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The referendum is still defining Scottish politics

8 April 2015

6:07 PM

8 April 2015

6:07 PM

One of the most striking things about Scotland is how the referendum still dominates politics here. I’ve seen more Yes posters and stickers than I’ve seen posters for any political party. The referendum also goes a long way to explaining the SNP surge. In Edinburgh East, for instance, 17 thousand people voted Labour in 2010, giving the party a nine thousand majority. Considering that the seat has been Labour since 1935, you’d expect that to be enough for the party to hold on easily. But as the SNP candidate for the seat Tommy Sheppard pointed out to me, 27 thousand people in this seat voted Yes last autumn. If he can get two thirds of them to turn out and vote SNP, then he’ll win. But it is important to note that this SNP surge isn’t being driven by buyers’ remorse. As the Scottish psephologist John Curtice regularly points out, opinion on independence isn’t that different now from what it was in the days before the referendum. Rather it is a product of what you can achieve under first past the post when 45 percent of voters are inclined towards your positon. Unionists in Scotland, too many of whom seem to regard independence as inevitable now, would do well to remember this. Tonight’s leaders’ debate in Aberdeen, which features Ukip and the Greens as well as the four leaders who debated last night, could be tricky for Nicola Strugeon after the slight trouble she got into last night about how the SNP might include a commitment to a second referendum in its 2016 Holyrood manifesto. But I suspect that she’ll try and use David Cameron’s comments to the House magazine about the issue being ‘settled’ to turn it into an argument about how the Scottish people should determine if there’s another referendum or not.


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