If Labour want to win back Scotland, Ed Miliband will have to gamble

Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP are set to take almost every seat in Scotland, the only way for Labour to recover would be for Ed Miliband to take a gamble he’s not prepared to take.

The polls in Scotland make dim reading for Labour, the SNP show no sign of decline. A Labour resurgence seems less and less likely in Scotland.

If Ed Miliband wishes to win a majority he will need the seats in Scotland that Labour have so long taken for granted. Scottish Labour have been campaigning on the message that voting for the SNP is voting for David Cameron. Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour’s leader, has argued in the Daily Record “only a vote for Labour can stop five more years of Tory rule". But the Scottish electorate aren’t fooled by this, they know Ed Miliband will be willing to work with the SNP to get into power. Currently a vote for the SNP might stop Ed Miliband gaining a majority, but will not help David Cameron get back into power.

If Ed Miliband is serious about winning seats in Scotland, he must gamble and rule out any deal with the SNP. He would need to state that if necessary he’d rather allow a Conservative minority government than work with the SNP. According to The Times, some Scottish Labour MPs are already doing this on the doorstep, telling voters that they will not do any deal with the SNP. While Alistair Darling has today in the Telegraph urged Ed Miliband not to do a deal with the party who he says “sole aim” is to break up the UK. This could persuade many potential SNP voters that voting Labour would be the only way to stop another Conservative government. The message to the Scottish public would be clear - to get a Labour government, they must vote for Labour.

However, this strategy wouldn’t be without great risk to Miliband’s party. If this plan did not work, and the SNP went on to win around 50 seats, they would either have to stick to their promise and allow the Conservatives to take power, or break their promise and work with the SNP. Both of these scenarios would do even more damage to the Scottish Labour party.

If Ed Miliband does not gamble, then the major danger for the Labour Party is that voters in Scotland see an arrangement with the SNP as permanent. Many Scottish voters would see no reason not to vote for the SNP in all future general elections if Labour will always do a deal with them. Deals between Labour and the SNP in Westminster may become the norm rather than the exception, and this would be a disaster for Scottish Labour.