Independent Scotland Would Give Conservatives Majority

Scottish secession would be a win-win for Prime Minister David Cameron’s party.

The St Andrew's Cross flag flies from the top of St John's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, February 4
The St Andrew’s Cross flag flies from the top of St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, February 4 (Fraser Mummery)

Since the announcement that a referendum on the future of Scotland will be held at some point in 2014 — also the centenary of the beginning of World War I, a ploy to remind the nation of what a United Kingdom can achieve? — there has been much discussion about whether the region’s secession would leave the Conservative Party with a permanent majority in Parliament.

Scottish independence seems a win-win for Conservatives. If a majority of Scots votes against secession, the union is saved. If Scots vote in favor, the Tories win a huge advantage over Labour. While Ed Miliband’s party would be stripped of 41 seats in Parliament, David Cameron’s would lose just one.

Indeed, some wry observers have pointed out that there are now more great pandas in Scotland than Conservative parliamentarians. But it’s doubtful whether the region’s secession would imply permanent right-wing government in Westminster.

In 1997, 2001 and 2005, even without the Scottish constituencies, Labour would have won majorities under Tony Blair. But in 2010, when Labour was led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, without the Scottish votes, there would not have been a hung parliament rather a Conservative majority of nineteen. If Britain has more hung parliaments and coalition politics in the future and proposed boundary changes come into effect, depriving Labour of 28 seats, the left could struggle to win a majority again.

Labour would probably have to move to the right to appeal to centrist voters in England, Northern Ireland and Wales if Scotland secedes. Left-wing voters would be without a real choice as both major parties necessarily try to occupy the middle ground.

Comments

  • Scotland is not a “region”. Scotland is a nation. One might reasonably expect that somebody studying for their Master’s degree in Politics would have learned that before now.

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