Revealed: The SNP’s terms for supporting a minority Miliband government

by Atul Hatwal

Christmas might be a time when most of politics takes a break, but from the late night festive carousing comes word of the potential deal that Ed Miliband will be offered by the SNP, to sustain a minority Labour government in office.

Uncut has heard from SNP advisers that their MPs in Westminster could be prepared to “do whatever it takes to keep Labour in office,” if Ed Miliband accedes to one request.

No, it’s not a new date for another independence referendum. Well, not quite.

The SNP MPs would support every aspect of a Labour programme, voting with the Labour whip, even on England only issues, if Ed Miliband commits his new government to “accept the will of the Scottish people” were Scotland to demonstrate a desire for a new independence referendum.

The test of this will would come in 2016 at the Holyrood elections where the central plank of the SNP platform will be a call for another referendum.

Even though Alex Salmond said that the 2014 vote was a once in a generation opportunity, the SNP will cite the unheralded depth of new cuts and the ever more virulently anti-European position of the Conservative party, as the basis for revisiting the choice.

With PM Ed Miliband facing a choice of deep cuts or steep tax rises or big hikes in borrowing, or some combination of all three – none of which any Westminster party will have acknowledged in the election campaign – the SNP case will be that the unionists lied to the Scottish public, about the UK’s economic position, when the original independence vote was taken in 2014.

And if David Cameron loses the election, he will soon be ejected from the leadership of his party, with his replacement likely to be forced to adopt an even more Eurosceptic policy, if not an outright commitment to leave the EU. The SNP position will be that the threat of a future Conservative administration (which drew its MPs almost entirely from England) taking the UK out of the EU, despite Scotland’s desire to remain in Europe, would mean an early referendum, before the 2020 election, was essential.

If the SNP retained a majority at Holyrood in 2016 then Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond would cash-in their IOU from Ed Miliband and set a date for the new referendum.

This is not a certain route to independence for the SNP, but nationalist opinion is coalescing around it as the best one available.

It is politically impossible for Ed Miliband to simply accept a new independence referendum in return for SNP votes. That would be seen as too craven. Making a new independence vote contingent on the 2016 Scottish elections is the next best option.

And come what may, the SNP will need to have a majority government at Holyrood to re-open the independence question; under the terms of this deal, if they achieve that, then the UK government will allow them to confirm the date.

The SNP are optimistic that Miliband will accept the terms of the prospective deal for three reasons.

First, they believe that they will hold the balance of Westminster power with a considerably increased number of MPs.

Currently there are 6 SNP MPs with polls suggesting a rise to over 40 representatives. Although few in the nationalist leadership believe this to be possible, more likely is a rise to somewhere in the range of 15-30 MPs.

Given the majority of these will come at the expense of Labour, the SNP will certainly have parliamentary leverage over Ed Miliband. Even if the Conservatives are narrowly the largest party, a Labour-SNP deal could easily make the difference in determining who becomes prime minister.

Second, the nationalists see the balance of Miliband’s personal choice as weighted towards doing a deal with them.

If he didn’t accept their offer, then he will not become prime minister and would be almost certainly deposed as Labour leader. Ed Miliband’s tenure at Labour’s helm would go down in ignominy, he would be seen as a failure and his political career wrecked

Alternately, he could say yes and become PM.

Under the terms of the deal, he wouldn’t even be saying yes to Scottish independence, or another date for a referendum, just that he would abide by the democratic will of the Scottish people in 2016 – a significantly lower and more defensible threshold.

An agreement would give Ed Miliband the chance to govern and he would go down in history as leading the first one-term opposition in forty years.

The logic of Miliband and Labour’s own rhetoric also militates towards accepting a deal. The increasingly apocalyptic predictions on the future of the NHS and the health of the economy would suggest almost any price was worth paying to prevent another Conservative-led government.

Third, there are the personal rivalries at the top of Labour that make a deal attractive. Jim Murphy has made great play of his independence from Ed Miliband’s leadership, much to anger of the Labour leader’s inner circle.

If the cardinal condition for a new referendum was an SNP majority in Holyrood, then any Labour failure to prevent the nationalists from achieving this would rest primarily with Jim Murphy.

Ed Miliband would be damaged but the blame for defeat in Scotland could be loaded onto Jim Murphy while Miliband set about doing whatever was needed to win the new vote.

More than anything else, the SNP views Ed Miliband as a man to defer a difficult decision if he can. Their formulation of the potential deal enables Ed Miliband to safely become prime minister while postponing any pain on Scotland.

He would have the Holyrood election and the independence vote itself, before having to confront the reality of the break-up of the union.

Regardless of the vote from last September, the future of the union will be very much in play at the 2015 general election. Currently, the advantage is with the Scottish nationalists.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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16 Responses to “Revealed: The SNP’s terms for supporting a minority Miliband government”

  1. Tafia says:

    Atul you are way behind the curve. All of this and an awful lot more was in the national media a fortnight ago.

    You missed other SNP demands, all to be announced in the first Queens Speech and legislation dealt with in the first Parliament such as:-

    Most importantly, no negotiations. Labour to accept without question the full package or no deal.
    Secretary of State for Scotland to be head of the SNP MPs (probably Alec Salmond LOL)
    Announcement of the removal of TRIDENT from Scotland and plans to do it.
    Scotland to set it’s own Business Rate, Company Tax and National Minimum Wage.
    Scotland to set it’s own Income Tax rates and banding.
    Scotland to set it’s own benefits levels.
    Legislation to be put in place that if the UK ever votes to leave the EU, the Act of Union is automatically dissolved and Scotland becomes independent.
    Wales to be upgraded to full Parliament within the first term, NI to be given greatly increased devolution.
    Devolution for England.

    And a few more. But the most important is rule 1 about no negotiations – accept the package in full or no deal. Imagine being Miliband and faced with Rule 1 the day after the General Election. The rest of the package sounds simple but would effectively take up most of the Parliamentary time of a full 5 years and the minute one piece failed to clear Parliament or was delayed, the SNP walk.

    And no, the SNP couldn’t care less if that means Cameron remains in power – they have no interest in what happens in England and more importantly, they have no desire to have any interest. Also, they couldn’t care less if Miliband or Cameron end up trying to run a minority government and as a result a major financial crisis happens – it suits them.

    People in Westminster have got to start accepting the reality – the SNP have absolutely no interest in London – it’s just some city in a foreign country.

  2. John says:

    Surprised you didnt touch on the news that potential SNP candidates are being asked if they would back the Bedroom Tax if the party told them it was needed as part of a deal at Westminster.

  3. Matthew says:

    “first one-term opposition”? What about Wilson?

    There’s also a minor issue to consider.
    Huge numbers of people in Scotland could not countenance another referendum, and would punish anyone who put us through that again.
    It was the most brutal and divisive campaign, and it has done serious and lasting damage to civic life in scotland – no-one will be thanked for a re-run.

  4. 07052015 says:

    The irony is labour lost support in the autumn to greens,snp and ukip all of whom see a minority labour government as their best option.

    Obviously you cant keep having referendums so cant see this as a runner without a reciprocal commitment to park the issue for a generation if it went no again.

    It will be interesting tho to see whether the yougov polls just before xmas ,of labour leads of 5,2 and 4 become the new trend -in which case ed will no doubt tell all these parties he will ring them back.Have the voters decided they like nice austerirty rather than nasty austerity.Well done george.

  5. Robert says:

    The deal that Atul describes sounds reasonable for Labour and the SNP. The latter is doing well at the moment but there are potential dangers for it in the future. Firstly, keeping a Conservative government in power would be political suicide, so the SNP’s negotiating position will not be particularly strong in 2015. Secondly, the prospect of another referendum will deter some people from voting for the SNP in 2016. This should present an opportunity for Labour to at least stop the SNP getting a majority. The fundamental point is that the reason for the SNP’s existence was rejected last September.

  6. swatantra says:

    … surprised Alex hasn’t insisted on a change in Leader, ie decapitation, in which case he would be doing us all a great favour.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    In the eventuality of a SNP/Lab coalition, and the SNP abolished Benefit Sanctions in Scotland but Labour kept them in England, how would Miliband’s position remain tenable? Millions of us would simply migrate to Scotland to avoid Benefit Sanctions. It’s definitely something I’d consider.

  8. Madasafish says:

    Another article written without any thought for the English and the likely impacts of a SNP/Labour Coalition will have on voter perceptions.

    Imagine the reaction when Scottish SNP MPs vote on Taxes affecting England, English NHS issues and English education. I am sure that will go down well with English voters.

    It would do to English Labour MPs what the Devolution vote looks likely to do to Scottish Labour MPs… decimate their numbers.

    Ed Miliband may not be a smart political operator but even he can see the poisoned chalice such a Coalition would be. Or maybe he can but would hope to avoid the consequences.

    In my view a SNP/Labour pact would spell the end of the Union: which of course is the aim of the SNP.. So really clever Labour politics. Not.

  9. The SNP has ruled out supporting a Conservative Government. It could not have done otherwise. The same is true of Plaid Cymru and of the Greens.

    Since either the Leader of the Conservative Party or the Leader of the Labour Party is going to be Prime Minister, that leaves only one option.

    In any case, polling now points to a Labour overall majority in line with the historical norm, i.e., without needing Scotland at all.

    Twenty SNP MPs? Thirty? Forty? So what?

  10. Tafia says:

    Another article written without any thought for the English

    That is the same mistake Westminster politicians make time after time. It’s got nothing to do with the Scots and the English. It’s to do with Scotland and England and when you can differentiate between the concepts then it will all make sense.

    And then you will understand why so many English people living where I live (Ynys Mon) vote for Plaid Cymru and why it makes sense.

  11. wg says:

    And so it goes on – a pantomime of fools and we the audience.

    Self serving politicians with no respect for moral fairness or justice – just a bets-hedging gamble on how to get back into power.

    Now the supposed villain, the ConDems, will leave the stage to be replaced by the NatLabs.

    Boo? Hiss? – I just feel like crying.

    What a f******g shower.

  12. 07052015 says:

    All this speculation is simply designed to persuade scottish progressives to stay with the snp .You couldnt trust salmond to lie straight in bed.

  13. Madasafish says:

    Tafia said: It’s got nothing to do with the Scots and the English. It’s to do with Scotland and England

    Oh silly me.

    I thought the inhabitants of Scotland and England – the Scots and the English – voted.

    Obviously not.

  14. Eric C says:

    Ed should tell that lot to go boil their heads.

    What would the SNP do if Labour said no, would they support the Tories instead? It seems they’re prepared to do that but in my view that would be political suicide for them. It would be their Lib Dem moment.

  15. Tafia says:

    Eric C – Labour would be a lame duck government for 5 years if they tried to run it with a minority, struggling to get legislation in place and because the SNP would revert back to their position of not voting on ‘English’ matters, leaving Labour outnumbered in a lot of key votes. It would be like 1977 all over again – only this time it wouldn’t be for 2 years it would be for 5 because of fixed-term Parliaments. You wouldn’t even be able to appeal to their sense of duty or country because they don’t give a flying f*** about the concept of a UK anyway – you would be in a position of literally having to buy their vote time after time after time, or lose time after time after time.

    And it isn’t just the SNP – they now, following talks last week, have a ‘mutual understanding’ with Plaid as well where they will be standing alongside in the next Parliament – you won’t get one without the other, even in a coalition if it’s just one of them Labour needs, they’ve got to take and accommodate both or neither.

  16. Tafia says:

    MadasafishI thought the inhabitants of Scotland and England – the Scots and the English

    A prime example of what I was saying. The people who live in England are not all English – some are Scot, some Welsh, some Ulster folk, some naturalised immigrants who just class themselves as British etc etc . Likewise in Scotland.

    That is the difference between England and English, Scot and Scotland, Wales and Welsh etc.

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