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Scottish Elections 2007: An SNP-Tory Coalition? 1 April 2007

Posted by David in Polls.

It’s just five weeks until the Scottish elections, where the Nationalists look set to reach a historic victory. According to the YouGov poll for the Telegraph, the 129 seats will be divided up as follows: SNP 46, LAB 39, LIB 18, CON 18, GRN 5, OTH 3.

The SNP’s support is not however built on support for Scottish independence. Only 28% support independence, including only 65% of SNP voters, while 51% are unionists who oppose independence. This has lead to a cautious approach by the SNP. Once they promised a referendum within 100 days, now it’s within the 4 year term. As the Telegraph reports, the Nationalists have gone all-out to court Middle Scotland, hammering home the message that a vote for the SNP in May will not bring about Scottish independence. Not immediately, at least: there will be a referendum on independence in the first four-year term of a Nationalist administration, probably in year three.

Mr Salmond’s calculation is that by then an SNP government would still be popular and respected, and would also have a track record on which to campaign. “Basically, we can say to people: ‘Look what we’ve achieved with the powers we have, imagine what we could do with more’,” said a source close to the SNP leader.

But this is the key to saving the union: “look what we’ve achieved, imagine what we could do with more”. The public will see the damage the SNP and thus independence will do, and support will fall. The SNP is only popular because they are the only real alternative to Labour, and Scotland is a Labour country that has been abandoned by Labour. As such the other parties must hold their nose and allow either a minority SNP Executive, or – the better option – an SNP lead coalition (this way they cannot blame failings on not having a majority).

It’s not without risk. The SNP may be successful. Or the SNP may cause endless disputes and friction with Westminster in order to boost support for independence. As such any coalition partner, and the Westminster government, must be careful and be seen to be trying to make it work – basically the SNP have got to be seen as the trouble makers, not everyone else, if they take the friction causing root. Currently Labour’s endless scares and smears aren’t helping. Any coalition partner must also have veto on when the referendum is held, to stop the SNP choosing to hold it during a short-term swing in public opinion.

My prediction is the SNP to be the main party with 50 seats, Labour on 32, Conservatives on 20 (there must be some Cameron boost?), Lib Dems on 18, Greens on 6 and Others on 3. With 65 needed for a majority, I see an SNP-CON coalition quite likely. The Lib Dems will be too afraid of the damage being associated with the independence referendum will do, they’re already seen as being very Scottish orientated (and it would be impossible with a Scottish leader really – Ming would be fatally undermined). The same applies for Labour.

The Conservatives however will be desperate for power and to rebuild support in Scotland ahead of the next Westminster general election, and this is the only way to do it fast. They have a problem with being seen as un-Scottish in Scotland, and what better way to boost their Scottish credentials than by governing with the Scottish Nationalists? As known strong unionistsit won’t affect them in England and Wales (and anyway, if Paisley’s DUP and Sinn Fein can go into coalition, why not SNP-CON?), it would be a great propaganda coup (to oust Labour in its Scottish heartlands), and it’s also the way to “stack the dice” against the referendum going in favour of independence.



1. crushed by Ingsoc - 1 April 2007

Sticking with my original estimate on this. Lbour are too entrenchedi the heartlands for the results to end up fully proportional. I think they may be behind Labour in termsof popular vote, but ahead in trms of seats.
The only likely I outcome I can realistically see is an SNP/LD/Green coalition.
Bearing in mind that Salmond has said referndum in the nect four years, thhat means AFTER Cameron has won south of the border, increasing the likelihhod of a yes vote north of it.

2. The Bicycling Chameleon - 1 April 2007

“AFTER Cameron has won south of the border, increasing the likelihhod of a yes vote north of it”
I don’t know. Generally I’d agree, but if Cameron say, brought back fishing policy from the EU (a policy he abandoned but which may be back given his recent EU speech), cut taxes on small businesses (already policy to undo Brown’s tax grab), and supported the family more, he may begin to get back the ‘socially conservative’ voters back North of the border who were lost during the seemingly more libertarian Thatcherism. As long as a Conservative government worked co-operatively with the devolved bodies, I don’t think it will make much difference.

3. crushed by Ingsoc - 1 April 2007

Except a Yes vote north of the border serves Cameron’s intersts too.
Bye-bye to 58 non-Tory MPs

4. The Bicycling Chameleon - 1 April 2007

I think allowing the break up of the union would destroy any PM, especially a Conservative one. And anyway, he’d need a passport to go shooting in the Highlands!

5. crushed by Ingsoc - 2 April 2007

I don’t know. I think voters south of the border are now fairly reconciled to the break-up of the Union. The unpopularity of a subsided Scotland which can veto English legislation without the favour being returned may mean Cameron is happy to cut a deal, especially if he is say, 12 seats short an absolute majority and is reying o the LDs to prop him up.

6. Socrates - 5 April 2007

Support for independence is higher than 27%. I know Unionists like to console themselves with the fact the independence has slipped, but I’m sorry, it just simply hasn’t. 99% of polls done over the last ten years that ask the straight question – independence v union, show more people in favour of a break up than against it. The Times poll wasn’t the straight question that will be asked in any referendum on the subject.

As for an SNP/Tory coaliton. It is a non starter. It is an SNP policy (it may even be in their constitution) not to go into coalition with the Tories – they only party they have resolved NOT to do any deals with. They haven’t meted out the same treatment to Labour – who in Scotland are their visceral opponents.

As for 20 seats – not in a month of Sunday’s. They’ll be lucky to hold 18, most of the recent polls have dropped them 3, to 15, hardly a stunning endorsement. There has been a Cameron effect in Scotland. The effect that, without him the Tory vote would probably have crashed and burned by now. He’s just managed to stave the decline. For David Cameron, he may seem like a nice chap, but he is Tory – and that, in Scotland, is his problem.

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