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……



11 Responses to Idle speculation on what might come after the First Scottish General Election in 2021
  1. I like the idea of direct democracy where possible. This Swiss manage it , so why can’t we? I just don’t see how it can be bad to ask people what they think about things – surely that’s a democratic principle which should be championed? It would be especially important in the early years when a constitution is being drawn up – this is something that should involve all citizens as far as is possible.

    I agree with the poster above who mentions that there will be some sort of Tory party. Basically, business types are a sector of society and someone will spring up represent their interests (as part of the business v workers political ‘cleavage’….though part of the issue in this country at present is that the media seems so willing to try and ensure that no party tries to represent the worker side of that, lest they be savaged). Might make sense for them to stop calling themselves Tories though…negative connotations and all that.

    Personally, I could see myself as a Green though very much an SNP supporter at the moment.

    One thing that I find the idea of exciting (and apologies because this isn’t really something you mentioned) is the idea of putting better infrastructure and transport links into the north and south-west of our country. This would encourage more people to see these places. It would have to be done sensitively so as not to take away from the landscape. But the benefits could be great for people in those parts; they deserve better services and I think it would do much good to show people that we see that not only the Central Belt matters (and I am someone from there).

    I’m assuming that those in the know would have some kind of plan about the things I mention above but I just feel it stands to reason we need to look after all parts of our country when we have all the levers to do so, especially parts which were emptied once and could be abuzz with new people and amenities.

    There’s plenty we could do!

    Anyway, great read, Eric. And I’m really sorry for the slight diatribe at the end!

  2. And get rid of the ‘Royal’ family too. That’ll be a start on helping to make our land ownership policies modern and fair.

  3. Whilst today’s local election results show the SNP vote somewhat holding up; it is giving me some cause for concern regarding indyref2.

    Firstly, I think the fact that by and large independence supporters have no real home in elections other than the SNP means Unionists are likely to make gains under the single-transferrable-vote.

    For example, the Green Party polls within a couple of points of Labour nationally but fields far fewer candidates in elections: this is convenient under FPTP as the SNP are the only pro-indy party capable of winning under that format; but in local elections it will give a poorer reflection of the pro-indy vote. Unionists have three choices of party to choose from in these elections and have more leeway when it comes to voting tactically.

    It may have been better for the Yes movement had the SNP formally included the Greens as members of the Scottish Government: perhaps giving them the Cabinet posts for Environment etc. It would show that Yes is larger than just the SNP: make no mistake although Sturgeon has broader appeal than Salmond the Unionists will likely personalise a referendum as one on the SNP.

    I am not a confident Yes supporter at the moment. What does give me hope though is that our campaign gained massively from the beginning of the last referendum to the end of it.

    Secondly the next No campaign will be led by a Conservative surely? Can Labour lead a campaign when it has finished behind the Tories in three consecutive elections? The spokespeople for the No campaign will therefore be unable to pass off legislation such as the rape-clause as not of their own making; the last time out for example senior Labour figures could disown policy such as the Bedroom Tax as they were not in Government.

    The Yes campaign cannot be dominated by the SNP though. If we are to win then we need to start a cross-party alliance that starts work today.

    I apologise for going somewhat off the subject matter.

  4. Your analysis seems reasonable to me. I think some kind of Tory party is inevitable, though there would be a significant existential crisis to get through first. Labour, also, will recover after a similar crisis, though it may end up as a totally different party under the same name.

    I think the Lib Dems would go, though. They are a relic of UK political history with no real meaning in Scotland. Other small parties will come up to occupy their centre left ground, or else some sort of SNP will persist in that niche.

    Personally, I’ll vote SNP for the first few years to get things off the ground, then examine my options. I might go Green, or if Labour has remembered what they’re there for and recovered their commitments to trade unions, worker’s rights and nationalised services, I might lend them my vote.

    So many bright possibilities! But we’re very much still in the woods just now.

  5. good analysis …. and broadly along the lines of my own thinking.
    Most importantly we start with a clean sheet of paper …… we dump the Westminster “Traditions” (read out-of-date crap) and have a modern Democracy, in which the elected Representatives serve the Constituents who elected them in a chamber where proper protocol & decorum is both observed and respected …… so no more Westminster “playground” ya-boo rubbish is observed….. a Parliament for the 21st Centaury. Now, that’s the new Scotland I’d like to see !!

  6. If we’re setting a second chamber up, forget about elections or appointees. I would like to suggest sortition(similar to jury service). It puts people directly at the heart of democracy. Obviously some balance would need to be determined between it and the elected chamber, but I envision the elected chamber providing the government ministers and party-driven policies with the sortition chamber providing oversight, scrutiny and perspectives from all walks of life.

    As for the current political party brands, I would like to see most of them gone and replaced by new ones. The Tories and Liberals are 19th century parties, Labour is a 20th century one. All of them should be utterly irrelevant for what we face in the 21st century. The SNP should become irrelevant too, but may retain a large following.

    Forget about the Labour brand. I’m sorry, but it wasn’t just toxified – it was completely irradiated. Start thinking about something new and inspirational, rather than trying to replay the 20th century’s tired old hits.

  7. The SNP will not just survive, they will prosper. Many Scots vote for the SNP not for independence but because they are competent, have good policies and put the people first.

    None of the other parties, and I include our friends the Greens, have practical policies which command the support of the people.

    The SNP under Nicola will lead an independent Scotland for a good few years. The others are currently incompetent and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  8. This interests me as a natural Green, but SNP member.

    I would abhor the return of the same labels – Labour/Tory … and the little ones. The SNP would of course run a 1st term to stabilise things, but with lots happening thereafter – I suspect hanging together would be necessary.

    A 2nd chamber. I would prefer it to be elected, on a 10 year basis. A ‘basic’ wage and a remit to carry through long term policy as well as holding the lower house to account. Eligibility for 2nd chamber should be based on some kind of mix of skillsets – legal, academic, social, etc. Nebulous I know. Cronyism .. stinks.

    How would Scotland react? Labour done – forget them. Tories .. let the sad unionists have them. The rest – work as a cohesive group pushing for policies that matter. One lef, one center, one right. A serious Green presence and a serious social presence is all I hope for.

    Add in requirements for media, for constitutional openness at elected level …

    Can’t wait!

  9. This has long been my pitch to ultra-unionists who would love to see nothing more than the death of the SNP; vote for independence then!

    The SNP as-is can’t possibly survive after independence, for much the reasons you’ve set out.

    They’ve successfully re-positioned themselves in the centre ground in most aspects and while this is good for attracting wide support, I suspect the ingrained left/right tendency will resurface once Scotland is independent and a resurgent Labour (or Labour replacement party of the left) will take the mantle for many left-leaning Scots. Maybe not immediately, but at some point.

    I suspect a lot of the bickering and narrow self-interest that is surely buried within the SNP, as it is in any large organisation, is being wholly suppressed as all eyes are on the greater prize.

    In fact, I’d go further and urge Nicola Sturgeon to offer the hardcore unionists who pine for a time where the SNP was at best an irrelevance and give them exactly what they want. Promise to disband the SNP following independence and allow new parties, allegiances and pacts to form naturally. In a cameral setup similar to the existing Holyrood there’s no reason why this couldn’t work well, and be politically healthier than a single dominant party in the longer term.

    Wonder how many unionists would vote for that, given it’s all they seem to clamour for?

    • I think the SNP have to run at the beginning of an independent Scotland, for stability if nothing else. Experienced hand on the tiller while the inevitable new parties and allegiances get their act together.

  10. I agree with the plebiscite idea as a means of greater engagement for voters with governance, along with compulsory voting.
    We are a relatively small country and will not need an over burdensome governmental structure so asking the people to decide on major issues on a regular basis covers both aspects.
    However,we will need to address the problem England and by extension Scotland currently has with the media.
    The press is not “free” and referendums are bought and sold by the press barons and their very low friends in high places.
    Restrictions on ownership will have to be put in place so that people can get a balanced commentary on the issues of the day,not the present one sided,right wing view of the world as expressed by HM press.
    We can learn much from the Scandinavian countries about what might work and we know much from England about what doesn’t so should be able to come up with structures and processes which suit our polity.
    Thanks Eric.


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