It’s election day. Everything that can be said about today’s council elections in advance of actually knowing the result has been said, surely?
So in this downtime, just for fun, I thought I’d speculate about a few things in respect of what might follow the first Scottish General Election.
With any luck we’ve had the last election for a devolved Scottish parliament. A sad, crushing Tory win in England, plus a resurgence of enough Tories in Scotland to remind everyone else how awful they are, seems likely to help ensure the next Scottish elections are those of an independent state. I guess the ‘new’ parliament will be about the same size although there might be some tweaks in the election mechanism. It seems likely now that there’ll be a referendum within a couple of years, so we might expect the first Scottish Prime Minister to take office by 2021? In between the two there’ll likely have to be a referendum to agree the the bare bones of a new Scottish constitution – how a parliament and machinery of state and justice will work, and so forth?
After an election we’ll need another referendum on whether to seek join the EU; we’ll most likely vote Yes to that, I think, but this will give independence supporters who don’t fancy the EU much to put their case to the people. And we might well have other referenda over time – after all, there’ll be big nation-founding decisions to be made. There’ll be deep and longer-lasting debates about how the new Scotland will be underpinnined philosophically, legally, constitutionally; and about what the new Scotland’s really aspires to be like. It’ll be an astonishingly exciting time with plenty of room for innovation. Then I imagine we’ll bottom it all out with another referendum. Indeed, maybe we’ll go for more direct democracy for good and have regular plebiscites like, say, California?
There’ll be an upper chamber, I guess, although there doesn’t need to be of course. But if there is, maybe a senate less than half the size of the lower chamber? Maybe senators will be elected as a proportion of the lower house vote; each serving two terms and half rotating at each general election? That way, there’d be a little bit of distance between the senators and their parties in terms of the daily thrust of politics, but the upper house would have a democratic legitimacy the nonsense at the House of Lords doesn’t. The idea of appointing unelected ‘great and good’ folk could be consigned to history if folk wanted that; I imagine most would. There wouldn’t be any need to pay senators a salary, I don’t think, although some kind of support allowance for folk on low incomes would be innovative? The parties would be sensible about who to nominate to the upper house; there isn’t movement from the UK’s Lords to the Commons at the moment, so with commonsense that wouldn’t happen in Scotland either. There’d need to be ministers the upper house, of course, so maybe some folk would be co-opted via the election mechanism and a few folk might move chambers into semiretirement occasionally, like they do at the moment.
I don’t doubt that the SNP will stick together and form the first government. Nicola Sturgeon will be the first Prime Minister of Scotland. Beyond that, though, there’ll be a bit of movement. The main body of the SNP will want to stay in the centre with a bit of a centre-left appeal; the Tories might eventually steal more folk from the SNP’s right, including some sitting SNP politicians perhaps. And if Labour can get it together enough to support independence, they’ll get a bit of a resurgence as some present SNP supporters demanding further left policies and not getting them from the SNP take refuge there. It’s easy to imagine SNP/Labour/Green coalitions versus Tory/Lib-Dem ones in the not-too-distant future. If Labour carries on with its ultra-unionism, though, or even just takes a neutral line, I imagine it’ll simply die and be replaced by a new party.
Contrary to popular belief, though, I think the easiest route to ground for post-independence politics of the left will be to save the Labour brand. It won’t be the present leadership which saves it, though. Ironically, their problem is manifest even now – they’re essentially in the same centrist space as the SNP leadership and wouldn’t be able to differentiate the Labour party enough to make it a viable concern. Oh, and they aren’t very good. So the Labour Party will go left under some of the capable, more frustrated and mainly younger MSPs of today plus a whole bunch of new people.
The main thing, of course, is that whatever happens, it’ll all be Made in Scotland.
It’d be super to hear your idle thoughts in reply to my idle speculation, if you have any……