Planning policy is devolved to Scotland – voters are not going to the ballot box to vote about development, planning, or even bigger issues like health or education. These are all decided by the Scottish Parliament and Government, and not up for election until next year.
Previously this has never been an issue, given Scotland’s habit of returning substantial numbers of Labour MPs who vote according to UK-wide party policy. However since the Scottish referendum late last year the political dynamic north of the border has dramatically altered. Instead of Labour looking likely to secure its traditional forty to fifty MPs, polling suggests they may drop into single figures for the first time in modern history. And the benefactor of this slump in fortunes? The SNP.
What could an SNP surge mean?
An impossible task for Miliband?
We’ve already emailed you about Labour’s policies on development and planning. But with perhaps forty fewer MPs than normally expected, it will be very challenging for Labour to form a government and implement any of those ideas.
A smaller Commons?
In recent years the SNP have made political capital out of their policy not to vote on England-only issues in the House of Commons. This runs contrary to Labour’s view that MPs elected anywhere in the UK should be able to vote on any issue.
If the SNP secure a large bloc of MPs and choose to abstain on English issues, the House of Commons would become a much smaller place. That bloc of Scottish MPs, formerly controlled by the Labour Party, would cease to function as a political force when it came to votes on England-only issues like planning and development. The benefactors of this would undoubtedly be the Conservatives, who would have fewer Labour MPs to worry about.
However what if the SNP were to abandon their opposition to voting on England matters, as the price demanded for more devolution? Regardless, a large bloc of SNP MPs will lead to real questions over the legitimacy of decision making on England-only issues.
A kilted coalition?
So is it dark days ahead for the Labour Party? Reduced to a party of the urban north, Wales and London, never able to enter government again? Perhaps not. After all, whilst an SNP surge would make the parliamentary arithmetic tougher for Labour, SNP grandee Alex Salmond has ruled out any coalition with the Conservatives. Instead, the SNP message seems to be ‘Vote for us, we’ll stop the Tories’. And the only way to achieve that would be an alliance with Labour. Perhaps Mr Miliband has a chance after all!