Saturday, 22 November 2014

SNP plots have not been thought through

Predicting what happens next in British politics is becoming rather like predicting what happens next with the weather. Our system is designed to work best when there are two parties competing. It works less well with a major third party and when there are five or six parties competing it becomes chaotic. There may be some very odd results indeed at the next General Election. The Lib Dems may benefit from First past the post and gain more seats than their percentage of the vote deserves. The Conservatives may win more votes than Labour, but get fewer seats. UKIP may win over a fifth of the votes but end up getting less than five seats. The SNP on the other hand may win a far greater share of the seats in Scotland than their share of the vote deserves. 

Alternatively with the economy continuing to improve voters may reflect that the Lib/Con government hasn’t done such a bad job, which ought to benefit both parties, though it probably won't. Meanwhile Labour in Scotland and elsewhere will certainly benefit from a centre left charismatic leader in Jim Murphy who can attack the SNP at their weakest points. To have as your central policy something that has been decisively rejected by the Scottish people (independence) is a long term weakness, even if it is a short term strength. Furthermore, sensible people across Britain from all parties understand that we have to live within our means. We can’t continue to spend more than we earn. Hard choices must be made and ways to cut found. I’m sure Jim Murphy gets this, just as I’m sure "the 45" don’t. This is another strength that he can built on and a weakness he can exploit.

I keep hearing of SNP plots to overturn the result of the referendum. These are based on a number of scenarios. The first scenario is that the SNP hold the balance of power at the next election and make a deal with Labour. The deal would be that Labour would allow a second referendum on independence. This is possible of course, but it's hardly likely to help Labour’s fortunes in Scotland. If No voters think Labour would, contrary to the Edinburgh Agreement, allow a second referendum less than a year after the first, we will desert Labour in droves. It’s also unnecessary. Labour could form a minority government at Westminster or alternatively a grand coalition of Lib Lab and Con could decide to simply run the economy in the national interest and bypass the UKIP/SNP insurgency that way.  If Germany can have an SPD/CDU coalition of centre right and centre left why can't Britain? This would be better by far than being held to ransom by nationalists whether they are English (UKIP) or Scottish (SNP).

The second scenario, which is the one the SNP secretly hopes for, is that the Conservatives win the next election either by themselves or together with UKIP. The SNP narrative depends crucially on the wicked "Tory" enemy, posh and with an RP accent. Conservatives will be even more wicked if they make a pact with the Devil otherwise known as Nigel. The scenario goes this way: Either next summer, Farage’s plan, or in 2017, there will be a vote on the UK leaving the EU. Scotland will vote to remain in the EU, but the UK will vote to leave. This will lead to some sort of crisis which will end up with Scotland becoming independent.

I doubt very much that there will be a vote on leaving the EU in 2015. There will be no need for the Tories to make a deal with Farage, not unless he gets hugely more seats than he’s likely to. He can anyway quite easily be bypassed if necessary, in the same way as Lib Lab Con can bypass the SNP. I suspect however that at some point in the relatively near future there will be a vote on leaving the EU. It’s clear that a majority of people in the UK want one. I do too, though at present I'm still in favour of remaining in a reformed EU. But what would be the result of an in/out EU referendum? This is about as easy as predicting the next General Election. It must be about a fifty-fifty chance. But let’s imagine there were a vote to leave. Where would that leave Scotland?

Could Scotland have avoided joining the Common Market if we had voted No in 1975? Well actually Scotland was less supportive of staying in the Common Market than the UK average.  Indeed two parts of Scotland were the only parts of the UK to vote to leave. But it didn’t matter. We lived then in a single nation state called the UK and we still do. Just like every other nation state in the world, when votes are held nationwide everyone who is a democrat has to abide by the wishes of the majority. But of course there would be undemocratic nationalists in 2017 who would try to use the UK leaving the EU as grounds for Scottish secession.

How could they go about it? There are two ways. They could ask to be granted another referendum on Scottish independence by the UK government. There is no chance whatsoever of this under these circumstances. Alternatively Scotland could organise its own referendum. This would probably require another SNP majority in Holyrood. But even so such a referendum would obviously be illegal as constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster.

But would Scotland want to vote to the leave the UK if the UK voted to leave the EU? It just takes a little thought to realise that it would not, because it would be very stupid indeed to do so. What fundamentally is the EU? It’s a trading block. It’s other things as well, but its main purpose is economic. That’s the reason we joined in the first place. Scotland trades far more with the UK than with the other parts of the EU. To leave one trading block (UK) in order to remain in another (EU) with which you do far less trade is economically illiterate.  Moreover remember all the arguments about keeping the pound. It would be complicated enough for Scotland to continue to use the pound without political union with the UK, but it would obviously be impossible if the UK were not in the EU while Scotland was. Currency union while being in different trading blocks is clearly ludicrous. Besides no-one in the EU wants to encourage illegal secession, no-one in Nato also. It’s not even clear that Scotland, having declared UDI, would be recognised by countries like Spain. Sorry Yes friends that plan looks completely mad and unthought out. 

The Eurozone has become a depression/deflation machine. It may already be too late to get it off the rocks without breakup. The only thing that looks like bringing much needed inflation/growth to Italy is devaluation and that of course can only happen if it left the Euro. This would also mean default, but this looks like coming anyway. An alternative scenario that might just work is epic amounts of Quantitative Easing and Germany accepting that it must treat the whole of the Eurozone like it treated East Germany. There needs to be massive fiscal transfers from north to south and this needs to happen in the context of creating a new nation state called Europe. Neither scenario is likely to happen anytime soon, so we’ll continue for the time being with the depression/deflation machine.


These are the options facing Scottish nationalists in 2017 dissatisfied with the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The Eurozone at the moment is failing economically, but neither way of solving the problem can be palatable to independence supporters. Do you fancy the breakup of the Eurozone and probable breakup of the EU, or do you fancy being part of a nation state called Europe? Where's your independence under those circumstances? The UK, on the other hand, is one of the few world economies at present which is successful and recovering rather well. Would you really want to leave because you can’t stand the wicked “Tories”? 


If you like my writing, please follow the link to my book Scarlet on the Horizon. The first five chapters can be read as a preview.

14 comments:

  1. Not knowing much about politics but at least knowing enough that I want to be part of the UK, this makes interesting and comforting reading.

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  2. it has been entertaining watching firstly the Nats getting in a twist arguing to stay in a currency union and now getting all aerated about demending to stay in another union.

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    1. Its been entertaining watching the Unionists getting in a twist about Northern upstarts breaking away from a Union and now getting all aerated(sic) about demending(sic) to leave another Union.

      The second Union takes just 1% of GDP versus 100% take of the great British union..

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  3. Great article. The only thing I'd add to the article is that a UK exit from the EU with Scotland then voting for independence and EU entry (the SNP great hope) would lead to (a) passport and border controls between the UK and Scotland, (b) potential tariffs between the UK and Scotland and (c) Scotland being required to set up its own currency in advance of joining the Euro.

    In other words, I'd almost love to see the contortions of an SNP white paper that tried to sell that to an on-the-fence voter.

    Anyway, to Michael's point, it's also entertaining watching Nats getting in a twist in their declared express pathway to independence (UK EU exit leading to 2nd referendum) needing the conditions of a Conservative minority government with UKIP support. If they are so right about a UK EU exit being bad for Scotland (something I happen to agree with, because I believe it would be a disaster for the whole of the UK) why are they not fighting to make sure it doesn't happen? Could it be that they'd rather have a poorer, weaker Scotland that's independent, than a stronger, richer UK?

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  4. The points you make are clearly valid. Scotland's economic well-being obviously depends on being in a single market/trading block with the other parts of the UK. I have no idea how that issue will play out in next few years. But to risk being in the EU while rest of UK is out of EU is to risk catastrophe for Scotland. Once we understand that our future must be together with our partners of the last 300 years, then Scottish nationalism begins to look like a delusion founded on hatred of people who speak a different form of English than we do. We've seen in the last year what that sort of hatred did to those speaking Russian/Ukrainian. Pray that such nonsense does not spread here. It's quite close in my opinion.

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  5. A splendid article. The next GE is going to be fascinating with differing aspirations either side of the border. There is no doubt that in the north we have a large group of adherents to the Nats who have little or no realisation of what separation really means other than escaping from the hated English and Tories; the Brave Heart concept. In Scotland it has become a two horse race between Labour and SNP with other parties being little more than a side show but between them there is a sizable number with a potential to alter the votes of the majority. How the anti Nats could get together is the dilemma but to defeat the extreme dangers of Scots Nationalism has to be the prime object. I have never been a voter who has cast a vote just to get one party out by deserting the one to which I have real leanings. However here there may be reason for exception. NO parties must enter discussions on how to address the SNP removing them from the political landscape. The NO campaign revealed how well parties can indeed can act together for a common cause and this cause still exists.

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    1. Thanks David. Some very good point here well made. I'm hoping that in the next few months it will be possible for us to come up with a list of which party has the best chance of defeating the SNP in each seat. It's just not possible to do this yet as it will depend on how the campaign goes over the next few months. I am certainly going to vote for the party with the best chance of defeating the Nats where I live. It's just a question of figuring out which it is. In this way even if there is not a formal Better together group we can still act in the common UK interest.

      It's vital to emphasise to nationalists that their defeat was final. There is no legal way for them to become independent. Moreover becoming independent could under certain circumstances be disastrous for Scotland's economic well-being. When people realise that the SNP's central message is fundamentally impossible to bring about, support will gradually fall away.

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    2. Anti Nats getting together can only be Lab-Tory holy alliance....A gift to the SNP I suspect. The Tories are almost dead in Scotland anyway(1MP and maybe less in 2015). As a move this would kill off the last of the Labour machine. To quote that great Labour leader "Bwing it on"

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    3. Neither Lib or Con want a coalition with anyone else. They want to win outright. But a a left right coalition works in Germany without damaging either party involved. It's a pragmatic way of avoiding having to deal with minor parties and extremists

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    4. Its the first time its happened in Germany and its been a rocky ride so far with clashes on minimum wage and road tolls. I think its too early to say that it works.

      The Germanys have been used to continual consensus building through their PR voting mechanism. They know that a full on victory is unlikely. This is not the case in the UK.

      A coalition between Lab and Con would be the end for Labour and a gift to the SNP

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    5. If it comes to it Effie I think that both the Labour and Conservative parties would rather govern on a grace and favour basis no matter how impractical this would be than get into bed with either extremists of the right like UKIP or the Nationalists. It might temper their zeal for some policies as they would need to seek some sort of consensus.

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  6. That failing Euro is of course still 1.26 to 1GBP whereas it was 1.50 to 1.0 at inception.....If the Euro is dying what does that anemic situation say about the GBP....

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    1. The failure of the euro is not so much it's value as what it is doing to the economies of France, Spain, Italy and Greece. But any pound is expected to reach 15 year high against Euro and reach €1.54 to the pound by 2017. See e.g.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11243606/Goldman-Sachs-eyes-sterling-surge-to-15-year-highs-against-the-euro.html

      Of course speculating about currency rates in future is about as accurate as speculating about price of gold. But you get the idea

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    2. So based on your estimates it will get back to parity eventually 17 years after the Euro inception...if as you say your estimates are to be believed. If we exit the EU all bets are off.

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