The Scottish Problem

With the SNP looking set to win most of Scotland’s seats and vowing to ally with the Labour Party whether it wants them to or not, the fundamental flaw in the UK constitution is revealed: that a regionally-restricted minority will be able to dictate to the majority, whilst remaining immune to the legislation it will be voting on.

Some commentators, criticising John Major’s warnings about this possibility, have cited the fact that the Tories have been ‘propped up’ in a similar manner by Unionist parties in Northern Ireland. However, this is a fallacy: for a start, the Conservative and Unionist Party (the clue’s in the name) and the Unionists have often had a formal electoral alliance and, more pertinently, the major UK parties don’t stand in Ulster, meaning that alliances with ideologically-similar parties there are legitimate. In Scotland and Wales, the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all put forward candidates, meaning that a post-election Labour-SNP alliance is quite different to a coalition involving an Ulster party. Of course, there would appear to be a precedent in earlier coalitions, such as the Tory-Lib Dem coalition,, but the difference is that such coalitions involve national parties, that is parties that have stood for election in England, Scotland and Wales. But, the SNP is confined to Scotland, meaning that nobody in England or Wales would’ve had a chance to vote for them; worse, if Labour loses seats in Scotland to the SNP only to subsequently be propped up by the party, it is effectively creating a situation where they are in a win-win position that devalues democracy.

Now, if those areas of legislation which are devolved to the Scottish parliament were devolved to an English parliament, none of this would be a significant problem as the SNP could back Labour on UK-wide issues, whilst those issues would be free from their interference, just as their application in Scotland is free from the interference of English MPs. The ridiculousness of this situation is worsened when it is considered that, based on recent opinion polls, the SNP are likely to win a significant number of seats that will give them the balance of power in Westminster whilst gaining a smaller percentage of the UK-wide vote than UKIP, which is unlikely to win many seats due to the way its vote is spread out. This means that the SNP would be able to significantly influence specifically-English issues despite having no seats in England, whilst UKIP would have little influence despite carrying a substantial amount of the vote.

We saw a similar situation in the leaders debate when Plaid Cymru was invited to attend despite having a smaller percentage of the vote and number of seats than the DUP, who weren’t.

Of course, it would seem that SNP threats to meddle south of the border are intended to stir up English resentment in the hopes that England will do what the Scots wouldn’t, and break up the union

Devolving power to England – better yet, to the English regions – and the introduction of proportional representation would go a long way to resolving these issues and making government fairer. Instead, we are left with an election in which the English might as well stay home and let the Scots get on with deciding the future of the country, making a mockery of democracy. But, I wouldn’t expect things to change when the SNP stands to benefit so much from the situation. Unfortunately, there are no principles in politics.


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