Scotland: a key battleground in the election

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The way Scotland votes could be decisive in determining the make up and shape of UK politics post-May. What’s been happening north of the border?

Unless something dramatic happens in Scotland it’s unlikely that the SNP will not emerge from the election as Scotland’s biggest players. And by dramatic I mean something overwhelmingly important that could persuade a determined electorate from rejecting the three main parties in Westminster.

Of course with just four weeks to go the polls could narrow and the SNP’s double digit lead over Labour could fall into single digits, but even then the SNP are still likely to come out as Scotland’s largest party.

What happens in Scotland could determine whether Labour or the Conservatives are the largest party in Westminster. Currently Labour have 41 seats, whilst the SNP have 6. If Labour lose a considerable number of their seats in Scotland then that could help the Conservatives become the largest party.

What else has been happening in the campaign in Scotland?

  • On Tuesday night Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, the SNP’s leader Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie and the Conservative’s Scottish leader Ruth Davidson debated on STV. On Wednesday night they all took part in another debate - on the BBC - with the addition of UKIP and the Greens. Both debates saw some big clashes between the party leaders and representatives.
  • Furthermore, the SNP have unveiled a Five Point Plan for fair work:
  1. “A National Minimum Wage of £8.70 by 2020.
  2. End to unfair and exploitative zero-hour contracts
  3. An end to Westminster austerity – delivering modest public spending increases to allow investment in jobs and economic growth.
  4. A target of 500 Living Wage employers in Scotland within the next twelve months.
  5. The devolution of jobs powers to Holyrood – including the prompt devolution of the Work Programme and Work Choice.”

Despite Labour and the SNP being rivals Labour have some similar policies Nicola Sturgeon's party. The party supports a minimum wage of £8.00 (not quite as high) per hour by 2020 and also supports the end of zero hour contracts. This indicates that there is room for the parties to cooperate if the election results in some sort of Labour-SNP deal.

  • YouGov’s recent poll (conducted between the 6th and 7th April) gave the following results: SNP: 43%. Labour 33%. Conservatives 12%. UKIP 6%. Lib Dems 4%. Greens 2%. The poll has a small sample size of just 145 respondents, but is in line with other polls showing that the SNP surge is unlikely to go away.
  • The New Statesman - who run election forecasting sight May 2015 - have made the case that despite many academics being cautious when estimating how many seats the SNP will get, the party will likely get over 50 (out of a total of 59). Whether this will actually happen on election day is yet to be seen.

What next?

Say the SNP completely dominates Scotland, then what happens after will depend on how the rest of the country votes. In the STV debate on Tuesday Nicola Sturgeon said her party would help put Ed Miliband into Downing Street to kick out the Conservatives. If Labour + the SNP = equals a majority then a minority Labour government backed up by the SNP in exchange for various deals looks likely. If the two parties fall short of a workable majority then it will all depend on how much support Labour can gather in the Commons - and of course how much support the Conservatives can gather as well.

The SNP will likely be key players post-May 2015, but their importance will ultimately depend on the arithmetic and the willingness of other parties.


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