On May 5th, as the media hyped up an ‘alternative vote’ campaign that many people knew and cared little about, another, far more significant election was taking place. In Scotland, a Parliament was being elected.
In the last election, the Scottish National Party (not to be confused with their racist British counter-parts), running on a platform of pro-independence, won with a majority of one seat. This time round, they became the first party ever to win an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament – from within a voting system with two votes, one for your local MSP and one for a party, designed to prevent exactly that from happening – winning the required 65th seat in the Labour-stronghold of Kirkcaldy. Kirkcaldy was symbolic of a wider Labour collapse across the country, which saw them recording their worst election results in Scotland in 80 years. However, people will have a difficult time dismissing the SNP’s gains as “anti-Labour votes”, as attempted after their last election victory, as the Labour Party have not held the power to alienate people from since then. The implications of this landslide are clear; Scottish people are not afraid of the word “independence” any longer.
It is a sign of the arrogance of the English media that the Scottish elections have been so greatly ignored up until now, because their impact will be strongly felt. The SNP have promised to hold a referendum on independence, and have summarily won in a landslide. So, where would Scottish independence leave the so-called “United Kingdom”; England, Wales and the six counties of Northern Ireland isn’t such a Great British Empire, is it?
But independence is not the only motivation behind the election of the SNP. Unlike our government, the SNP have promised that tuition fees will never be introduced in Scotland, and that education will remain as an investment in the future made available to all young people. The SNP have frozen council tax for the last four years, and have promised to keep that freeze in place.
David Cameron was quick in his attempts to co-opt democracy, congratulating Alex Salmond on his “emphatic win”, but not pausing for breath before promising “to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre I have”. What Mr. Cameron seems to fail to recognise is that even every fibre in his body cannot suppress the will of a people.
Scotland’s first minister and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, (left), and deputy leader of the party, Nicola Sturgeon, at a press conference in Edinburgh yesterday. David Moir
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to fight moves to break up the United Kingdom after Alex Salmond’s Scottish nationalists claimed a historic victory in Edinburgh.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) yesterday won a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the first party to do so since devolution in 1999.
That result will allow Mr Salmond to call a referendum on ending the 304-year-old union between England and Scotland.
After arriving in Edinburgh by helicopter, Mr Salmond hailed his party’s “historic breakthrough” and declared: “Scotland wants to travel in hope and aim high.”
In an clear signal of intent, Mr Salmond said he planned to speak to Mr Cameron, “laying down markers as to what this result, this mandate, means for Scotland’s relationship with the United Kingdom”.
Mr Cameron said he would oppose any move to make Scotland independent.
“If they want to hold a referendum, I will campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre that I have,” Mr Cameron said.
Some of Mr Cameron’s advisers are now considering plans for him to travel to Scotland and make a major speech in defence of the union.
But one minister warned that Mr Cameron would have to go much further to combat the “formidable” Mr Salmond.
The source said: “You can’t just go to Scotland, make a speech and leave it at that.
“There has to be more engagement across the government with Scottish issues: we’re in for a long fight against Salmond.”
Mr Salmond has said a vote on independence would not be held before 2013, but some Conservatives want to “call his bluff” by pressuring him to call the referendum sooner, believing that would make a ‘No’ vote more likely.
The nationalists won 69 seats, an increase of 23 based on the re-drawing of some constituencies, to 37 for Labour, a drop of seven on that basis from 2007.
The Conservatives took 15 seats, the Liberal Democrats five and the Greens two, with one Independent, according to results after all votes were counted.
The Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999 by the then Labour government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a near 300-year hiatus following the formation of the UK in 1707.
The first two administrations were coalitions of Labour and the Liberal Democrats before Salmond’s minority government.
The legislature, with 73 electoral districts and 56 regional seats, has power over policy areas including education, health and justice, with foreign and defence policy plus broader economic matters controlled by ministers at Westminster in London.
A Scotland Bill currently going through the UK Parliament includes measures for Scotland to raise more of its own revenue and gain borrowing powers.