Here in Cornwall we are grateful to Heinz for the company acquired and gifted the land around Cape Cornwall to the National Trust.
One of the results of the recent General Election subject to much media comment has been the arrival of the 56 SNP MPs. And deservedly so for in the British Gazette’s opinion they will form a VERY major feature of the new Parliament.
You will of course Dear Reader have noted the apparent numerical discrepancy of 1 between the number of SNP MPs and the title. This is because the extra “1” is none other than Ms Nicola Sturgeon herself.
Mr Angus Robertson, the member for Moray has been elected as the SNP Group Leader. This appointment however now appears to be procedural as it is clear that the leader of this group will be none other than Ms Sturgeon herself. In this, she will merely be carrying on what occurred during the election campaign itself as it was Ms. Sturgeon who took part in the debates and she was not a Parliamentary candidate.
Insofar as the statements of some of the new (SNP) MPs are concerned it is clear that they are going to become a disruptive influence. The youngest MP in the house, Mhairi Black the member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, spoke of the group’s objective to use their position to “end austerity.” With a Tory majority (albeit slim), this of course is completely unrealistic. Mhairi Black of course well knows this. If she doesn’t then the lecturers on her politics course are falling down on the job and we as taxpayers are not getting our money’s worth!
It appears however that the SNP’s agenda is to “rattle the Westminster cage.”
The British Gazette would suggest to the SNP that this strategy will be counter productive for the ONLY party to gain from this would be the Tories!
Cameron’s problem will be controlling his back bench MPs. At the moment and flushed with the joy of being part of a majority Tory government. For a few months they will be a well ordered lot but this will inevitably break down. A disruptive SNP presence will only help Cameron as the back bench MPs will rally around with front bench. This is not politics, it is human psychology.
Nicola Sturgeon’s election strategy to seek to get what she wanted for Scotland by forcing a Labour government to make onerous concessions has already backfired on her. Tory MPs are suggesting that Cameron offer a significant degree of fiscal autonomy to Scotland – without the ability to borrow. This of course would fall short of what Ms Sturgeon would want. She would insist on full fiscal autonomy with the power to borrow – on the UK account.
That is like giving your teenage daughter an additional credit card – on YOUR account!
Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP however have a huge problem. That is that the present devolution settlement is more or less the best deal that Scotland could get. The diagram below illustrates this:Many, and particularly many in the Labour Party are full of gloom and despondency. The crushing defeat the SNP delivered to Labour in it’s Scottish homeland (Keir Hardie and Labour were born in Scotland) has understandably knocked the stuffing out of them.
They should however realise that such enormous political swings like this can often be reversed by a similar dramatic shift.
Stockbrokers are well aware of this aspect of life. There are many shares that they recognise as volatile – subject to very great variations in price. These are often regarded as “high risk” and investment consultants advise their clients to only put a small proportion of their portfolio in such stocks. They will advise their clients that what goes up quickly will often go down quickly.
Ms Sturgeon and Mhairi Black show every intention of over playing their hand and will end up with less not more. The British Gazette hopes that the good people of Paisley and Renfrewshire South will extend to Miss Black some leniency at the next poll as she has the excuse of youthful exuberance and inexperience – she is after all only 20 and at that age there would be something very amiss if Mhairi was not full of youthful exuberance.
It is expected that such leniency will not be extended to Ms Sturgeon however.
Of course, there is no way that Ms Sturgeon or anybody else in the SNP will take well intentioned and honest advice from the Editor of the British Gazette, but such advice will be offered anyway:
In any negotiation, it is essential that a negotiator must know the strength of their own position and also gain an understanding of how far they can push the other party into making concessions. An inability to comprehend the former and to recognise the latter will invariably mean the negotiator will leave the negotiation with less than they started out with. This is commonly known as failure.
The other crucial aspect of the negotiation is that each side must have something to offer the other in order to obtain what it wants. It is essentially a barter trade. “You give me this and I’ll give you that.” A simple demand, “Give me this.” Is not a negotiation. It is a demand.
Ms Sturgeon must ask herself this question: “What is it that Mr Cameron wants?”
This is not a difficult question as the answer is rather obvious! It is EVEL! English Votes for English Laws.
EVEL is something Ms Sturgeon has in her gift to Cameron. Furthermore, it does not involve any cost to Scotland! Ms. Sturgeon MUST realise that Scottish MPs voting on English education measures will only infuriate the English and at the same time provide Scotland with no benefit whatsoever.
This is very likely part of Ms. Sturgeon’s “game plan” – to infuriate the English. This however is very foolish. To deliberately set out to annoy and alienate another party for no good reason is ALWAYS stupid.
Ms Sturgeon is in a powerful position as Mr Cameron does have a majority but it is not huge and Labour will fight tooth and nail to prevent EVEL going through for that greatly hinders any chance of Labour forming a majority government themselves.
The question is this: What should Ms Sturgeon ask for in return?
Clearly, a further transfer of competences, to use the phraseology of the European Union.
But what competences? Is the obvious follow up.
We would suggest Ms Sturgeon stay well away from more powers to tax and spend as this will prejudice continuation of the Barnett Formula. Instead we would suggest to Ms Sturgeon to ask for something that is without cost to the Tories (a politically pain free concession).
Ms Sturgeon must know that one of Mr Cameron’s objectives in the new Parliament is not only EVEL but a redrawing of parliamentary boundaries. The Tories are advocating equal sized constituencies. This for two reasons:
1. It will be to their benefit as at this present time. Labour occupies many northern constituencies that have much smaller populations than Tory constituencies in the Home Counties.
2. It is fair and therefore the Tories can claim that they are being fair to voters.
Along with redrawing boundaries the Tories are seeking a reduction in the number of constituencies from 650 to 600. This would mean a reduction in the number of Scottish constituencies from 59 to 55. We would suggest that Ms Sturgeon make Cameron this offer:
That the SNP will support Tory plans to redraw English and Welsh constituencies and will support Tory proposals for EVEL if the Tories will in return agree to the number of Scottish constituencies being increased by 1 to 60. This would give Scotland a 10% representation in Parliament whereas Scotland’s population comprises 8.3%. In addition – and this is crucial in order to make it politically acceptable to the Tories – the Scottish Parliament be given the competence to decide how and who elects Scottish MPs to Westminster in future. Ms. Sturgeon could at the time advise Cameron that the SNP would intend to legislate for the Additional Member System with Scotland divided into 30 constituencies – they cannot be equal in size for geographical and demographic reasons – with these being elected by the First Past the Post system but with the remaining 30 being elected using the Closed Party List system of proportional representation.
Cameron would immediately realise that such a system would blunt any Labour resurgence in Scotland in future and would guarantee the Tories more than 1 MP.
Ms Sturgeon should realise that she has the ability to achieve these reforms now but should the SNP suffer a reversal of its fortunes in 2020 of the same order of magnitude then she will have squandered an opportunity that will not return.