A rainbow coalition? The role of the Nats

Do the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s manifesto suggest that a progressive agreement with Labour and the Lib Dems is viable?

SNP First Minister, Alex Salmond’s calls for a progressive alliance to keep the Conservatives out of Government in Westminster echoed the words of Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain who has concluded that there is a clear, progressive, anti-Conservative majority in the new House of Commons.

In making is pitch to the Lib Dems, Alex Salmond stated:

“The assumption by some that the only option now available for a new UK Government is a Tory Liberal pact is not correct. There are alternatives and far more progressive outcomes available should politicians have the will to seize the moment. Plaid and the SNP are indicating that we do.”

While there are those who see the prospect of a so called “rainbow” coalition as being one of instability, do the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s manifesto suggest that a progressive agreement is viable?

Left Foot Forward assesses the extent to which the SNP and Plaid Cymru manifesto align themselves with the Lib Dems four key priorities, namely political reform, a “new approach” to education and children, a fair taxation system, and changes to the economy. The three parties have much in common.

Political Reform

In publishing his parties’ manifesto, Nick Clegg made clear that at its heart, reform would need to include an elected second chamber, and most crucially, changes to an electoral system to PR.

On this basis:

  • Plaid Cymru have made clear (page 21) their desire to see fundamental reforms to clean up the political system including a change to PR voting, lowering the age of voting to 16, a fully elected second chamber, and fixed term Parliaments.
  • The SNP meanwhile not only agree with the changes outlined by Plaid, but take a more radical view by pledging (page 9) the full scale scrapping of the House of Lords.


On the Lib Dems second key pledge , namely a fair chance for every child, negotiations with the Conservatives will centre on the need for increased investment particularly to support children from disadvantaged background and reduced class sizes.

Despite education being a devolved matter, again, the SNP and Plaid Cymru have much in common with Nick Clegg.

  • The SNP have made clear (page 25) their opposition to tuition fees in line with Lib Dem policy, cuts in class sizes and protecting investment to improve schools.
  • Plaid Cymru’s manifesto (page 25), reiterates its opposition to tuition fees.

Fair Taxation System

On taxation, the Lib Dems are committed to raising the tax threshold to £10,000 paid for by raising taxes such as capital gains, and addressing tax avoidance. Left Foot Forward and the IFS have both questioned whether this would be a truly progressive move. What of the nationalist parties:

  • In its manifesto, Plaid make the case for “redistributive” policies, including calls for the very wealthy to shoulder more responsibility and for a clamp down on loop holes allowing the rich to evade paying certain taxes (page 19), a 50% tax rate for those on £100,000 a year, with a rise in the personal tax allowance to £10000, taking 1 million people on low income out of income tax altogether (Page 23). The party of Wales further call for a windfall tax on energy companies (page 27).
  • For the SNP however, a broader pledge was made in its manifesto to support efforts to introduce an international banker’s tax, as well as concluding that should tax increases be needed, they should be “progressive and fair and open and honest.”

A New Economy

The final priority of Nick Clegg’s include calls for the banks to be broken up and improved lending for business, greater honesty to tackle the deficit and investment in green jobs and growth. Again, as with the Lib Dems other key demands, both Plaid and the SNP seem to share similar outlooks.

  • In its manifesto, Plaid Cymru call for a new fund to provide businesses with the finance they need to expand; calls for high speed rail to extend to Wales, develop an infrastructure for electric vehicles and change the national grid to encourage small scale energy production; roll out a programme of home insulation with the creation of new jobs in the renewable sector. Plaid also call for the separation of high street and investment banks.
  • For the SNP, broadly similar pledges are made in their election manifesto, with plans to create 60,000 new green jobs in Scotland; end discriminatory transmission charging to remove barriers to investment in wave, tidal and wind generation; calls for the UK Government to use its shareholdings to encourage banks to begin investing in businesses once again and reforms to protect savings from so called “casino banking”.
  • The SNP and Plaid also make pledges on abolishing ID cards and opposing trident and any replacement system as a way of tackling the deficit.

What this snap shot clearly demonstrates is that on its key priorities, the Lib Dems share more in common with the SNP and Plaid than the Conservatives with whom they are currently negotiating.

For Nick Clegg, the question is simple – are the Liberal Democrats a progressive or conservative force in UK politics. It’s a decision that could shape our political system for years to come

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