Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Scotland – Post Mortem

Scotland was exceptionally dull on Election Day, whereas in England we saw massive and unusual swings, and a massive number of seats changing hands, in Scotland not a single seat changed hands. Part of this is down to the regional vote, which splits as follows.


2005 Percentage

2010 Percentage


Seats (Both 2005 and 2010)











Lib Dems










As you can see, the Labour Party actually gained the most of the four parties. The SNP gained, but not by as much as Labour, the Liberal Democrats actually lost a good portion of their vote, and the Conservatives gained a measly 0.9% from an already low base.

I predicted 8 seats to change hands in Scotland, 1 to Labour, 2 to the SNP, 4 to the Lib Dems and 1 to the Conservatives.

I think the main thing that went wrong in Scotland was that Scottish issues proved more important to the Scottish than local ones. I actually expected one or two Scottish seats to completely surprise me with massive swings seemingly out of nowhere. A large number of Scottish seats are held by people with dodgy expenses. The extremely safe nature of a lot of Scottish seats reinforces the view in some Scottish MPs that they cannot possibly lose. This feeling of security, to my mind, led several MPs to feel they could get away with large or inappropriate expenses. Livingstone was one seat where I was actually expecting this to happen due to the arrest of former MP Jim Devine on charges of fraud. In the end the SNP gained a swing of 3.5%, a fair amount above the Scottish swing, but still not very close to the 14.8% they would have needed to win the seat. My feeling was that the previous vote had been partially a result of a high personal vote for former MP Robin Cook, and with the expenses situation, and SNP candidate Lis Bardell, who appeared to be running a strong and visceral campaign, looked likely to do well. On the opposite end of the spectrum were Edinburgh North and Leith, Edinburgh South, and Ochil and South Perthshire. All three of these seats required low swings to be taken by the Lib Dems, or the SNP in the latter case (2.5%, 0.5% and 0.8%). The 3 MPs in these seats were no doubt aided by their healthy expenses, (though Mark Lazarowicz made himself look worse than he actually was on expenses, it appears that the people of Edinburgh North and Leith saw through his foot in mouth syndrome). I had expected the SNP and Liberal Democrats to win these seats despite the regional swing, by focusing in activists and resources on the seats in question, a typical tactic. I suspect that they did do this, but it was simply not enough.

In 2005 Labour had several big issues in Scotland. The War in Iraq had been very unpopular in Scotland as were issues like the council tax, which played into the hands of the Liberal Democrats. What's more in 2005 Labour was led by a fairly posh Englishman (albeit one who was born and schooled in Scotland), while the Liberal Democrats were led by Charles Kennedy (these things count for a lot in Scotland). In 2010 the Liberal Democrats were led by Nick Clegg, whereas the Labour Party was led by a Scotsman, Gordon Brown. Brown is much more popular in Scotland than in England, and attacks on him by the English just seem to rally the Scottish around him, and the Liberal Democrats had little distinctive to offer the Scottish electorate this time round.

Yet, why not vote SNP? Well, the SNP vote did rise, but there are several reasons why the Scottish may not want to vote SNP. Firstly there is the traditional view that there is no point in voting nationalist because they cannot form the government. Secondly, there may be a case that disappointment with Alex Salmond's Scottish Executive may have fed through into this election. The SNP's campaign also centred on 'More Nats, Less Cuts', the argument flowing that a large bloc of nationalist MPs in a hung parliament could negotiate protection from cuts to Scottish public services. I personally suspect that the Scottish general public took the view that if they wanted to stop cuts to Scottish public services the Labour Party was a safer bet.

The Conservative result in Scotland has to make pretty sore reading for the party leadership. A gain of 0.9% in an election in which they desired to make a breakthrough. Now in government the Scottish Conservative Party must have concerns about next year's Scottish parliamentary elections and the security of David Mundell's single Scottish constituency. There are grumblings within the Conservative Party about the quality of the Scottish Conservative leadership and the way the affiliate operates, with some arguing that there are too many chiefs. Certainly, I suspect, the Conservative Party's Scottish section will come in for a large amount of evaluation in the coming years. Britain-Votes will keep you up to date if any plans come to light.


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