What does the general election tell us about the union?

Well, that didn’t quite turned out as planned, did it?

It certainly didn’t turn out as planned for Theresa May and the Conservative government and no matter how you spin it (more of that word later) they are a much weakened party at the UK level.

When I wrote Thank you, SNP a few days ago – for confirming that I needed to vote tactically – I included this table with the 2017 data missing and I can now complete it:

* Holyrood 2016 (1) % Votes = percentage of first preference votes (2) N/A = Not applicable because system of allocating seats is not comparable

All the pro-union parties gained seats from their one-a-piece to:

  • Conservatives – 13
  • Labour – 7
  • Liberal Democrats – 4.

So once again Scotland goes against the trend in England and Wales.

With polls until the last minute suggesting the SNP might lose 6-9 seats and the unionist twitterati hardly daring to hope the SNP vote share might fall below 40%, this is as stunning a result as the SNP’ almost wiping the board with 56 out of 59 seats a mere two years ago. Along with everything else it tells us, politics in Scotland may be reverting to a more traditional (for Scotland) pattern.

Just look at that trend in the three years running we’ve now had a major election – SNP share of the vote down consistently from 50% to 47% and now 37%; number of Westminster seats down from 56 to 35. And, although as the footnote to the table explains a Holyrood comparison of seats is not possible, they’re now running a minority administration there.

The SNP spin seems to be ‘We won the election’, on the basis that they got a majority of seats. Humza Yousaf, sent down to London to do the media rounds last night, was certainly claiming that, to which there are a number of responses, some of them printable. There also seems to be an implication that gaining a majority of seats means a mandate for another separation referendum. This is palpable nonsense.

I’ve not been alone in voicing an opinion that we have been past ‘peak SNP’ since the last general election in 2015. Throw in two other sources of information and it looks as if support for separation is weakening all the time.

First, a recent YouGov survey (usual caveats about single polls) showed that only 43% of respondents now thought Scotland should be an independent country, compared with 57% who didn’t. Second, and more significantly, the longer term polling trend kept up to date on the rwbblog confirms that result is not an ‘outlier’:

It’s all a long way from the 60% running average Nicola Sturgeon used to say she needed before having the confidence to seek another referendum.

Meantime, all those fantasies of being the power-broker at Westminster in a ‘progressive alliance’ seem so much dust. The parliamentary arithmetic doesn’t support the idea, and it always rested on the two-faced policy of ‘Crush Labour in Scotland, Support them in England.’ With a significant Labour revival across the UK and in their old central belt heartland, why should they bother making concessions to their SNP rivals?

With a hung parliament while Brexit is supposed to be negotiated and the possibility of another general election in the not too distant future [collective Scottish groan] we are in for interesting times but not for another Scottish referendum in the foreseeable future.

Footnote. It was good to see some SNP big beasts together with some frankly unpleasant characters lose their Westminster seats. Maybe that’s a blog for another time although hopefully they can all now fade away as yesterday’s men and women. Twenty one down and thirty five to go (I’m an optimist!).

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2 Responses to What does the general election tell us about the union?

  1. Sam Duncan says:

    Yesterday, all Alec’s troubles seemed so far away…

    Heheh. I’m actually tempted to knock up a “Yesterday” meme in the style of the “Yes” logo. Because that has to be the line from now on: it’s over, guys. You’re still in power, you’re still the big cheeses, but we don’t want any more talk of independence. Get over it.

    Anyway, whatever you think of his party, and whatever else a hung parliament brings us, I tend to agree with DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds: it was a good night for the Union.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Albert says:

    In order to encourage business to Scotland we need IndyRef ruled out for, not 4 years, but 20 or thirty years. Once in a generation

    Liked by 1 person

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