Is this the election that will fracture the union?

Even if Nicola Sturgeon holds back, Scotland could be sidelined into going it alone


It is perhaps apt that David Cameron and Nick Clegg will be finishing their final dash across the country in Scotland later today.

In an election where caution has been the order of the day, with none of the main parties wanting to rock the boat in the face of close polling, it is Scotland which has come to dominate in a way few ever anticipated.

What began in 1999 with the creation of the Scottish Parliament has given the SNP the base upon which all its dreams and aspirations have slowly been built.

By 2007, under the leadership, for the second time, of Alex Salmond, the SNP found themselves running a minority government which lasted the full four-year term. Crucially, it also gave them an insight into how opposition parties can best gain influence over policy.

Then came 2011. Defying the logic of a voting system designed to prevent it, the SNP managed to secure an outright majority of seats at Holyrood.

Making a net gain of 23 seats on the constituency vote Scottish Labour, once the natural party of Scotland, lost 20 of its 35 constituency seats north of the border. It was a devastating blow that pointed to something much bigger in the pipeline.

Last September Scotland voted against independence, but Labour have remained weak north of the border.

The electorate in Scotland has engaged with the political process like no other part of the country. SNP membership has surged to over 100,000, whilst the polling for Nicola Sturgeon personally and the SNP more widely has been eye watering.

If Labour suffers the kind of disaster north of the border that polling predicts, it will be because of a sense that the party has taken Scottish voters for granted for too long.

A party once led by Scottish big beasts such as Gordon Brown, Donald Dewar, John Smith and Robin Cook has seen a brain drain, with its biggest talent now focused in Westminster rather than Holyrood. It is telling that when the party found itself in need of a new leader following Johann Lamont’s resignation, it was to Westminster that eyes turned.

Step forward Jim Murphy. His energy and enthusiasm is clear for all to see and yet it has made little difference. Indeed, if the polling is to be believed then the SNP lead is only increasing.

If Scotland votes en-masse for the SNP tomorrow it will have profound implications for the future of the Union.

Publicly the SNP have sought to argue that this election is not about independence. But the rhetoric of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour is such that they could end up side-lining Scotland into going it alone almost by accident (or on purpose in the case of the Tories).

Rather than seeking to punish and marginalise Scottish voters for daring to vote for a different party, Miliband, Cameron and Clegg must ask themselves why it is that none of them can muster anywhere near the support needed to form a majority government.

The tough answer to such an analysis might then dawn on them all: that this is the election that has exposed the deep and unhealthy mistrust of the ‘main’ political parties. The question is can they – will they – be able to restore the trust?

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

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10 Responses to “Is this the election that will fracture the union?”

  1. Gerschwin

    The Labour PIErty were the ones that introduced devolution because they thought they could rig the voting system to ensure they would always have a power base in Edinburgh even if there were a Tory gov’t in London. Fairly typical stuff we’ve come to expect from the left over the years – cynically undermining democracy in the name of advancing democracy. Anyhow, point is they were warned by the infinitely more intelligent Tories that devolution would simply provide a platform for separatism and that no matter what effort Labour made to cheat and rig elections in Scotland ultimately it could only backfire on them and risk splitting up the Union. This, of course, was an entirely correct assessment by the Conservative Party and so now it is slowly coming to pass. You are witness to the break up of, arguably, the most successful country in the history of humanity and you can thank the Labour PIErty for bringing it down.

    In time, I hope, the protagonists from the Labour years will stand trial for this – in the good old days this country knew exactly the appropriate punishment for traitors.

  2. Kryten2k35

    Milliband is playing a dangerous game. He needs to get on board with the SNP immediately. Another 5 years of Tory government WILL be the turning point for Scotland and WILL see another referendum before 2020. It’s almost guaranteed. Whereas SNP in Westminster will allow real change for Scotland, England and Wales and probably reinvigorate the Union.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    So your moral superiors are magically Reds Under The Beds. Right.

    As your magical singularity intelligence Tories…right. Then you blame democracy, as your Tories play brinkmanship games with Scotland and left arguing for the Union in the referendum largely to Labour, because it’s in their short-term political interests to get rid of the SNP vote.

    Of course you want to male losing power illegal, and murder anyone opposed to your views. And hence break up the union. Don’t kill yourself, though.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Pre-election stichups are anti-democratic.
    You negotiate *after* the election.

    And that’s only true if they argue for federalism and not Scottish exceptionalism. And the evidence is the latter is their agenda.

  5. Gary Scott

    One point that I feel has been missed is this; when Holyrood was set up it was PR to encourage coalitions. Until 2007 Labour and the LibDems had formed the government. When SNP sought to form a coalition to ensure government could continue both Labour and LibDems refused on the principle that they would never work with an SNP government.

    With only the support of the Greens they had an uphill task for the next four years. Many stalwart Labour supporters, myself included, were shocked by Labour’s attitude. As a DIRECT RESULT of this attitude SNP won with a landslide in the next election.

    Instead of taking heed Labour’s attitude hardened still further. Then, for a period of TWO YEARS, they were involved with Better Together’s notorious ‘Project Fear’ (named such by their own people). Scottish voters were bombarded with scare stories, belittled and insulted for an entire two year period before the vote. Through various methods a NO vote was secured but, as the saying goes, ‘the operation was a success, but the patient died’

    Despite a landslide at Holyrood for SNP, Labour had still managed to get all their sitting MPs reelected in 2010. But the actions of the party have killed that possibility stone dead. They’ve been aggressive to their own core support and lost them in the process..

  6. uglyfatbloke

    The Holyrood system was specifically designed to prevent the SNP from ever becoming the biggest party; Lord McConnell and Lord Wallace told us so; since they chose the system I think we should believe them.

  7. uglyfatbloke

    The point of devolution was to protect Labour and the glib-dumbs from the gnats and the tories – eventually – signed up for it so they would n’t be completely bereft of representation in Scotland.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    You were shocked by principles? Okay.

    You are saying that the concept of the union is a scare story. That it belittles and insults Scots to not be your fear-filled separatists, as you promote right-wing borders. You evidently hate Britain, and the British, and can’t accept the democratic vote.

    Your right wing of the SNP are not and never have been the core Labour vote.

  9. Liz O'neill

    You deliberately misinterpreted the previous comment, it wasn’t the union that was the cause of the fear, it was the blatant lies to our pensioners, telling them they would get no pension and their bank accounts would be emptied in the case of a yes vote, I could go on but there is little point, the scots don’t hate Britain or the British, seems project fear didn’t just affect the scots, you swallowed the scots hate us bit, hook line and sinker. What the scots do hate, is Westminster, polotitions we didn’t vote for deciding our future. And since all parties in Westminster said they wouldn’t work with Scottish democratically elected MPs. It would appear we are in the right.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    I know what you want me to believe. I simply don’t fall for your Propaganda, as you pish your fear of the British – and claim that your expressed hatreds here are not really real, ohnoes!

    You are *to* the right, certainly.

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