The Government’s recent dramatic reversal at the polls has generated so much news that there has scarcely been time to process it all yet, but one issue the Party is going to need to confront is the impact in Scotland.
According to new polling by YouGov, the Conservatives are on track to lose most of their MSPs, and return to ‘minnow’ status. There has also been a closing of the gap between ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ on the question of independence.
This has obviously caused disquiet amongst the Party north of the border, with the Daily Record reporting that MSPs are preparing to attempt to oust Douglas Ross. The Scottish Tory leader, who this week sought to open a dividing line with Labour over the question of even more powers for Holyrood, has proven maladroit at setting the right relationship with the national party.
At the centre, meanwhile, complacency reigns, with several sources at conference telling me that Mark Fullbrook thinks the issue of independence has been put to bed because… there were few Saltires on display during the Queen’s funerary procession in Scotland.
Setting such nonsense to one side, however, there are nonetheless grounds for optimism on the broader constitutional question. The new polling still puts ‘No’ ahead, and shows that voters don’t support having a referendum next year, on Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred timetable.
Moreover, as Kenny Farquharson points out, a general election held on current polling would still not see the separatists win a majority of the vote – very important given that the First Minister reportedly intends to use the next election as a proxy referendum if the Supreme Court denies her the authority to hold a referendum unilaterally. As he fairly asks: if they can’t win a majority for separation now, when can they?
The SNP are also going to find it harder to whip up resentment at a Labour government in London, especially one which has been returned with a healthy (if still poor by historic standards) clutch of Scottish seats. Sir Keir Starmer has also promised a ‘reset’ with the Scottish Government which, provided it isn’t simply a byword for appeasement, will also put some sand in the cogs of the grievance engine.
(The big question is whether he intends to enact Gordon Brown’s reforms, which as Yuan Yi Zhu points out are a recipe for unmaking the UK; but there are promising noises coming out of Labour that they have no intention of doing so.)
Beyond that, of course, the actual governance of Scotland under the Nationalists continues to throw up story after story of misgovernment. Just in the past week or so we’ve had:
The day cannot come soon enough when the SNP run out of road. Unless something dramatic changes in the interim, we must hope that day comes when Sturgeon steps down after the 2024 election.