Why Unionism and Nationalism are Feckless

The SNP is on the crest of a wave. But it really has nowhere to go and, ultimately, will wane.

Here’s why. The SNP is essentially a single issue pressure group pretending to be a real political party. In this respect it’s like Sinn Fein, the DUP/UUP, Plaid Cymru.

Now, I hear you say, the SNP has policies on stuff. Real stuff, like Trident. Indeed, but there’s a test we can apply. Here it is. Ask yourself, is it possible to be a Scottish Nationalist but be in favour of a small state and minimal government spending i.e. to be Nationalist and fiscally Conservative?  Of course it is. But, if you hold such views, it should be impossible to vote Scottish Nationalist.  The SNP is a tad Trotskyite after all.  It’s more lefty than the defeated lefty Labour Party under Miliband.

But all sorts voted for the SNP in droves.  Many of them, I’d suggest, would not agree with the SNP’s actual policies. Many, no doubt, will have no idea why they voted for the SNP apart from a desire to see what might happen.

I think it is something to do with a love of political irony by the people of Scotland. There’s a cultural tendency towards intellectual dabbling. The Scots have a fascination for novel political contrivances. It’s no coincidence that the enlightenment had its origins in the tea-rooms of Edinburgh. Adam Smith was a Scot. David Hume was a Scot. Francis Hutcheson was an Ulster Scot.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that the people of Scotland should elect the SNP in such numbers when, for many decades, the SNP failed to achieve much electoral success. This general election has produced a fascinating political story – and the Scots, themselves, want to know the outcome.

The outcome may be DevoMax. It’s unlikely to be Scottish independence. That horse has bolted, at least temporarily. The Scots themselves, know that the SNP isn’t really a political party – it’s simply a rabble rouser.  But that’s OK for the minute.

The problem is that the novelty will wane. The entire project will start to appear to be a bit silly. The gains of DevoMax will be gained and the net result will be a dull and uninteresting polity dominated by people who, ultimately, don’t have much to say beyond Scottish lion analogies. There will be a return to the reality of left-right politics that is, ultimately, a bit dull.

But that’s a good thing, because a political system that’s based entirely on single issue pressure groups is, ultimately, feckless.  Look at Northern Ireland. Turnout is waning. Engagement in politics is listless. Divisions, ultimately, are about sectarian head-counts that make Northern Ireland politics pointless and ignored by the rest of the Kingdom. But, practically, Northern Ireland government gets nothing done because the basis of the political system is polarisation – sides incapable of agreeing or reaching consensus because they are aligned purely on single issues of supposed national identity and religion.

Because all of Northern Ireland’s political parties are nationalist. The Unionist parties define themselves on the basis of maintenance of Union they don’t participate in. The Irish Nationalist parties define themselves on a vision of a United Ireland that most people – even the Catholics they think they represent – don’t want.

In fact the politics of nationalism is ultimately a vision of hell where the politicians consume themselves in pointless discussions that ultimately lead nowhere.

The only type of politics that results in any political progress is the politics of left and right.

Free market libertarian. Businessman. Small government advocate. Former Vice-Chair, Conservative Party in NI. Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs. Former Regional Chair, Business for Britain (the business voice of VoteLeave).

  • turnout is still higher in Northern Ireland than England. That is only partly due to disenfranchisement by individual voter registration in Great Britain.

  • Turgon

    You conflate a series of points which are tangentially connected.

    It is true that the NI political system is problematic and prone to deadlock. However, that is a problem of the system. Incidentally the USA frequently has deadlock due to competing majorities in its upper and lower houses and the disconnect between the executive and legislature.

    On the issue of nationalism you are, however, incorrect because you fail to think big enough. If there is an existential question about the state that trumps petty left right socioeconomic issues. That has been the case since NI’s foundation as one section of the community wanted the state to cease to exist and become part of another country. Simply put there are too many people who wish the state to change for the sort of politics you want to develop. This has become the case as well in Scotland whereas in Wales there is Plaid Cymru but independence is too minority an issue for it to trump socio economic issues. The same is true even more so in say Cornwall which has a tiny nationalist party and indeed other odd places like Lincolnshire which has a group called the Lincolnshire Independents.

    Although much more dramatic one sees analogous politics in existential situations: the Second World War is a perfect example. The threat to the UK resulted in parties and people from the left and right cooperating as one to achieve the end of the existential problem.

    Much as I disagree with the SNP the simple fact is that they see (or claim to see) the end of the union as the most important issue: as such the most important issue is the politically relevant one. That is not a pressure group that is feeling that a single issue is paramount and is more important than any other. You (and I) may not like the view but it is a valid political position.

    To you (and me) as unionists the issue is less relevant than left right issues but that is simply our bias. Your failure to understand that you are biased is characteristic of those who have failed to address the Scottish issue and have probably helped bring us to this position within the UK.

    Politics is about how we organise ourselves as social people in communities, countries etc. One form of politics is not superior to another: just different.

    Indeed your recent lauding of socially liberal values such as homosexual marriage is actually an example of a recent departure in politics. Social liberalism is something which was simply much less relevant in the early post war years when left and right wing economic policies were most important. A classical Marxist would regard an interest in such as irrelevant.

    In sum one form of politics is not superior to another: just different. A feeling of superiority is redolent of exactly the attitude which the SNP and other nationalists thrive on to demonstrate how “other” and out of touch their opponents are. I fear you fail to understand that actually you play into their hands.

    You seem to fetishise English politics and perceive it as the optimal system. The world is not like that. Take Belgium which has ethnically based parties as well.

    Incidentally harking back to your previous blog. I am unsure how giving my name rather than pen name would have made the above any better or worse.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Turnout in NI was 58.1% versus 66.1% in England. Turnout in NI was lowest of the 4 regions.

  • Ernekid

    ‘The only type of politics that results in any political progress is the politics of left and right’.

    Sorry Jeff that’s a load of balderdash and piffle. Any cursory analysis of different political models will tell you that’s there’s all sorts of political models each with their own merits and demerits. The politics of ‘left’ and ‘right’ is only one such model and is by no means perfect. Politics in Northern Ireland are a reflection of ethnic-national divisions in our society and the population seems happy enough with it. The politics of Belgium for instance is based on an ethno-national model rather than a left-right division would you say that people of Belgium aren’t making any ‘political progress’?

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Well at least you aren’t hurling personal insults at me. Or calling me lacking in some way. That’s an improvement. I’m not a Unionist, by the way. I’m a Libertarian. I’m socially liberal and fiscally right. Such a position is not some recent affectation. As for Liberalism – social positions on such matters as homosexuality evolve. You should read Stephen Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of our Nature. Most Western societies, including Northern Ireland, revise their positions on social matters based on improved information and revisionism. Liberal values used to be about arguing against the drowning of witches – the issues change in the light of circumstances and social sophistication.

    Nationalist based political systems are qualitatively useless. They get nothing done. That’s why Northern Ireland is a political and economic backwater highly dependent on state aid.

  • Robin Keogh

    Wow, your dismissive attitude towrds the SNP and their voters smacks of a very misguided ideoligically based superiority complex. You assume that the population are merely dabbling and have not seriously considered the consequences or the possibilities. The SNP like most parties offer what they see as an alternative option to their opponents, your analysis is no more than a subjective dismissal of this based on your own economic, social and political preferences and really does not offer a broad based overview on future possibilities. You also offer an analysis of why so many people voted for the SNP and back it up with zero empirical evidence, claiming that they pulled in votes from everywhere when in fact the vast majority of their increase can clearly be identified as coming from disaffected Labour voters unhappy with the neo liberal austerity agenda. To suggest that many people will have no idea why they even voted for the SNP is to unmask a serious delinquency in your own ability to rationalise voter choice in the context of the debate around the issues ; social, economic and politcal.

    So, having assumed that the Scots dont have the intelligence to distinguish between a bunch of rabble rousers and a serious poltical movement, you then assume that dull left/right politcals will reemerge when in reality it has gone nowhwere. The people of Scotland had a choice to vote along left right lines, they made that choice on the basis of their own analysis and while you may not like the outcome and are quite entitled to question the motivation, I simply cannot understand how you can come to the conclusion that they have no idea what they are doing !

    You also assume that the project will wane, given the fact that they were elected on ananti-tory anti – austerity programme and given the fact that Britain now has a pro austerity Tory government I think you will find that support for the SNP is no more likely to wane in the foreseeable future than the new princess Charlotte is likely to become the first Catholic Pope. History shows that momentum wanes if, and only if the original trigger is either removed or diluted. Neither of these possibilities are probable under a tory led government.

    Cameron in Number 10 is a good a gift the SNP could have hoped for, Austerity cuts and EU exit will most probably mobilise the Independence movement more than anything we have seen before. While the Horse might have bolted, it looks as if it has fallen at the first hurdle.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    You’re right about nationalism in general. Nationalism in the 20thC was usually about gaining independence from someone else. When that independence was gained that new nation frequently descended into civil war. Differences instantly emerge at the removal of the common oppressor. Whose nationalism was to win?
    What’s weird about the 2 nationalisms here is that one constantly feeds off the other. One nationalism wants to secede to a neighbouring country that may not want us (does anyone know?) and the other wants to maintain the status quo (very independently I might add) with a nation that doesn’t really want us (or doesn’t even know we’re there) and certainly doesn’t owe us anything.
    Each nationalism is defined by its respective past and does not provide any vision for a future. One nationalism sees a UI as an end in itself as opposed to a means to further ends. The other nationalism wants to consolidate a psychic notion of something that has already been consolidated.
    2 competing nationalisms dysfunctionally cohabiting in a prison of our own making.

  • mickfealty

    I keep thinking of Nicola at the top of a ski slope knowing what her admirers and critics alike seem blind to, which is that there is only one way to go from there. And that’s down.

    To go really micro on it, the 20 year old politics undergraduate has talked about nutting her Labour opponent Dougie Alexander. And as I’ve noted twice now on Slugger, there seems to be at least an acquiescence to that by Ms Sturgeon.

    It seems to have completely bypassed the young lady that she took that seat in a strongly No constituency. Exuberance of youth, of course.

    Whilst I think there are many good things about the SNPs digital engagement approach, its digital hygiene leaves a lot to be desired. If that’s left unchecked (and Sturgeon has been noticeably weak in this regard), it could be very corrosive.

    Scotland at large certainly does not need new culture war.

    PS, I also agree on the ‘where to go’ problem. It’s the same problem that will face SF in Dublin very shortly. It’s a limitation of self defining as against everything everyone else does, except the bits you can pinch and pass off as your own.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Let’s wait and see.

  • Robin Keogh

    ‘Lets wait and see’ is a far cry from what your posts suggest. While I dont know you and have no reason to doubt your integrity, I honestly feel your dismissal of the intelligence and motivations of the Scottish people are troubling.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Belgium is one of the most feckless political nations in Europe. The population of Northern Ireland is “happy enough with it.” Damned by faint praise indeed. If they are happy with state aid dependency, the lowest economic output in the UK, and constant vitriolic squabbling they sure don’t show it. We apparently have the highest rates of mental illness in the UK and the highest rate of consumption of anti-depressants in the UK. And the highest rate of economic inactivity in the UK. Northern Ireland is a political and economic basket-case.

  • mickfealty

    I think that isolation of those terms is incredibly interesting and useful Jeff. The projection of the u word on Scottish Labour is probably one of the contributing factors in its defeat.

    It isn’t and never has really been that, and its politicians looked distinctly uncomfortable in clothes force on them by the SNPs successful capture of the IndyRef debate frame.

  • Korhomme

    I don’t agree. I understand that the SNP look to the Nordic/Scandinavian countries as a model. Norway has the oil, though this isn’t now such an earner. They all have high taxes but great social systems. And no nukes. The climate though could be better. Yet they all score highly on ‘happiness’ indices: and isn’t this one of the most important metrics?

    And they don’t want to be ruled by the English, for whom they don’t vote. What’s wrong with that? The freedom to do your own thing?

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I have the highest regard for the Scottish people. And because they spend way over the odds for the best private education Scotland produces some wonderful intellectuals. I love visiting Scotland and am astounded by its beauty. But, I say again, this is an experiment only. The SNP will return to electoral insignificance.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Peel I have hurled no interests at you. Attacking your political hypocrisy and opportunism is not an insult: it is an argument. In contrast you have man played me in connection with my pseudonymity despite being invited to email me and I would tell you who I am. Not for the life of me I can understand why you want to know. Unless that is to categorise me by who I am and my background. That would be the anthesis of the political position based on ideas which you claim to want.

    Your self description here though is problematic: I’m socially liberal and fiscally left.

    If you are fiscally left I am unclear what you were doing in the Tory Party unless maybe you were trying Entryism.

    Nationalist based political systems are not qualitatively useless. By that token the national governments during times of crisis in the UK were useless. Simply throwing out ill thought out prejudice and rhetoric is not an argument.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Sorry that was a typo. Fiscally right, of course. Corrected.

  • Robin Keogh

    There is no reason to believe that the only way is down, the SNP could quite possibly consolidate their position given that the Tory policy is what drove the voters in Sturgeons arms in the first place. and given the dramatic swing towards them, what realistically can a bruised Labour, a Batterred Liberals, and a hated conservative party do to reverse those numbers. Last years Strongly no constituency might possibly on a journey towards a Yes goven a Tory Governemnt and ucertainty over Europe. The future of the UK arguably on much shakier ground than at any time before last years referendum.

    Digital Hygiene? Not sure what u mean here fella. The where to go problem in the context of opposition is no different in Scotland than it is anywhere else. Show me an opposition party that doesnt smack their governemnt around on the basis you have outlined above and I will show you a how effective a paper condem is.

  • mickfealty

    Looking is not the same as doing Korhomme. They may not want to be ruled by the English, but they DO want to stay in the UK. That’s the tricky slope Nicola now finds herself atop. How to pull off someone else’s project.

    It has also made things rather uncomplicated for a Labour opposition in Holyrood that has now has nowhere else to go.

  • Turgon

    “Belgium is one of the most feckless political nations in Europe.”

    This is stuff Farage would not come out with. It is more analogous to some bar room bore from Betjeman’s Slough. It is chauvinist nonsense.

  • Ernekid

    Belgium is Feckless? To quote Inigo Montoya ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means’. Here’s a dictionary definition to help you out.

    Feckless: lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible.

    I don’t think that’s an appropriate word to describe the Belgians, with their healthy and prosperous economy, stable civic society, rich culture and an open approach to Europe and the World.

    Northern Ireland’s problems are well documented but to lay them at the feet of our political model is a bit silly.

  • mickfealty

    Nothing is inevitable of course Robin. But so far as Westminster is concerned, short of giving them seats in England there’s nowhere else to go but down. They have everyone‘s chips.

    Having helped dump Labour decisively out of power, those SNP parliamentary ‘soldiers’ will now find there’s nothing for them to do and little power or influence they can exert in Westminster.

  • Korhomme

    Are you sure they want to stay in the UK, Mick? I’m not so certain.

    If not independence, are we looking at a federal UK?

  • Robin Keogh

    Which is an ideal position for the SNP to be in, do you not see it? Whatever happens in London it cannot be pinned on the SNP in anyway (unlike if they had ended up supporting labour) I said elsewhere before the election that an Ideal result for Scottish nationalism would be a Tory governemnt dependent on support from the DUP or Ukip et al. Thats pretty much how it has panned out, I would love the opportunity to talk at length about the Europe Issue, I honestly believ e Mick that we are about to see an unmerciful fight emerge.

  • Robin Keogh

    Europe could be the last straw for Scotland. When you look at the English results alone you see that UKIP and the Tories have 56% of the vote. Brian Hayes was saying yesterday on RTE that the likelyhood of Europe giving sway on any of the treaties is close to none due to the problems it would ignite across the mainland, especially that aspect of the treaty structures pertaining on the free movement of people within the Union; which is one of the biggest issues touted by Tory backbenchers and UKIP. Housten we have a problem.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Folks this is fascinating…commenting though will have to wait to tomorrow…dinner reservation.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Worst economic performance in Europe viz: feckless.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Belgian public debt, by the way, is 105% of GDP (UK’s is 81%).

  • Turgon

    I really think you misunderstand this site. Anyone can comment at any time to anyone else. The OP hanging around is not really that important. That said to be fair unlike a number of posters at least you will answer comments.

  • Zeno

    “The only type of politics that results in any political progress is the politics of left and right.”

    Well said, but nationalism whether it be a Union Flag or a Tricolour is a real easy vote winner, and I have a feeling none of them are really interested in progress. Votes equal power and power brings money. Progress doesn’t pay the mortgage for those Guys.

  • Ernekid

    Belgium have the worst economic performance in Europe?

    Sorry mate not even slightly true. In GDP per person they are higher than both the UK and Ireland. They have relatively low unemployment and whilst their Debt is quite high it’s nothing compared to Greece, Italy or the Republic of Ireland

  • Robin Keogh

    But Zeno, behind all that are plenty of genuine reps who work hard on the ground for both their constituencies, I think that has to be recognised.

  • Frankie Keenan

    I think you need to actually say sorry because you contradicting your own argument. You say the SNP are a one issue party and will ultimately fail, and that the best adverserial political system has to be left against right and that doesn’t exist within the political system in the North of Ireland, that it is British Nationalists against Irish Nationalists. The simple fact that you refuse to admit to is that the loyalists are right wing, maybe Ultra right wing in their politics, just look at their stance on the equal marriage issue and the welfare issue. They take their lead from the Bible, which for me should not have any place within politics, while Sinn Fein unapologetically strive for Socialist policies. I believe Sinn Fein when they say they will represent all the people of Ireland no matter your religious, sexual or ethnic background. We know what the Loyalists think!!!!

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Unemployment 8.5%. Massive public borrowing. Terrible banking crisis. Negative economic growth. I think not.

  • Zeno

    What do you think their motive is? Are they just good people who have no interest in establishing a voter base for themselves?

  • Robin Keogh

    There are many counsellors who have stayed at that level purely to represent their folk. You also have to remeber that being a politican is also a Job and its a job you have to reapply for every few years. Good or bad it is the only system we have and while only around 60% of people bother to vote, at least we can say that for them the process is important.

  • Turgon

    Stop being stupid Ernekid: you are probably feckless as well. You have been told the Belgians are feckless. Just accept it. Facts are an irrelevant inconvenience.

  • Ernekid

    Europe’s unemployment figures for further evidence Jeff is talking out of his arse.

  • Zeno

    It’s the only system we have………….

    Just because it’s all we have Robin doesn’t mean we should use it or support it Robin.
    The reason I don’t vote is because of the system we have. Democracy now means choosing between people who have little or no ability or qualifications that make them suitable for the job they have decided themselves they would be good at.
    In other words they themselves have at some point decided they are leaders of men and got on the ladder to get elected to that position.
    Then on top of that we don’t really have a democracy that gives representation to who people vote for.
    SNP had 1.4 million votes and got 56 Seats
    The Greens got 1.1 million votes and got 1 Seat.
    UKIP got nearly 4 million votes and one seat…….
    It’s basically nonsense.

  • Robin Keogh

    Oh I agree the FPTP system is basically undemocratic which is why i am so glad we have PR. People rise through the ranks of political parties in the same way as in private companies promote those they feel are capable. Its true that many reps are simply tossers, persoanlly i feel we need more women on board as they are naturally more intelligent and less likey to sacrifice good on the alter of personal gain. However, whats the alternative to a broken system and how do we get there?

  • Gingray

    Ha ha ha Jeff, I love the implication – that because of private education they produce some fine intellects 🙂

    Anyway to your original point, it could go several ways as Canada, Spain and even Germany can show.

    In Canada for example Quebec shows no sign of voting to leave, but the PQ have lost a referendum and then like the SNP still put on votes.

    In Spain, two regions consistently vote for nationalist parties and yet prosper. They would be out the door in the event of a referendum.

    In Germany the Bavarians have their own party and Merkel doesn’t stand against them. A potential exists for a similar set up in Scotland.

  • Zeno

    Abolish political parties and introduce sortition.

  • Robin Keogh

    I see where u are at with that but i would need to discuss it with u over a very stiff drink

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Mick is blinded by his local unionist dependence. When the UK votes to exit the EU the Scots will secede from the union. The dreams of local unionism will count for nought to the scots. Two years and counting.

  • Zeno

    Political Parties evolved to protect and promote themselves. If they get elected they blame the last government for everything. If they don’t get elected they fight the government for 5 years until they throw their hats in the ring again. It’s a cop out.
    If we had sortition there would be no elections, no political parties and no one else to blame for the problems. The people in government would be responsible. It is the only true democracy.
    Don’t ever think I wouldn’t have a drink with you just because I disagree with your political opinions.

  • Robin Keogh

    Now that we have got passed the need to resort to schoolyard snipes i would be happy to hang out sometime

  • Korhomme

    That looks like a very probable outcome.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Here’s a quote from the EU Commission’s report published just 2 months ago on economic imbalances in Belgium:

    “Structural problems characterising the Belgian labour market result in a chronic underutilisation of labour with a low aggregate employment rate. Shortcomings are related to labour taxation and financial disincentives,educational outcomes and qualification mismatches, the wage-setting system, labour shortages, and old-age social security
    systems. Both young and elderly workers face important barriers to entry. People from migrant backgrounds are in a particularly precarious position.”

    It’s not all bad, obviously, but Belgium is saved only by fiscal oblivion largely because of high wages of Eurocrats in Brussels.

  • smcgiff

    And the award for dreamer of the year goes to…

    “The problem is that the novelty will wane. The entire project will start
    to appear to be a bit silly. The gains of DevoMax will be gained and
    the net result will be a dull and uninteresting polity dominated by
    people who, ultimately, don’t have much to say beyond Scottish lion

    The SNP’s rise stems from their government of Scotland in the devolved assembly, and close to 50% of the electorate seem to think they are doing a good job. Look at the differences between Scotland and rUK. Free university fees (I think Nick Clegg missed that one also), prescriptions etc.

    And as for Devomax putting independence to bed, wasn’t that said of the original devolved assembly?

    The only antipathy here is your preference to take up a dinner reservation instead of debating the issue. Physician, heal thyself 😉

  • chrisjones2

    Do you fight for national freedom to immediately had it to a European Political Union where you have even less voice

  • Scots Anorak

    I think you misunderstand the nature of the SNP. The SNP differs fundamentally from Plaid Cymru and Sinn Féin in that it is not an ethnic nationalist party. Some people will take exception to that statement, but only because “ethnic nationalist” means “nasty nationalist” in their world view and they don’t like the SNP. Scottish identity is based on the notion of a political community and spans two and a half surviving indigenous ethnicities and quite a lot of newer ones. Of the three parties just mentioned, Plaid Cymru best fits the definition of an ethnic nationalist party, while Sinn Féin has elements of both ethnic and political nationalism (think Patrick Pearse and Wolfe Tone, respectively). While Plaid Cymru and Sinn Féin have structural limits placed on those whom they can attract (Welsh-speakers and Catholics), there is no such limit for the SNP (they have trouble attracting English-born supporters, but there are some, and in any case they are only 10% of Scotland). The clue that the SNP is not an ethnic nationalist party is in the name, i.e. Scottish National Party and not Scots Naitional Pairtie or, except in Gaelic texts, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba.

    It is also the case that, since Scottish identity is a political rather than an ethnic construct, the logical expression of it is independence, and I think that independence is a more likely scenario than what you have just outlined.

    Of course, right-left politics *could* re-emerge in Scotland, but then again, but it is at least as likely that the Conservatives would get the blame for any economic problems that might emerge, particularly since they will no doubt reserve oil taxes to Westminster while devolving most of the other, less lucrative ones to Holyrood (i.e. it’s unlikely actually to be Devo Max). It’s also true that the national question can be toned down only if the Conservatives cease to interfere with sleeping dogs in the way that they did when they attacked long-frozen welfare payments. In the current Parliament, however, they will continue to cut welfare spending — to a degree that Holyrood might not be able to mitigate. They will attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act, with unknowable consequences for the relationship with the devolved authorities.


    They will call a referendum on EU membership, and may attempt to drag Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland out against their will. All of these will be viewed in Scotland as interference in domestic affairs, and many people will draw their own conclusions.

    PS — I can’t help thinking that your calling the SNP “Trotskyite” — and, for that matter, Labour “lefty” — says more about your own position on the political spectrum than theirs.


  • John Collins

    Well you can try multi seat PRSTV (proportional representation, single transferable vote) and you will find that too can be a disaster too with single issue candidates and other misfits slipping it at the end of the vote distribution. Incidentally it is only used in three national electorates in the entire World, so that probably says all we need to hear. The fact is if you run several candidates in constituencies where you have no real chance of winning you can amass a lot of votes but very few seats. Perhaps the list system, as practised in some European countries should be considered. However this too is probably not ideal. Sorry Robin, below, but I cannot warm to a system that has lead to many coalition (often of all sorts) governments and elected the likes of Tom Guildea and the Healy Raes to a National Parliament

  • Jeffrey Peel

    I’m unashamedly fiscally right. I make no bones about that. And it’s precisely because of the SNP’s tendency to spend like crazy that means it will ultimately decline. There is a finite limit to the block grant. Therefore the only means of sustaining the SNP’s spending plans is a devolution of tax raising. The people of Scotland, therefore, should be careful what they hope for. After all, the SNP got its sums seriously wrong when it missed the black swan that resulted in a global plummeting of oil prices.

    As for the flavour of Nats the SNP represent, I couldn’t care less. The fact remains that the hordes of SNP nationalists will have as little influence on the government as the 10 Unionists from NI and the handful of Irish Nats who can be bothered to show. There may be a tokenist short-term flurry of activity around DevoMax but the government will soon return to the default mode of ignoring the SNP as much as possible.

  • kensei

    The talk about nutting just makes her seem human. It’s why the UKIP get away with far more than they should. You can have actual real human beings representing you – people who make occasionally inappropriate comments, express frustration and demonstrate passion or you can scream outrage at the drop of a hat and get a load of smooth, media drones with PPE degrees from Oxbridge. Take your feckin’ pick. IMHO you are massively stuck up.

    You are also wrong on nowhere to go. There is one height left to scale, which may or may not be possible: a second majority, potentially a greater one, in the 2016 Holyrood elections. If they get that, there is only one way to go, and they’ll need to quickly figure out how to maximise its use. The whole game might hinge on the 2017 referendum on Europe.

    But stating a truism that the wheel is always turning masks something important. The plates that link Scotland and the rest of the UK look to have shifted. It is unlikely the dramatic gains will be ever be reversed completely. The SNP will have a base in places they didn’t previously, and the machinery and sentiment will remain in part, a permanent fixture. It’s much more likely the SNP would be pushed into opposition than the fringes. The wheel never stops turning, and the sun still rises as well as sets.

  • Scots Anorak

    Well, I suppose that “ignoring”and “ignorance” are related.

    The SNP has no tendency to “spend like crazy”. It is required by law to balance the Scottish Parliament budget and has always done so. It has argued, however, that current austerity is deflationary and therefore counterproductive, a view shared by many leading economists. The UK’s current debt crisis is in any case the result not of excessive social spending but of bailing out the banks, which were not properly regulated because the Labour Party got too right-wing.

    As far as I’m aware, Scotland still produces more tax per head than England. If there’s a potential fiscal problem, it’s related to Barnett-related spending differentials and the fact that the UK as a whole has a deficit. Most of the figures being trotted out are in any case out of date; the oil price is currently 30% higher than its January low.

    The Conservatives may well ignore Scottish MPs; at the very least I would be surprised if they gave the issue of Scots independence the attention it deserves. However, it would be naive to think that messing up will have no effect. Independence is now very close.

  • kensei

    You are assuming. If the SNP are marginalised at Westminster it will make their argument for them. But aside from that, there is a lot of room for them to make some running as a large opposition party. If the Tory majority is squeezed over the course of the Parliament it might also leave openings for them.

    It’s very very likely that the Westminster seats will go down, but if that’s your consideration you are playing the wrong game. The next battle is Holyrood in 2016. Then the EU referendum. There is a lot to be played before 2020.

    Plus, you are assuming Scottish politics can’t get uglier and angrier towards Westminster. It almost assuredly can if mishandled. I’d guess maybe a 5-10% chance of that, but that’d likely lead to the SNP maintaining their seats. I don’t think the UK could take a second result like yesterday’s in any case.

  • Zeno

    I’m not in favour of any of those. I’ll like democracy brought back. We don’t need elections or political parties. Just choose our politicians by lot, or sortition. It couldn’t be any worse.

  • Steve Larson

    The SNP are banking on the Govt. ignoring them.

  • Steve Larson

    The SNP will fail in time and parts will split off but that will be ten years after independence.

    There is no reason to think that they will fade this side of independence.

    There will be a return in time to left and right political parties but they will be Scottish parties not UK ones.

    Holyrood has replaced Westminster as the focus of Scottish politics. Westminster is where the national question will be argued but Holyrood is where the day to day focus for Scots will be.

    Hard to see how that can be turned around or how it does not ensure Independence. Add in the Tories unleashing English nationalism, EVEL etc. That will destroy the Union even quicker than the SNP can.

  • Steve Larson

    Wants can change and many Unionists will reluctantly vote Yes if the current set up is not working.

    The real boost for it will be EVEL.

  • Steve Larson

    All the SNP have to do is back EVEL and push for it as much as anything for Scotland.

  • mickfealty

    Yeah, cute. I know one lately returned Scottish constituent who is already contemplating leaving again.

  • kensei

    Eh? Like completely, eh?

    And you aren’t seriously pulling one anecdote on me and suggesting I should conclude anything from it? Presumably they aren’t voting SNP anyway so that’ll probably help them in 2020.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    All nationalisms in the British isles are about the single idea that ‘lets grid rid of THEM and all of US would be better off’ It is an idea that does not stand up to reality. In
    the 21st C most people with a brain can see that the world is a place of many different people but the future is essentially one society and one people. To come back to the SNP, it is as backward as the usual SF/NAT rant about how English people killed their dads in the potato famine etc etc. The SNP are about anti English sentiment because ‘they’ killed Mel Gibson in the battle of ‘whats its name’. Take that stupidity away, then the SNP is about nothing more than ‘we Scots should get more and we’re denied it by them English’. Nat people in the UK really are a backward embarrassment .

  • mickfealty

    I’m just saying, that not everyone thinks it’s a cute political metaphor. Nothing more and nothing less. She’s a third year politics student for goodness sake, not a putative Shadow Foreign Secretary.

    There’s a lot of bullish energy to contain there. Interesting times ahead.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ah Jeff, I’lł happily want to join in and live in the Republic of Ireland’s misery if it means never seeing your whinging again.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And Scandinavia’s Kalmar Union was older than United Kingdom one.

  • JPJ2

    Actually she never said she would nut-or even like to nut- Dougie Alexander

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SNP white paper has Independence within the UK, since the same monarch would reign over both countries.

  • JPJ2

    If that were the sum total off it, all opposition parties should simply give up after one defeat.
    Also-as I am sure you have noticed-FPTP distorts the outcome. The SNP need not peak at 50% of the vote. In fact, in Holyrood terms they will be looking for 60% support before feeling confident to call indyref 2.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I know many Ulster people who are contemplating leaving because of political results.

  • JPJ2

    That is a profoundly foolish conclusion. 2007 32% 2011 45%

    2015 50%.

    I cannot take you article seriously if you can comment that “The SNP will return to electoral insignificance.”

    You are completely out of your depth.

  • kensei

    I don’t think it’s cute. I think she sounds like a 20 year old talking to her mates and not used to public speaking. And I think one of those in Parliament is better than another drone, the working class are massively under represented in any case. But I do also believe the bar for gaff has to be substantially higher than it is now if we dont want sterile politics.

    And yes, the SNP will struggle to contain a lot of the energy it has unleashed. It may even contain the seeds if its downfall. But I bet Labour wishes it had that problem.

  • kensei

    Indeed she was talking about dealing with her disappointment in the aftermath of the referendum. Like a human rather than a politbot5000

  • Barneyt

    They jury is out with regard to the SNP being truly left wing. Personally I believe they are more left than right, however its not too long ago they were referred to as the “Tartan Tories”.

    I expect you will find that the SNP is much more than a single issue party and will fight for more than simple self determination. It has to, not just because of their politically literate electorate.

    Its hard to see how they can secure a good deal for Scotland via Westminster however. I am not sure what the SNP has in its arsenal to pressurise the UK government, to provoke a response in its favour, other than make a lot more noise about independence, more devolution etc.. The Tories as things stand do not have to give any concession.

    The ingredients are in place to set the scene for a new referendum on Scottish independence. Next time around, there will be sufficient Tory inflictions on Scotland and much of England to draw attention to, which will strengthen the independence argument further.

    I seriously doubt the UK government will hold together long enough to threaten a Euro exit. A 12 seat majority will be eroded no doubt (perhaps more through defections than anything else), and that represents the SNPs greatest hope of influence.

  • JPJ2

    No they are not. Sometimes life puts you in a win win situation.

    Either they will move the Government in the direction they wish and claim the credit for it, or the Government will indeed ignore them, which will ratchet up the irritation of the electorate with the Westminster system.

    Amid the sensational defeat of SLAB, it is probably worth pondering on the worst performance in Scotland (% vote) since 1865 (eighteen sixty five) of the Tories.

    That triggers a whole new order of debate about the de facto legitimacy of the Tories with respect to Scotland.