‘Yes’ vote will mean problems for Labour

A Yes vote could lead to big problems for a UK Labour government, writes Andrew Whitaker

A Yes vote could mean problems for a future UK Labour Government. Picture: TSPL
A Yes vote could mean problems for a future UK Labour Government. Picture: TSPL

WITH the independence referendum just over a month away, the UK 2015 General Election is something that’s not widely discussed by commentators in Scotland.

But it’s worth looking at how a Yes vote on 18 September could see the General Election deliver the most confusing, uncertain and unstable result of any Westminster electoral contest in post-war British history.

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To begin with Scotland would still return MPs to Westminster in 2015 in the event of a Yes vote, but under the SNP’s plans for Scotland to become independent in 2016 the 59 Scottish MPs would surely instantly lose their right to sit in the Commons.

An easily imaginable scenario – certainly if most opinion polls are to be believed – is that Ed Miliband narrowly wins next year’s election with Labour emerging as the biggest party in a hung parliament.

But in the event of a Yes vote and the loss of a large chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party – the party won 40 Scottish MPs in 2010 – Mr Miliband’s government could fall within a year of taking office.

A Yes vote on 18 September and a subsequent narrow Labour victory could create a situation where Mr Miliband’s government was a lame duck from day one, knowing that the loss the party’s Scottish contingent could deprive it of a Commons majority and mean the Tory-Lib Dem opposition could block its entire legislative programme.

Moreover, the uncertainty after the 2015 General Election, in the event of a Yes vote, could make the dramatic aftermath of the 2010 election – when no party won an overall majority and Gordon Brown remained in Downing Street for days after polling day, look mild.

It’s entirely possible that Ed Miliband would lose a fresh election held sometime after Scotland’s departure from the UK in 2016, even if it’s accepted that the number of Scottish MPs has not historically determined too many UK General Election outcomes.

Labour big hitters such as Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown – if he contests the 2015 General Election – would also lose their Scottish Commons seats overnight after a Yes vote – with the party in a major state of flux north and south of the Border.

As for the SNP, the Nationalists would probably get a post-Yes bounce in the 2015 election, and perhaps make modest gains. Given the likely prospect of a close election result, the SNP would certainly use its muscle at Westminster in close Commons votes to push for the most favourable terms for Scotland in a post-referendum deal with the remainder of the UK.