Before moving on to look at the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, here are a few last thoughts on the Labour party. So far four MPs have announced that they will stand for the leadership of the Labour Party, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Chuka Umunna and Liz Kendall, there may be more to come. However what seems clear is that there is nothing new here. The media are already talking of a return to “Blairism”, reconnecting with “aspirational” voters etc; it’s about as interesting as a wet weekend in Saltcoats, lovely town though that is. All four are wedded to a failed Westminster system and none appear to possess that indefinable “leadership” quality which could carry the party forward especially in Scotland. I despair.
The fourth party in Holyrood and now fourth in Westminster the future looks bleak for the Liberal Democrats. In Scotland the electoral decimation of the so called big hitters and ministers in the coalition leaves them with just Alistair Carmichael as a lone MP from Scotland. Willie Rennie MSP, will continue to fight the good fight in Holyrood as leader, but until the Lib Dems find a replacement for Nick Clegg the party looks rudderless and will struggle to make an impact both north of the Border and in Westminster.
Once the natural party of protest, the Lib Dems are now inextricably linked to the Westminster establishment; an establishment which was comprehensively rejected by the Scottish electorate in 2015. Next year’s Holyrood election is the first and best chance for them to restore their reputation in the immediate future.
It is clear that part of the damage was inflicted by the first past the post voting system; however with the proportional representation elections in Scotland there is a chance that the Lib Dems could begin the fight back in Scotland. Their experienced, and in some cases well liked ex-MPs, could bring additional strength to the campaign in Scotland. I say some ex-MPs because I don’t think the Scottish electorate will be ready to forgive all of them, particularly Danny Alexander who seemed to go native upon entering the Treasury.
- On the policy front they could, with little effort, make more noise around federalism, a long held passion of the party, allowing them to campaign on increased powers for the Scottish Parliament and more responsibility for local authorities; getting power closer to the people.
- Climate change was one of their more progressive policy areas in the 2015 manifesto and they would find significant support for this and related rural issues such as transport and housing.
- A significant proportion of the so called “five green laws” proposed in the 2015 party manifesto could be implemented by the Scottish Parliament and could garner support from many voters.
- They also have much in common with the SNP when tackling childcare, voting for 17 and 18 year olds and wider reform of the electoral system.
Putting distance between themselves, Westminster and the coalition with the right people could provide the Liberal Democrats with a platform to build on.
Despite remaining the “also rans” of Scottish Politics the Tory’s Leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson was widely thought to have had a good campaign and limited the damage to the party’s vote to a drop of just 1.8%. This was a smaller drop in support than both the Lib Dems (-11.3%) and the Labour Party (-17.7%). They also held onto their one and only MP, David Mundell MP who is now the Secretary of State.
(From the BBC) Following the appointment, he(David Mundell) confirmed UK government plans to push ahead with the Smith Commission proposals. Dismissing the suggestion by party colleague Boris Johnson that a “federal offer” be made to Scotland, Mr Mundell said the current plans for further devolution to Scotland would be brought forward in the Queen’s Speech and would be a priority.
He said: “The government’s position is to bring forward the Smith Commission proposals. Those proposals will be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny and debate and I’m sure amendments will be made. I’m sure there will be discussion, that’s how our parliament works. I’m sure existing MPs and new MPs will play a full part in that discussion.”
Mr Mundell added: “Obviously if people bring forward amendments they will be looked at. We are not going to prejudge that.”
Judging by the 2015 election result this will be woefully inadequate and will do little to assuage the Scottish publics’ appetite for change. If, as there appears to be, a widening chasm between Scottish and English politics, then if the Conservative and Unionist Party wishes to build support in Scotland then they have the longest journey to make. Business as usual will not cut it.
- They could for example heed the advice of leadership contender, Murdo Fraser MSP who advocated a return to the pre 1965 position when the Unionist Party (Scotland) while associated with the Conservative Party in England and Wales had a separate constitution and could advocate different policies. Indeed in 1955 they held 36 of the then 71 seats with 50.1% of the vote.
- Building on Smith they could and perhaps should push for a greater degree of devolution, not just to Scotland but to other parts of the UK. This would build on the “Northern Powerhouse” proposals for Greater Manchester so shouldn’t be much of a stretch.
- The Barnett Formula remains a bone of contention. However rather than scrapping it completely they could look to replace it with a more open and transparent funding mechanism. Not just for the devolved regions as we have them at present but throughout government. We should, as citizens, be aware of how and where our money is spent free from “spin”. For example the vast DWP budget appears as a massive lump of cash and the narrative around it is skewed to make political capital. It’s all the fault of “immigrants” or the “work shy” paid for by “hard working families”. This bears little relation to reality. The spend needs to be laid bare for all to see.
- To improve their Scottish credentials clear and sensible thinking around Trident is also required. As I have said before even Michael Portillo, arch Thatcherite admits it is useless.
- A serious reconsideration of both electricity generation and the National Grids’ charging policy would also be worthwhile. It is simply bonkers that some generators are charged huge amounts to put power onto the grid while others are paid for the same.
The Tory party is not dead in Scotland merely moribund.