Why Scottish Independence could cause a UK political earthquake

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September 3, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith


As the “Yes” campaign gathers what is beginning to look like inexorable momentum a possible political scenario is taking shape that could well happen if Scotland becomes independent. Labour will be more likely to win the next election in 2015 , and their government could last less than a year, and we will require another one in 2016.

Here is how it could work. If there is a “Yes” vote, David Cameron will come under considerable pressure. Even through he didn’t really have a choice about granting Scotland the independence referendum once the SNP had achieved their majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011, it will also be seen as him taking a risk and losing it. Whatever his achievements since 2010, David Cameron would be known as the Prime Minister that lost Scotland.

Ed Miliband will point this out and point out to how much traction Alex Salmond got by running through the Tory policies that he would repeal should Scotland get independence. Miliband is already likely to get a higher number of seats, due to the vagaries of our current election system and constituency boundaries, that mean that Labour could get a majority with 35% of the vote, and the Tories would need 40%. But he could, in the event of a “Yes” vote, achieve that majority (326 seats) and be able to form a government by himself as Prime Minister.

But that government would include 59 Scottish seats. As Alex Salmond constantly reminds us, only one of them is held by a Conservative, which means there are more pandas in Scotland that Tory MPs. So, many of those seats will be held by Labour MPs. Labour will be thus in charge of negotiating the best deal on independence, but also they will know that the minute Scotland’s Independence Day occurs, which the Scots would like in March 2016 but lets say it is September of that year instead, Labour would lose all of the seats they had in Scotland. This is likely to mean they would lose their majority, and possibly that they are no longer the party with the most seats either.

In that event, Labour would have to try and form a coalition with other parties, but the Conservatives would no doubt demand an election, arguing that Labour don’t have a mandate to govern the UK without Scotland. So we would almost definitely need to have another election. Given the strength of the Conservatives in England, they would probably win, although the warnings that Independence would push Labour out of power for a generation are probably apocryphal, as the issue of Europe is likely to cause a fracturing of UK politics anyway.

There is little doubt that Scottish independence will cause considerable upheaval. It will affect the UK economically, it will affect the UK militarily. But it is in the political arena where it could have the most profound effect.

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