Okay, this is my first politics / amateur psephology post in a while. Brace yourselves!
Professor John Curtice has been making predictions, and I think the clearest message there is that Labour are in big trouble. I really like this cute Labour quote though:
However, a Labour spokesman dismissed Prof Curtice’s forecasts yesterday.
The spokesman said: “These elections are 12 months away. Next year, people will be voting on a Scottish Labour record that has seen our strongest economic performance for a generation and dramatic improvements in NHS waiting times and in fighting anti-social behaviour and crime.”
So today the Scottish Labour record is not of a strong economic performance, improvements in NHS waiting times and fighting crime — but in twelve months it will be? Uhhh.
Meanwhile Alex Cole-Hamilton, who often stands as a Lib Dem candidate round these parts, has his own over-optimistic spin on Curtice’s projections.
Personally, I buy the idea that in Scotland there is a clear anti-Labour vote and that whichever party between the SNP and the Lib Dems is in the best position to halt Labour will pick up the votes.
And it’s also what happened at the Moray Holyrood by-election where the SNP were leading in the first place and extended their lead at the great expense of Labour, while the Lib Dems increased their vote a bit.
While we’re at it, can everybody stop trotting out the old line about the Conservatives being dead in Scotland? They’re not. I still occasionally hear the odd person slip up, saying the Conservatives don’t have any MPs in Scotland, when in actual fact they do. John Reid was the last person I heard doing that.
The Tories might only have one Scottish seat in Westminster, but that is under the obscenely warped Labour-Past-the-Post electoral system. In Holyrood, where there is a degree of proportionality, the Conservatives are actually the third-largest party, ahead of the Lib Dems. So it’s a bit rich for any Lib Dems to be going on about how dead the Conservatives are north of the border.
What’s a worse problem for the Tories is that they couldn’t conceivably form a coalition with anybody in Holyrood. Apart from that pensioner bloke, every party and independent MSP could be described as left-of-centre to some extent or another. The entire chamber is opposed to the Conservatives. Literally. Is it a coincidence that a beam detactched and dangled precariously like a Sword of Damocles above the Conservatives? I think not. One of the Tory MSPs joked that all the other parties wanted the beam to fall on top of the Tories, but nobody in the hall laughed — they just nodded.
Anyway, I think the bottom line is that Labour are in trouble, and the SNP are probably in the best position to gain from that. Constituency by constituency the party best placed to dethrone Labour will have the best chance of doing so, but the SNP need fewer gains than the Lib Dems need to threaten Labour in the chamber. Even if the Lib Dems make more gains, the SNP will almost inevitably be the big winners at the Scottish Parliament elections next year.
Curtice reckons the Greens will have the balance of power. It’s plausible. The Greens and the SNP have been flirting with each other recently, but not too long ago the election of Nicol Stephen as Scottish Lib Dem leader was seen as a bit of a step towards better Lib Dem–SNP relations. So is an SNP–Lib Dem–Green coalition likely? I think a Labour minority administration is more likely — to start off with, at least.
Update: Well I should learn to keep my mouth shut because my attention has just been drawn to this:
In the interview, [Nicol] Stephen also all but ruled out a coalition deal with the SNP following the election. SNP leader Alex Salmond has insisted that, if in government, the party would hold a referendum on Scottish independence within its first term.
As Holyrood’s voting system makes it near-impossible for a party to gain an overall majority, he would almost certainly need the support of other parties to carry this out. However, Stephen said:
“I cannot envisage the circumstances in which that [an independence referendum] would be in a partnership agreement.”