Great Britain
Scotland still in Nationalist hands

A guest contribution by Sir Graham Watson
Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on the steps outside Bute House in Edinburgh after the SNP won a fourth victory in the Scottish Parliament election © picture alliance / empics | Jane Barlow

The elections to the Scottish Parliament on 6 May showed a consolidation of the Scottish National Party’s grip on power. Scotland’s sixth legislature since the re-establishment of its Parliament in 1999 sees the SNP one vote short of an outright majority but afforded a continuation of their remarkable fourteen years in power by eight pro-independence Green Party MSPs. Unsurprisingly, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will legislate during this term of office for another referendum on independence.

For Liberal Democrats, the election results are disappointing. While the Party increased its number of elected representatives in local council elections in England, its number of Members of the Scottish Parliament fell from five to four. In the European elections of June 2019 the voters knew clearly what Liberal Democrats stood for. Now they appear not to; or perhaps not to like what they see.

The main issues for voters on both sides of the border appear to have been those of nationalism/sovereignty and tackling coronavirus. The incumbents at Westminster and Holyrood benefitted on both counts, despite a record on coronavirus which fails to withstand careful comparison with that of the continentals.

Neither Conservatives nor Labour did well in the Scottish Parliament elections: but there is evidence of tactical voting by the electorate to prevent the SNP winning an outright majority. In two constituencies which the nationalists had hoped to win, Labour voters supported the Conservative incumbent to prevent it; in a further two it went the other way around, with Conservative voters switching to Labour to keep out the SNP.

Scotland is deeply divided, but into three camps rather than two: approximately 30% back independence at all costs and 30% a continuation of the union with England et al. 40% remain to be convinced. These include many who voted against independence in the 2014 referendum (result 45% for, 55% against) but who voted for Scotland to remain in the EU in 2016 (result in Scotland 62% remain, 48% leave). Nicola Sturgeon will work hard to woo these voters to her cause. Will Boris Johnson work equally hard to persuade them to stay in the United Kingdom? Perhaps. But the most significant change in the past five years, to my mind, has been the increasing evidence that England’s Conservatives – officially still The Conservative and Unionist Party – now care little if Ireland re-unites and Scotland secedes.

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