation obligations under the WTO, under which it must offer all WTO members the terms offered to the otherwise most favoured trading partner. And it needs to do so in a way that is not going to have either the nationalists up in arms because the border has been resurrected or the unionists up in arms because the boundary of the customs union has been moved to the Irish Sea. In each case, “up in arms” has the nasty potential to be literal rather than metaphorical.

The main part of the Brexit agreement is going to require all the élan of Fred Astaire. Those aspects that deal with the Irish border are going to require the skills of Ginger Rogers, who did everything that Fred Astaire did, but in high heels and backwards.

Other better brains than mine are looking at how this might be achieved. For present purposes, I’m going to assume that a solution of some kind will be found. I’m a sunny optimist, you see.

At that point, the UK government will have provided the Scottish government with a route map to dealing with many of the trickier aspects of independence. The Irish border is longer than England’s borders with Scotland and Wales put together. The two English counties and the two Scottish counties that border each other are collectively bigger and emptier than the five Northern Irish counties that border the Republic of Ireland (never mind the Irish counties on the other side of the border).

The practical, legal and technological problems of a border between Scotland and England look far more straightforward than those of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A precedent would have been established as to the nature of the enduring relationship between the two sides after they had disentangled.

When the Scottish independence referendum was fought in 2014, one of the biggest weaknesses that Scotland faced was on the practicalities of transition to independence. In a few years’ time the Scottish nationalists may well find themselves with a manual for many aspects, courtesy of Brexit.

For now, the cause of Scottish independence has slipped back slightly from its high water mark. The unionist cause, having been in disarray, has become more organised. After an initial spasm after the EU referendum result, it seems that Scottish opinion is as-you-were so far as independence is concerned.

The SNP, however, has not given up on the cause and it will be waiting for the right moment to declare that a generation is up. When it does, it will be much better prepared on the technicalities than first time around. So Unionists are going to need to be much better prepared than they were last time round on the questions of identity. They don’t look it yet.

Alastair Meeks




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The Tories look solidly back in third place in Scotland – the part of the UK which has seen the most seat turbulence

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018


Wikipedia

How the parties are faring north of the border

Next week I’m off to Scotland the part of the UK that played a critical part in the outcomes of GE2015 and GE2017.

For since the IndyRef in September 2014 there has been a huge amount of turbulence in Scottish politics. At the last two general elections there’ve been more seats changing hands there than anywhere else in the UK.

Initially the failure to win independence in September 2014 saw a huge move to the SNP placing it in an extraordinarily strong position at GE2015. From holding just six of Scotland’s 59 seats at GE2010 the party took 56 as Cameron was securing a majority in the rest of the UK.

But it was not to last. The great success story for the Conservatives at the last general election was Scotland.

There were 11 net gains which enabled the party overall to come out of the election not too far off a majority position in the House of Commons. The Scottish performance, which was mostly down to the Tory leader north of the border, Ruth Davidson, helped offset the considerable losses that Team Theresa unexpectedly suffered south of the border.

We don’t get too many Scottish polls and all of the published ones since the general election are in the Wikipedia table above. As can be seen the Tories are down a bit and have been in 3rd place in all but one of the polls since June 8th. The SNP, certainly in the latest survey from Survation, seems to be the one that’s benefiting most.

The one caveat I would have with Scottish polling is that every single survey between in the 2015-2017 parliament had the SNP in a better position than they finished up WITH in many cases by some margin.

At GE17 more than a a third of Scottish seats changed hands with LAB and the LDs, a well as CON benefiting

Because most SNP MPs have smallish majorities a lot of seat changes can happen on relatively small vote changes.

    It has been estimated that if CON, LAB and SNP each got 30% of the Scottish vote the SNP could be reduced to just 6 MPs.

Although many of the issues decided at Westminster are not relevant to Scotland their MP numbers are critical to the overall balance nationally.

I don’t buy the easy assumption that the SNP would always line up with LAB in the Commons against the Tories. Sturgeon’s party will do what it sees as best for Scotland not Corbyn’s LAB.

Mike Smithson




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Double blow for SNP in new YouGov Scotland poll: support for independence down & more MP losses projected

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

But they should still be top party at Holyrood

We get so few Scotland only polls these days that when a new one comes out, as this morning, it is quite an event.

It is extraordinary to recall that just two years ago the SNP could do no wrong. In the aftermath of Scotland’s September 2014 IndyRef for the party surged and at the 2015 General Election the SNP picked up 56 of the countries 59 Westminster seats.

In doing so Labour was absolutely smashed. From holding 41 Scottish seats in 2010 they were reduced to a single MP.

All this meant that after the 2015 General Election the SNP became the third party at Westminster pushing the Lib Dems out of the position they had held for decades.

Then came the June 2017 surprise General Election which the SNP was the only major party at Westminster to oppose. The 56 MPs of 2015 were cut to just 35 and its Scottish vote share declined by 14 points.

Today’s new YouGov Scotland poll suggests that worse things are in store for Sturgeon’s party north of the border. It could be down to 27 MPs and support for a second IndyRef and independence are declining.

The poll suggests that in MP total terms the main beneficiary of the change would be LAB which could see its total of Scottish MPs increased by 10. So good news for Mr Corbyn provided the poll is right and of course this holds until the next general election whenever that will be.

Mike Smithson




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Survation Scotland poll offers great potential for Corbyn

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Picture: Latest Survation Scottish Westminster VI poll translated into seats

Over the last day or so Survation have released their Scotland specific polling, and it presents get potential for Corbyn.

Survation say

If we input today’s published vote share figures into Baxter’s Scotland model, modelling today’s figures against the vote share the parties achieved at the General Election we can see the effect on seats at play.

Although the SNP has essentially the same vote share in today’s polling as at the GE and despite the Conservatives having the worst showing overall in this poll, Labour’s slightly improved fortunes vs. the election mean that the party would pick up 7 seats – from the SNP. SNP held Fife would go Lib Dem, with the SNP picking up just a single seat – Stirling – from the Conservatives.

With most of the GB wide polls and the polling averages indicating it being very close between the Tories and Labour an improvement in Scotland will help Labour get ahead of the Tories in seats and correct the imbalance in the electoral system which favours the Tories at present.

The one thing people should remember is given the quite violent swings we’ve seen in Scotland over the last two general elections making long term predictions about events in Scotland can be quite risky.

The other impact of this polling is if the Scottish Tories are destined for third place in Scotland it could force Ruth Davidson to focus her attentions on Westminster. My own personal belief, gleaned from being a member of the Tory party for over 20 years, is that were she to stand to be Theresa May’s successor, she’d win.

Forget the Brexit ideological issues, the Tories want to win the next general election, and Ruth Davidson is perceived to be a winner among many Tories, being a Remainer won’t be an impediment to becoming to Tory leader, just ask Theresa May.

There was also a question on another indyref.

Anyone who gets overexcited by a 1% change really needs to calm down, the overall figure can be seen in two ways.

1) This is is a really shocking poll for the Independence movement, given the fiasco at Westminster, especially over Brexit, you’d think Scots would be desperate to be Leave the Union, but no, they still want to Remain part of the Union.

2) This is a really shocking poll for the Unionists, at the start of the last indyref No had a much larger leader which was whittled away by voting day, a six point lead won’t be sufficient if the next indyref campaign follows a similar to the last one.

Survation also conducted some Holyrood specific polling, which I’ll cover in more detail in a later post.

TSE



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The new election reality: The Tories need the SNP to impede LAB’s revival in Scotland

Thursday, October 19th, 2017


Table – Commons Library

Why BoJo/Andrea/Phil/David/Amber might be cheering Nicola on

The group of constituencies that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past two general elections have been the 59 seats in Scotland.

At GE2010 when Labour lost power there were no changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the huge changes in 2015 in the aftermath of the IndyRef nine months earlier. LAB lost all but one of the 41, the LDs lost 10 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

The SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats and displaced the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

Move on to June 8th this year which proved to be something of a disaster for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto the 35 listed above all of them with much reduced majorities.

    Two years after gaining 50% of the Scottish vote the SNP’s biggest vote share in any constituency was 46.7% leaving a lot prospective rich pickings for the main national parties particularly LAB

If LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will be made up from battles with the SNP not the blue team.

One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger.

So in many ways whoever is Tory leader at the next election might be secretly cheering the SNP on.

Mike Smithson




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Why the Corbynite candidate might not win the Scottish Labour Leadership

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Following Kezia Dugdale’s resignation as Scottish Labour Party Leader the race to succeed her has been an interesting one, with much attention focused on the Yorkshire accented former public schoolboy Richard Leonard, who is now second favourite behind Anas Sarwar.

The findings from YouGov show that Scottish Labour members are more centrists than those in the rest of Britain, and Jeremy Corbyn’s views and charms haven’t had the same effect in Scotland than in the rest of Britain, so on this basis I think the odds are right in back Mr Sarwar.

But given the unexpected six gains Corbyn oversaw in Scotland on June 8th might make Richard Leonard’s brand of Corbynism might make him attractive to Labour members in Scotland, especially as of Corbyn’s former top aides is now working on his campaign. 

The Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, ex officio, has a seat on [Labour’s] ruling national executive council. The key decision-making body is currently finely-balanced between moderates and the party’s left-wing, but a victory for Mr Leonard will tip it in Mr Corbyn’s favour. So the result in Scotland will have an impact south of the border too.

Personal experience tells me you should never underestimate a former public schoolboy with a Yorkshire accent.

You can access the next Labour leadership market by clicking here and you can read about the runners and riders in this race by clicking here.

TSE



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If CON, LAB, and the SNP each got 30% of the Scottish vote Sturgeon’s party would be down to just 6 MPs

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017


The Times

Why the SNP could be in trouble

There’s a fascinating analysis in the Times by James Kanagasooriam of Populus of what would happen in Scotland’s 59 seats if the hree main parties there CON, LAB and the SNP each secured 30% of the vote. The projected seat totals are in the chart.

The balance of the 59 Scottish seats would go to the LDs which would once again return to its historical position as the third party st Westminster.

The reason is, of course, the first past the post voting system which favours those with large variations in support in different seats and penalises those parties whose support is more evenly spread.

Kanagasooriam notes:

“..Labour’s “youthquake” delivered surprising levels of support for the party. This was especially true in Glasgow and Edinburgh; particularly when comparing the Labour 2017 general election performance (27 per cent) with the Scottish parliament election the previous year (19 per cent on the constituency vote). It’s clear that younger voters, and those more inclined to want an independent Scotland defected to Labour in large numbers during the general election campaign. The Tory surge was, to a degree, expected. The return of Scottish Labour less so. Both together lead to losses that SNP politicians and advisers could scarcely believe on election night.

… a large number of 2015 SNP supporters simply stayed at home this year. Areas with the highest SNP vote share in 2015’s general election experienced the biggest decline in turnout in 2017…”

Back at GE2015, on 26 months ago the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats north of the border which was reduced to 35 at GE2017. Given the volatility of UK politics big changes can happen in short period as we saw with UKIP between 2015 and June 8th.

With so many rich picking apparently available in Scotland with the SNP’s decline the UK parties, as I was suggesting last week, should select leaders who are Scottish. LAB under Gordon Brown increased its Scottish vote share at GE2010 while falling back sharply elsewhere.

Mike Smithson