A primer for the Scottish Elections.

Lucky people in Scotland and Wales are heading to the polls next month to elect their devolved parliaments. We would be heading to the polls too had our Executive not collapsed in 2017, so we get that treat next year. However, I thought it would be useful to set out some of the things to look out for and keep in mind when watching the campaign and election results. Scotland Voters will elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament, but …

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Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Blaine McCartney is a Co. Down-based writer Yesterday, March 23rd 2021, the first anniversary of lockdown, is surely a day of mixed emotions for Nicola Sturgeon. Having yesterday been cleared of breaching the Scottish Ministerial Code, she nevertheless told reporters this morning that she wants to “leave politics to others today”. Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross, among others, have been happy to oblige on Twitter and elsewhere, as they proverbially rage, rage against the dying of the light at the …

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George Osborne: Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door…

Former Chancellor, and now editor of The Evening Standard, George Osborne, has been writing about the potential break up of the Union. Not any more. By unleashing English nationalism, Brexit has made the future of the UK the central political issue of the coming decade. Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door. By remaining in the EU single market, it is for all economic intents and purposes now slowly becoming part of a united Ireland. Its prosperity now …

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Nicola Sturgeon, the Angela Merkel of UK politics…

In this week’s Spectator Magazine, Alex Massie has a profile of Nicola Sturgeon. Being a Conservative Unionist publication, The Spectator has no love for the SNP. But there was grudging respect for the popularity of the First Minister of Scotland and her almost Donald Trump levels of Teflon. Nicola Sturgeon is seen by the public as the perfect counterweight to the blustering, bumbling Boris Johnston. From the article: But in modern Scotland, relative success counts for more than absolute success. …

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Life, Lockdown and the Pursuit of Safety…

‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ – Benjamin Franklin In late July Trump posed a question to his haggle of Twitter followers. He asked if the election could be delayed, citing concerns linked to Coronavirus. Naturally, this tweet was met with furore and anger from the media and most reasonable people – even many of ‘The Donald’s’ biggest fans. The condemnations which followed the tweet were well justified, …

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Labour’s defeat was their own guilty secret. But Boris Johnson’s matters much more

Andrew Parsons i/Images Now they tell us. Labour moderates had been watching the growth of the Conservative vote in north east of England council elections for years. But so had the Conservatives’ evil genius Dominic Cummings and he knew how to act on it. Forget  obsessions with social media, go knock on doors. As Tip O’Neill the old Speaker of the US House of Representatives memorably once said,  All politics is local.” And we can add,  it transcends ideology alone. …

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What would happen at GE2019 if it is more like the 2019 European election than the last general election?

Previously, I looked at what might happen at a future general election using the 2017 general election results as a base and a YouGov poll to redistribute votes to see how a new general election might pan out. This poll gave the Tories a 9 point lead over Labour in second place, and accordingly in such a scenario the Tories would win a majority despite a historically low vote share, albeit with a smaller majority if the Lib Dems, Greens …

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Johnson and Corbyn will compete for power by selling out the Union

All the hooh- hah from Polly Toynbee and others about forming a government of national unity to stop No Deal – forget it. Boris Johnson won’t even have to bother committing  the constitutional crime  my constitutional expert friends have been deploring.  It’ll never get to that. Their best hope now is a general election but one called pretty much on Johnson’s terms and timing. Robert Peston’s trenchant piece saves me the bother of explaining. It’s so good I quote it …

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General election seat forecasts are no longer useful

For much of the last century, general elections in Great Britain have been largely predictable affairs. Aside from the odd Liberal, SNP and Plaid Cymru MP returned here and there, Westminster elections were a battle between Labour and the Conservatives. The relationship between the opinion polls and election results was straightforward; most constituencies were either safe Labour or Tory seats, and it was well established that a few points gained or lost in the opinion polls could predict the winner …

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From the London broadsheets, rare interest in Irish developing positions is to be welcomed

The criticism  is well made that  British  interest in Irish positions is generally self serving and fails to recognise their independent validity. Any slight shift in this is to be welcomed. The London broadsheets  have paid Sinn Fein the rare compliment of taking seriously the party’s think-in at Cavan. It’s worth noting that they have yet to broach the notion that a  Brexit solution would  be so much easier if Northern Ireland were to join the Republic.  Quite apart from …

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Meanwhile in Scotland, courtesy of Brexit, the long march to Indyref2 is about to begin

Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the SNPs economic case for  another independence campaign.  As it will focus attention on Scotland’s sluggish economic performance under an SNP government on the defensive, it’s a high risk strategy. Support for Indyref2  would first exploit resentment that the UK government has given no weight to the  big Remain majority in Scotland and will ignore  the Scottish Parliament’s  refusal to give consent to a Withdrawal Bill   that would fail to devolve powers over agriculture and fishing  …

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“Look, this Carthage obsession of yours. For Jupiter’s sake, let it go, man!”

With the Scottish First Minister, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, backing down, for now, from her previous strident position on indyref2 the BBC’s Scotland editor, Brian Taylor, detects the “scunner factor” at work. Voters in Scotland have thrilled to seven electoral tests in three years. They are already anxious over the uncertainty attendant upon Brexit. Are they ready for yet more eager talk from the SNP and the Scottish Government about the prospect of indyref2? Nicola Sturgeon has concluded that they …

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Tory momentum won’t sweep away call for IndyRef2

The results are in and the Local Government outcomes in Scotland, Wales and (much of) England are no great surprise. Beyond Hadrian’s Wall Labour lost their majority on Glasgow City Council after nearly 40 years dominance. Well over 100 Scottish council seats turned Conservative blue, the majority of which were previously rose-red. There are two competing Indyref2 narratives in Scotland at the moment. One that the Tory revival is somehow a defeat for the SNP and their call for a …

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Theresa May’s local victories are good for the Union cause but give no comfort to special status fans

  A note of caution is needed about  talk of a Tory landslide on 8 June. Although UKIP was obliterated in the GB local elections,  Labour might have done even worse. Michael Thrasher’s projections of the local results to the general election “ for a bit of fun” on Sky News   works out a majority of  48 seats, up a respectable 36 but well short of a landslide and barely worth  the trouble of calling a snap election. John Curtice, election …

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What does May running up the Union Jack mean for Northern Ireland as well as Scotland?

Theresa May has spoken out very directly  to reject Nicola Sturgeon’s demand to be allowed  to hold Indyref2   in emotional British patriotic language which marks it out starkly from the language of Scottish nationalism.   “Our Party believes heart and soul in our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The union is more than just a constitutional artefact.  It is a union between all of our citizens, whoever we are and wherever we’re from. So our plan for …

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The Supreme Court rules that devolved assembly consent is not legally required for Brexit. But the political battle is only just beginning

. So  the Westminster Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50 – but on what exactly and how often until Brexit is achieved?  The battle has only just begun. It’s  bad news for nationalists everywhere.  The Court ruled that the consent of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly is not legally required.  The argument put forward by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and in the courts by Raymond McCord that under the GFA the …

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SNP pressure to stay in the single market boosts the UK case. Why not champion these ideas for Northern Ireland?

Nicola Sturgeon herself admits there are challenges in the SNP’s proposals to keep Scotland within the single market if the rest of the UK is without. The generous view of the paper Scotland’s Place in Europe is that at least it sets out a position, which is more than the than the UK government has done so far. Witness Theresa May’s stonewalling performance before the Commons Liaison Committee yesterday and the Guardian’s sketch of it. Furthermore the Scottish case could …

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So the DUP are leaving it all up to Theresa May to sort out our Brexit deal are they?

At last!  Only two months later, a reply from Theresa May to the joint concerns of FM and DFM on the impact of Brexit. Searching for detail in the Nolan “scoop” I can only find this on the BBC website. In her letter, Mrs May says the future of the border is “an important priority for the UK as a whole.” She also says she recognises the “unique issues” raised by the Single Electricity Market and that resolving these will …

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The Irish Times and the Guardian combine to ramp up pressure on May and in support of the “all-island Civic Dialogue”

“At this delicate moment, the Guardian and the Irish Times are collaborating on a week-long series exploring the predicament facing Ireland and the UK. Kenny told the Irish Times that he would summon all political players to an unprecedented All Island Civic Dialogue on 2 November. “ In support of the Guardian’s announcement the Irish Times has published a gloomy analysis of the effects of Brexit on both countries. The rough guide is that every 1 per cut in UK growth …

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Theresa May is risking the future of the British Union if she fails to recognise that Westminster is no longer “in control”

Scottish nationalism is on the defensive for the first time in over a decade. On the other hand, English nationalism could give it second wind if it thinks it can a score an easy victory without acknowledging its enduring power.  At this juncture, it’s  true that one  early outcome of the Brexit confusion leaning towards a hard Brexit is that Nicola Sturgeon’s calculations have become more complicated. On the eve of the SNP annual conference former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill …

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