Screeching U-turns in Scottish politics

Members of all parties continue to contradict each other over their plans for future deals with the SNP


The sounds of U-turns across Scotland are becoming deafening in the run up to the general election.

That’s the only conclusion to be reached following the latest salvo in the ongoing drama that has seen Scotland’s political landscape transformed.

The latest intervention has seen Lib Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable, making clear that a Lib Dem, Labour, SNP partnership of some description after the election would be possible.

In response, Scottish Lib Dem Leader, Willie Rennie, following discussions with Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael slapped Cable down, declaring that a rainbow coalition ‘is not going to happen. Just like you would not put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain.’

Yet despite the protests, the Lib Dems aren’t unused to doing deals with the SNP as can be seen from the last Scottish Parliament in which Alex Salmond ran a minority government.

In 2009 for example, the SNP managed to secure its budget thanks to the support of Lib Dem MSPs. Likewise, in 2011, it was thanks to the Lib Dems that the minority government managed to secure its budget in the face of fears that it could fall.

Make no mistake about it then, the Lib Dems are used to horse trading with the SNP, whatever Willie Rennie might say.

And what of the Conservatives? Publicly, the SNP have completely ruled out any deal with the Tories should they be the largest single part after the General Election.

Likewise, the Conservatives continue to taunt Labour with accusations that a vote for them would mean the breakup of Britain as they rely on the votes of the SNP.

Yet, as with the Lib Dems, memories remain short. As the former Scottish Conservative Leader Annabel Goldie, respected across the political divide, noted recently in her article for the Daily Record, Alex Salmond had no qualms about working with the Conservatives at Holyrood when he most needed their votes.

Referring to Nicola Sturgeon’s refusal to do a deal with the Conservatives now, Goldie declared:

“It reeks of posturing and it is, frankly, indicative of hypocrisy. Because what suited him in 2007 and 2008 and in the ensuing years of minority government is the very thing now that he says he’ll have no truck with.”

So what then of the polls?

According to newly released data compiled by Survation for the Daily Record, the SNP continue to enjoy a commanding lead.

When those who are undecided or refused to say are factored out, 45 per cent of those questioned north of the border indicated support for the SNP at the forthcoming General Election.

Scottish Labour, despite high profile campaigns recently led by Jim Murphy on the state of the NHS and calls to end the ban on the sale of alcohol at football matches remains slumped on 28 per cent.

The Conservatives are on 15 per cent, the Lib Dems on five and the Greens and UKIP in Scotland both on around three per cent of the vote.

According to electoral calculus if such swings were seen uniformly across Scotland, such results would see the SNP picking up 47 seats in the Commons, 41 more than they currently hold. Labour would lose 29 seats, falling to just 12. The Lib Dems and Conservatives would lose all their current Scottish seats.

In his comments on the poll, John Curtice of Strathclyde University has warned Labour that is it now running out of time to carve out what he describes as a ‘more persuasive message’.

Writing for the What Scotland Thinks blog, he concludes:

“Inshort, Labour needs a game changer. But so far at least there is little sign that voters are minded to play by a different set of rules than the ones they have been following since September.

“Most Yes voters are still determined to vote SNP – at 84 per cent the proportion that are minded to do so is almost exactly the same as it was both in November (83 per cent) and December (85 per cent).

“The progress that Labour have made since then seems to have been amongst No voters in September (up from 37 per cent in November to 43 per cent now).  There is little sign that Labour are managing to woo back any of that large group of former supporters who voted Yes in September.

“To change the game voters are playing, Labour needs them to be willing to leave aside the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future. That requires persuading them that the prospect of a government led by Ed Miliband is something to which they can look forward with a degree if enthusiasm. Of that, however, there is little sign.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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