I can’t say I’m surprised that an SNP candidate has pulled this old one out of the hat again. But it does amaze me that people constantly believe the argument without seeing the blatant inconsistency.

Julie Hepburn:

David Mundell’s comment sent shivers down my spine… Even if they don’t have a single Tory MP elected in Scotland… they still think they have the right to impose policies upon the people of Scotland that they have rejected at the polls.

Yes, but the only problem with this is that they do have the right to do that. A UK General Election is just that — a general election for the whole of the UK, whether the SNP likes it or not. That means the seats are totted up for the whole of the UK and whoever has the most seats forms the government. A pretty simple concept.

It’s the same concept that applies in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Seats are totted up for the whole of Scotland and whoever is in the best position to form an administration does so.

While the SNP are always quick to jump up and down to point out the Conservatives’ alleged unpopularity in Scotland (which isn’t really true, but I’ll let that slide for now), they are always a great deal more reticent about the geographical differences that occur within Scotland as well.

2007 constituency results 2007 regional vote results
Images stolen from the Scottish Politics website

The above maps show the results of the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. On the left is the constituency result, while the map on the right shows how the regional votes were cast in each constituency.

It is pretty clear that there is a distinct difference in voting patterns between different parts of Scotland. Broadly speaking, the further north and the deeper into rural areas you go, the more likely the SNP are to win. This is especially emphasised in the case of the regional vote where voters are more likely to vote for the party they really support rather than tactically voting. Meanwhile, the central belt still heavily voted for Labour, particularly in the west.

Does this mean that the SNP is just a bunch of northerners foisting unwanted policies which have been rejected by voters in the lowlands? I don’t think so. But Julie Hepburn’s logic, all too prevalent among nationalists, would conclude this if only it was not so hypocritical.

As I said, the Scottish Parliamentary election is a Scotland-wide election and whoever gets a plurality of seats across the whole of Scotland wins. So it was right that the SNP ended up forming the Scottish Government. The SNP will quite cheerfully accept their right to govern the whole of Scotland.

By the same token, if the Conservatives win the most seats in the next UK General Election, they will be well within their rights to form the government for the whole of the UK. That would include Scotland, no matter how much foot-stamping the nats do. Neither case sends a shiver down my spine.

Meanwhile, the SNP often tries to make out that it speaks for the whole of Scotland. That sends a shiver down my spine.

I am not trying to say, as the nationalist logic goes, that the central belt and the south should pursue independence because of these geographical differences. Such differences between different parts of any area will inevitably form. Look at any election map for any country, no matter how large or small, and you will doubtless see certain trends. These could be along urban / rural lines, differences between coastal and inland areas, north / south divides, east / west divides, or whatever.

Is this an ideal situation? Far from it. Adopting a federalist structure can go a long way to mitigating these effects and that is part of the reason why I am a federalist.

Unfortunately, the SNP is not a federalist party. You can see this in their strange “local” income tax policy which could hardly be less local. Despite their rhetoric about bringing government closer to the people, the SNP is a centralist party. It wants to take powers away from other levels of government and concentrate them all in Holyrood.

The “problem” of having a party foisting unwanted policies in areas where those policies were rejected would hardly be solved by the SNP.

9 comments

  1. Indy

    Your comparison falls because as a minority government the SNP can only govern with the consent of the rest of the Scottish Parliament, elected by the Scottish people. So they cannot ‘foist’ any policies onto Scotland unless the opposition parties agree to them, or in Labour’s case abstain.

  2. Indy,

    I’m not the one saying any party is foisting unwanted policies on anyone, as you will know having read my post.

    But if the Conservatives form a minority administration in a UK General election, will the nationalists stop complaining about them? I doubt that very much.

  3. Duncan,

    Given that the SNP wants independence, it should hardly be earth-shattering to learn that it also believes that Scotland should be governed based on the plurality of votes which are cast within Scotland, regardless as to what the Scotland Act says. The Conservatives, if they gain a UK-wide majority, will certainly be entitled to govern all of the UK, every bit as much as the SNP will be entitled to put the argument to try and persuade people that they lack a specific mandate in Scotland to do so.

    Pretty as the maps are, FPTP is still a pretty misleading way of showing a party’s strength. You’re broadly right in your generalisations about where the SNP tends to do better, but anyone drawing solely on these maps for guidance would miss the fact that the SNP outpolled all other parties in the Lothians; were just 8% behind Labour in Central Scotland; 11% in Glasgow; 6% in the West, and only 1% behind in South of Scotland.

    As for being a centralising force, my concordat with local government and the ending of ringfencing trumps your national rate of local income tax… if indeed that’s the form it eventually takes.

    Regards,

    Richard

  4. [...] Julie Hepburn felt a shiver down her spine when she read that David Mundell believes that a Conservative government would have the right to implement their policies regardless of how many Scottish MPs they have. I added my thoughts here. [...]

  5. Richard,

    You and I agree about the pitfalls of looking solely at FPTP to assess a party’s strength. The thing is, though, that the claims about the Conservatives’ supposed deep unpopularity in Scotland is largely based on FPTP data. The 1997 General Election result is probably the most-cited example.

    But as I explained in this post, FPTP severely under-represents the Conservatives and if you look at the proportion of the votes they are more often than not the third most popular party. Maybe not as popular as the SNP, but Scotland is not exactly barren territory for the Tories. They usually get more votes than the Lib Dems, and I seldom hear people complaining about the Lib Dems’ lack of legitimacy in Scotland (although I’m sure you wouldn’t like to see them in power either!).

  6. Broadly speaking, the further north and the deeper into rural areas you go, the more likely the SNP are to win.

    That’s only logical.

  7. [...] keeping Tories out. In this regard doctorvee gives evidence that the Tory vote in Scotland actually still holds up; but then the Liberal vote also did not die away completely in the UK in the inter- and post-war [...]

  8. Grogipher

    I’m sorry, but the actions of the SNP Government to date entirely disprove your suggestion that they want all the power to reside in central government.

    They have moved the most power AWAY from Holyrood and to the Councils than any other Executive or Government we’ve ever had. Councils now have budgets to spend how they like, ringfencing is almost entirely gone.

    That doesn’t fit in with your hypothesis.

  9. [...] Scotland because they have slightly less support north of the border is one of my biggest bugbears. As I have pointed out before, there will be regional differences within any democracy, no matter how you draw the [...]