In an extended article, Bloomberg’s Rodney Jefferson looks at Scotland, where in the next British election the Scottish National Party may not only drive out Labour but end up providing needed support for a Labour minority government. Shades of the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition government under Stéphane Dion some years ago, here.
Six months after a referendum on independence put politics back into pubs and living rooms, the movement that brought voters out in record numbers and rattled financial markets has evolved into a mass phenomenon sweeping Scotland.
Rather than retreating after Scots voted to remain in the three-centuries-old union with England, the nationalists have harnessed that radical spirit and directed it at the U.K. Parliament at Westminster. SNP membership has quadrupled to 100,000, or one in 43 Scottish voters, and polls suggest the surge in support will translate into votes in May, placing Scotland once more at the heart of deciding the U.K.’s fate.
“It’s unprecedented, on a different scale,” Nicola McEwen, associate director of the Centre on Constitutional Change at Edinburgh University, said in an interview. “The referendum was never about a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I just didn’t foresee how the extent to which the ‘yes’ alliance mobilized behind the SNP.”
The Scottish nationalists meet this weekend for their pre-election convention in Glasgow amid unprecedented electoral expectations under new leader Nicola Sturgeon. The party’s rise is reverberating beyond Scotland’s borders because polls point to the U.K. election producing no clear winner, potentially handing the SNP a decisive role in who governs the country which they are committed to splitting up.
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Polls show the SNP, which opposes the Conservative-led U.K. government’s fiscal austerity, is ahead in at least 40 of Scotland’s 59 districts. It currently has six lawmakers at Westminster. If the polls are replicated on Election Day, the SNP could become the third-biggest force in U.K. politics, with the main opposition Labour Party which has dominated Scottish politics for decades the biggest casualty.