Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why Holyrood will always be the SNP's focal point

A day or two too late, but I wanted to offer my brief thoughts on Malc's interesting post about why he feels the SNP's performance in Westminster elections still matters enormously to the party. Essentially he thinks that the SNP's strategy of achieving an independence referendum via the Scottish parliament might not work because of questions over legislative competence (I completely disagree) and parliamentary arithmetic in a PR system (I tend to disagree). But whatever the truth of these points, it's undeniable that holding power at Westminster is the one sure way to remove any doubt. Trouble is - the SNP can never win power at Westminster. The best they can hope for is influence by holding the balance of power. And while winning thirty rather than seven of the Scottish seats would slightly improve the chances of that situation arising, it would only be very slightly. Probably 80% of the time thirty seats would leave the SNP frozen out every bit as much as the Liberal Democrats currently are with sixty-three. So there's no real mystery as to why Holyrood elections are and must always be the focal point for the SNP's efforts - it's an arena in which their destiny is in their own hands, rather than one in which even a superhuman effort has at best a 20% chance of making the remotest difference to anything.

The other slightly odd point Malc makes is that if the SNP regard Westminster elections as less important, the logical thing for them to do would be to follow a Sinn Féin-style abstentionist line and decline to take up their seats in the House of Commons. This is a rather absolutist world view by any standards - either something is all-important or not worth bothering with at all! Perhaps Malc should reflect on why all the UK parties are about to spend millions on an election they all regard as having only peripheral significance (except as a glorified opinion poll) - the European Parliament election.

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