CIPFA Scotland: independence referendum ‘prompted political shift’

10 Apr 15

The independence referendum has reframed the way Scots approach elections, and looks likely to deliver sweeping gains for the Scottish National Party at the May 7 general election, top political analyst Professor John Curtice told the CIPFA Scotland conference.

Curtice, politics professor at Strathclyde University, said that a close analysis of polling data showed that while most Scots favoured the idea of extra powers for Holyrood, they were uneasy about many of the potential consequences, such as differential cross-border tax or pension rates. Yet that ambiguity seemed not to be reflected in voting intentions for the general election, where the polls showed the SNP consistently commanding around 45% of the vote.

If translated into elections gains, this could hoist their current tally of six Westminster seats to as high as 48 of Scotland’s 59 MPs. In the past, he said, Scots had voted in Holyrood elections for the interests of Scotland, and in Westminster elections for their choice of UK Prime Minister, thereby delivering a solid win for Labour in Scotland in 2010 against the UK trend. But two years spent debating Scotland’s future had persuaded many more to base their Westminster vote on the constitutional question.

Many traditional Labour voters, he said, no longer felt they knew what the party stood for and thought the SNP to be more Left-wing than Labour. ‘For many people in Scotland, this is not an election about who should rule Britain,’ Curtice said. ‘It is another way for people to decide what’s best for Scotland.’ But he also wondered whether the SNP might have made ‘overplayed its hand’ in former leader Alex Salmond’s threat to vote down a minority Conservative government. This, Curtice suggested, could undermine their bargaining power in any post-election negotiations with Labour.

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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