Sturgeon’s leftward swing to woo Corbynites could help Scotland's Tories

Sturgeon - Scottish Human Rights innovation forum

Nicola Sturgeon’s new programme for government is a clear attempt to woo left-of-centre voters.

In the lead up to the snap election in Scotland, two things were set to happen: the Conservatives were to make historic gains and the SNP were set to lose ground. Not much thought was given to Labour’s prospects. In the end, the Tories did better than expected while the SNP suffered a serious setback. Most surprisingly, Labour went from one seat to seven, in a sign from the electorate that Jeremy Corbyn’s radical, optimistic message was cutting through to the Scottish public.

Sturgeon’s new strategy laid out this week is a naked attempt to stem the tide of left-of-centre SNP voters jumping ship to Corbyn’s Labour.

According to the BBC, the SNP Scottish government has 16 bills lined up, which it hopes to get passed in the 2017-2018 parliamentary session.

The Climate Change Bill is a nod to Scots who want a radical solution to tackling climate change. Her party’s plans to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2032 (rather than by 2040 as proposed recently by the Westminster government), as well as the proposal for low emission zones in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, is ambitious and could help the party win back Corbynites and convince Scottish Green voters to give the SNP one of their votes at the next Scottish parliamentary election.

During her speech, outlining the government’s plans for the coming year, the BBC reported that Sturgeon also announced that the government would end the 1% wage cap for public-sector workers, putting her at odds with London, and showing that the Holyrood government is not afraid to improve the wages of Scotland’s public-sector employees. On top of this, the FT has reported that she hinted at raising taxes north of the border.

This relaxing of austerity measures could help the party with winning back Labour voters, and while it may not be the primary objective of the move, it will almost certainly have been considered when discussing proposing such a bold agenda.

On top of this, in another move which will appeal Scotland's left, the Herald has reported that the government’s plans for the coming year also include researching the costs and benefits of a Scottish Universal Basic Income, which would be paid to all citizens of Scotland, regardless of income or wealth.

Analysis:

The SNP’s new programme for government is very ambitious. It aims to tackle climate change, end the public-sector pay cap, transform education, beat fuel poverty and introduce what has been described as a “soft” opt-out system for organ and tissue donations.

The shifts in stance on tax, pay and the environment will delight Scotland’s left, and could benefit the party when it comes to winning back 2015 SNP voters who opted for Jeremy Corbyn in June’s election.

However, the SNP is a broad church and has to maintain a difficult balancing act to appease its left, right and centre. The risk for Sturgeon is that this new programme wins back Corbynites, but results in lost support to Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives. If the SNP continue down this path and make a left-wing, radical pitch for the 2021 elections, Davidson could position herself as a sensible, centrist moderate and win over voters unsure about Sturgeon’s programme for government.