Friday, 8 May 2015

The Scottish Bloc

To outsiders, the electoral behaviour of Scots over the last year may seem puzzling. To reject independence in the referendum, but then colour the map SNP yellow just eight months later.

UK General election results, 2015 (source, BBC):


However it makes sense when you realise two things.

The first is the constitutional desire of the Scottish electorate has not changed - as much power as possible whilst still remaining in the UK. Polls before the referendum consistently showed it as the most popular option - but it was not offered in the referendum. Nor has it been offered in the general election, except as an SNP pledge. And it still seems to be the Scottish electorate's desire. Hence the logic of voting No in the referendum, and SNP in the General Election.

The second is that tactical voting in Scotland is not new. It is normal. Scots have voted tactically for decades, if not centuries, and down the ages the occasional commentator has sneered that the Scots don't do democracy, evinced by their historical habit of returning a phalanx of identical MPs. But being tied to a neighbour with numerically superior representation in Parliament, Scots have tended to vote en bloc as the only way of ensuring their voice was heard at all. For decades, Labour was seen as the best party to protect Scottish interests.  Before that, the Unionists, then Liberals and the Whigs. As far back as the 18th century, when parties were not quite so well formed and Henry Dundas had huge powers of patronage, the purpose of Scottish MPs and the tiny electorate was clear - to support the government of the day, in exchange for the best deal for themselves in the form of the government sinecures, pensions, and imperial positions distributed by Dundas.

Thus the SNP's blanket domination is just the latest, if most explicit expression of that understandable, age-old phenomenon - Scots trying to get the best deal for themselves from a parliament dominated by non-Scottish interests.

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