Oh Snap

What Does Another Election Mean for Scotland?

The SNP have got their script written already.

by Liam Turbet
18 April 2017, 2:19pm


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Nicola Sturgeon should be delighted. Just weeks after the Scottish First Minister caught everyone off guard with a surprise 11AM statement to the media of plans for a second independence referendum, Theresa May followed suit this morning with her own shock declaration of a snap General Election.

But Sturgeon is probably delighted for other reasons, too.

"In terms of Scotland, this is a huge political miscalculation by the Prime Minister," she said of this morning's announcement. For the SNP, their election campaign script has already been written: only they will "stand up for Scotland" in the face of a "right wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it".

Brexit is the raison d'etre of Theresa May's government, and she has already put it at the core of the case for a snap election. But Scotland, like Northern Ireland, didn't vote for Brexit, and both nations have been thrown into constitutional chaos by its consequences.

Every Scottish constituency voted to remain in the EU, and it follows that the SNP will be making resistance to a hard Brexit a central focus of their campaign. In 2015 they won all but three of Scotland's 59 Westminster seats; reaching those heights once again may be difficult, but they can still expect to win the vast majority.

Scotland already feels like it's in the midst of another independence referendum, largely thanks to the Scottish Tories who – you must understand – really hate referendums. With every council up for grabs on the 4th of May, the Tory strategy in recent weeks has been to keep screaming NO MORE REFERENDUMS into the void, in the hope that this will win them over a base unionist vote that dislikes the SNP more than it understands the decision-making powers of local councils. Scotland doesn't need another referendum that will just create more "uncertainty and division", cry the leaflets that they've been posting through every door (for an election that is entirely about bin collections and primary schools).


Clearly, the Scots Tories didn't get the memo from Theresa May. As of this morning, it turns out that another bitter election with the constitution at its centre is exactly what Britain needs, because only that can allow our government to get on with the important work of delivering the outcome of our last constitutional rammy. Once Brexit is out the way, we can then all come together and get on with building the "vicarage values" of Empire 2.0, as though May's intentional blurring of Englishness and Britishness is a deliberate attempt to alienate voters north of the border.

While England is explicitly being told to vote in June on how much of a Brexit government it wants – hard, soft, clean – the dimensions of the vote in Scotland will be very different. With Scottish Labour struggling and the Lib Dems being outpolled by the Greens, the Tories under Ruth Davidson will be hoping to make gains, with the council elections as a dry run for their single issue anti-independence campaign. The result will probably be a handful of rural seats, but it could still put a dent in Scotland's self-image as a nation of Tory-haters.

Whatever happens, though, the June election will see the SNP win a large majority of Scottish seats and see repeated calls for Theresa May – if she is still the PM – to respect the Scottish Parliament's vote for a second referendum. Her previous outright dismissal of negotiations for a new vote was enough to annoy even many devolutionists opposed to independence.

A high stakes game then ensues as May and Sturgeon try to outmanoeuvre each other based on their respective mandates, one mid-morning press conference after another. I'm not sure what May is expecting, but it seems like a long way off the "guaranteed certainty and stability for the years ahead" that she craves.

One day after the election results become clear, Scotland and England will then face each other in a World Cup qualifier in Glasgow, on Saturday the 10th of June. Usually a high point of cross border rivalry, it might pale in significance to the constitutional wrangling going on in the background that weekend.