According to recent polling, 77 constituencies in England and Wales will be represented by a different political party to that after the 2005 General Election. In Scotland, that figure is zero.
A couple of polls were released north of the border last week which showed Labour holding a 10% lead over the SNP in one and a 20% lead over the SNP in the other. Translating each poll into seats remarkably gave the same breakdown – Labour 41 seats, Liberal Democrats 11 seats, SNP 6 seats and the Conservatives 1 seat. That is the same result as the 2005 General Election.
There are numerous constituencies in Scotland that have been held by the same party since the Cold War ended, several as far back as World War 2. Change came to America in 2008 with the historic Obama presidency, change is coming to the UK in 2010 with three-party politics but change, from a Westminster viewpoint, is still some way off in Scotland. Keeping in mind that Scotland sits at or near the bottom of European health, economy and crime tables, we could do with a bit of change up here.
Whether it is short shrift with new messages or long memories from old Governments, Scotland is politically stagnant in a UK-context. If a rotten borough is a constituency that has a politician too rooted in place to shift then Scotland is closing in on being a rotten nation.
Perhaps it is testament to the quality of the MPs that Scotland returns that no change is deemed necessary. We do after all have a Scottish Prime Minister, a Scottish First Minister, a Scottish Chancellor, two Head of Campaigns for this General Election and two former leaders of the Liberal Democrats amongst our 59 MPs. Cream rises to the top they say and Scottish cream seems to be well and truly in season.
So if it’s not broke then why fix it? Well, Politics is broke. Turnout decreases decade after decade, cynicism and apathy are at an all time low and the expenses debacle has left an ugly stain on Westminster’s reputation with politicians north of the border not escaping the public disdain.
At a UK level, the fact that Labour could finish 3rd nationally but still ‘win’ the election while the Lib Dems could score the highest vote share but return less than 100 MPs proves that the system needs to be changed. At a Scottish level, the situation is arguably more critical.
Half of the seats north of the border can be ticked off as Labour holds already. That’s more than half of the available 59 seats and taking into account the SNP and Liberal Democrat seats that to all intents and purposes are unchallengeable, that is upwards of 2 million Scottish adults who are effectively disenfranchised.
Sharing islands with 60million people means that no one person gets to have the casting vote but when the General Election comes around (an event which may only occur twice a decade) it is important that everyone feels like they are involved in the process. Nick Clegg may be singlehandedly blowing a breath fresh of air through this campaign but those winds of change aren’t yet reaching north of the border.
Five years that included the Iraq War enquiry, the 10p tax debacle, the expenses scandal, a seismic transformation of the Conservative party, the first SNP Government at the Scottish Parliament and the acceptance of Climate Change as the greatest threat to our planet in this generation and we still have the same party breakdown representing our nation? That doesn’t pass the sniff test I’m afraid.
From this Scottish beggar I plead with those down South, if you can spare any change then please help us out.