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2011 Scottish parliament election


For a Free Scotland
Hello hello. Much like Sim did with Germany, I believe I should do with my ancestral homeland of Scotland- in the face of an election, give you an idea of the politics of this devolved nation-within-a-nation. This election could be very important, as the parties involved are debating over weighty issues- including a somewhat disingenuous campaign over a referendum on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom (dissolving the 1707 Act of Union) and becoming an independent country.

The parliamentary election is on the 5th of May, the same day as the rest of the UK votes on the alternate vote (AV). Northern Ireland and Wales also elect members to their own parliaments then. In Northern Ireland, it's complicated and I couldn't gather any data- but expect the Democratic Unionist Party (Protestant, in favor of the UK) and Sinn Fein (Catholic Republican, in favor of Ireland) to be the two big parties. In Wales, Labour is expected to win a dominating victory.

Let's go!

Scottish Parties

This is complicated, but it does lay out the differences. Here I will talk about the Scottish National Party (SNP), Labour, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens.

Scottish National Party

The SNP is currently the governing party in Scotland's devolved parliament, which was created in 1998. It has some powers, though its taxation power especially is very weak. From Wikipedia :

For the purposes of parliamentary sovereignty, the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster continues to constitute the supreme legislature of Scotland,; however, under the terms of the Scotland Act, Westminster agreed to devolve some of its responsibilities over the domestic policy of Scotland to a new directly elected Scottish Parliament. Such matters are known as "devolved matters" and include education, health, agriculture and justice. The Scotland Act enabled the Scottish Parliament to pass primary legislation on these issues. A degree of domestic authority, and all foreign policy, remains at present with the UK Parliament in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament has the power to pass laws and has limited tax-varying capability. Another of the roles of the Parliament is to hold the Scottish Government to account.
The SNP held a minority government after the 2007 elections, holding 47 seats out of 129 total. It was in a virtual tie (one more seat) than Labour, which is the other large party in Scotland. Currently it is led by Alex Salmond.

The SNP is generally considered to be center-left, and to the left of Labour. It is more collectivist than the Liberal Democrats, who attract more free-market thinkers. The SNP wants Scotland to have 100% of its energy from renewables by 2020 (it currently has 38%), and is for suspending a key council tax for the entire term of parliament, the most generous term of any of the parties running. The SNP does very well in the Highlands especially, and is competitive in most regions.

Most controversially, the SNP wants Scotland to be independent, and an EU member separate from the United Kingdom. This is not currently all that popular in Scotland (about 30% of the population wants independence- almost 80% want parliament to have much greater powers however), but they still believe in it. However, given that they do not have a majority in parliament, this is mostly wistful thinking, as no other major party supports it.

The Scottish Conservatives

The Conservatives are most popular in the south of Scotland, along the border with England- they typically get just under a fifth of the vote. They are led by Annabel Goldie. Generally speaking they are similar to their UK counterparts- though they do not necessarily have the same policies. They are a more free-market alternative to Labour, who has moved into roughly the same level of authoritarianism under New Labour.

The Scottish Labour Party

Led by Iain Gray, the Scottish Labor Party generally holds the same positions as New Labour. Prior to the 2007 elections when the SNP took power, they ruled in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. They are somewhat more collectivist than the Conservatives, but still support many things, like ID cards and databases, that have made them sharply more authoritarian.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats

The largest party to not contest all the constituencies in play, the Liberal Democrats are much more socially libertarian, while being free-market in the vein of the Conservatives. They also share much of the environmentalist sympathies that the Greens and the SNP have. They are led by Tavish Scott.

The Scottish Greens

A party that hopes to pick up more than their current one seat through the regional system (the Scottish elections use both single-member constituencies and larger regions where you elect from a party list), the Greens are socially liberal, collectivist and fiercely in favor of renewables and cutting carbon emissions. However, they are hurt by the very popular SNP being aggressively environmental as well. However, they being perhaps the most socially liberal party in play will likely win them votes- especially from voters who dislike the Liberal Democrats' free-market principles. They are led by Patrick Harvie.

Opinion Polls

The election is May 5th, get ready to watch! The SNP is predicted to win big, but can they get a majority with so many parties?
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