Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
One of the common ideas surrounding the Scottish independence referendum is that the British Labour party is persistently reliant on its Scottish MPs to establish governments in Westminster. By virtue of Scottish independence, ‘permanent Tory rule’ will be established in the rest of the United Kingdom. Depending on political inclinations, this is either a terrible fate for English social democrats, or represents English liberation from “burdensome Scottish misanthropy”.
At the last general election in 2010, the House of Commons had 650 seats, where 59 seats were in Scotland. In contrast, England had 533 seats. In the 18 general elections since 1945, only two Labour governments have relied on its Scottish MPs to be the largest party.
Led by Harold Wilson, Labour secured a slim majority in 1964. If Scotland was excised from the UK, the Conservatives would have held the most seats in the House of Commons. At the time, the Conservatives were steered by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who represented the Scottish constituency of Coatbridge. The February 1974 election produced a coalition, dominated by Labour MPs. The same results without Scotland would have similarly created another hung parliament, but with the Conservatives winning the most seats.
Two further results would have been affected by Scotland’s exclusion: the October 1974 election and 2010. In the first case, a slim Labour lead would become a hung parliament bulked with Labour MPs. The 2010 hung parliament – with the Conservatives holding 47% of the seats – would be transmuted into a majority for David Cameron’s party.
The First-Past-the-Post system tends to manufacture stable majorities in the House of Commons. The magnitude of the 1997 landslide was astounding: Tony Blair’s Labour party had nearly twice the number of English MPs as the crashed Conservatives.
“No more Tory governments” may be a Scottish nationalist slogan, but the schism that cleaves countries will have aftershocks. The Labour-Conservative amalgamation’s vote share has subsidised irregularly from 96.8% in 1951 to 65.0% in 2010. Scottish independence could be the catalyst for a vast political realignment. In England, the Conservative and Unionist Party would have failed in its highest purpose; Labour and the Liberal Democrats would have shed pounds of flesh. The Scottish National Party would endure full political responsibility for their errors. Neo-Scotland’s fiscal autonomy could induce a centre-right revival north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Permanent Conservative governance is a fear from Scottish independence, but it is not aligned with electoral history.