Saturday, 23 November 2013

Scottish/Welsh nationalism and the 'Northern Irish paradox'

Readers of my blog, we are this point only one year away from the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014. And in other news, First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones is on the cusp of winning important tax powers for the Welsh Assembly, which unfairly has less power for Wales than the Scottish Parliament has for Scotland.

One thing I have noticed about many strong SNP areas is that they previously had a strong Conservative presence (and the Scottish Conservative vote in SNP-held seats is often quite high compared to the urban areas of Scotland, where Conservative support is very poor indeed). Whereas in Wales, many strong areas for Plaid Cymru have or had a strong Liberal presence, which was replaced by Labour as the Liberals declined in the 1950s and 1960s.

This brings me onto the 'Northern Irish paradox', derived from the fact that Northern Irish seats are divided along unionist/nationalist lines, with some strongly unionist, some strongly nationalist, and others in the margins (East Belfast is a good exception due to the strong Alliance vote,and in 2010 became the first Northern Irish constituency to elect an Alliance MP,Naomi Long). A few unionist/nationalist marginals did exist in Northern Ireland, but the split of the Ulster Unionists by the hardline Democratic Unionists (and to a lesser extent Traditional Unionist Voice) means only the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone remains a unionist/nationalist marginal, with Belfast East being an alliance/unionist marginal.

Thus, because of this paradox, I believe the more rural and semi-urban areas of Scotland, which have shown more consistent support than the SNP and which have a poor Labour base, are more likely to support full independence, and that the more urban areas of Scotland (e.g. Glasgow) and the borderlands are more likely to support devolution instead. As for Orkney and Shetland? Some speculate that it might even become a nation in its own right (similar to the Isle of Man) if Scotland votes for independence overall, given the distinctiveness of those islands.

Some constituencies in Scotland can in electoral terms resemble some Northern Irish constituencies: North East Fife,for example, had a strong Conservative history and even though Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell has held this seat since 1987, the Conservatives have been in second place consistently-reminiscent of the electoral situation in Belfast East where the Alliance have been strong for decades. A similar situation is true of the Welsh seat of Montgomeryshire, which has a low level of support for Plaid Cymru and also has always been a Conservative-Liberal/Lib Dem marginal (mostly Liberal/Lib Dem). Whereas the more marginal SNP-Conservative seats (like Moray) resemble the situation found in pre-1990s South Down and also Fermanagh and South Tyrone, both of which are not very urbanised at all.

Incidentally, we Greens find it easier outside England to gain support in areas that have not had a strong nationalist vote-our Northern Irish Green counterparts' assembly member is in North Down, the Welsh Greens have mostly just contested areas without a strong Plaid Cymru vote, and the Scottish Green Party's strong bases are mostly in areas without strong SNP traditions. Useful for us, given that we Greens and the various nationalists sit in the same European group.

Any thoughts on this,ladies and gentlemen?

Regards, Alan.




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