WIth the Scottish elections next year some parties are positioning themselves for the post-election coalition negotiations. AT the moment the press have concentrated on teh SNP demand for a year 1 referendum on independence (something which Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen has indicated he is against). In the background though various policies are being thrashed out which could lead to some interesting joins.
Some years ago Murdo Fraser (now deputy Conservative leader in Scotland) and “controversial historian” (TM) Michael Fry published a pamphlet calling for full fiscal autonomy for the Scottish parliament. This was unsurprising. Fry had led the No-Yes campaign (of himself and half a dozen others who called for a NO vote for the parliament but yes for tax varying powers). Fraser, in assuming his position in the Scottish Conservatives did not challenge Annabel Goldie in a leadership election and my suspicion was that there had been a deal on policy. Fraser remains committed to the policy and in recent months the Scottish conservatives have started to move towards fiscal autonomy for the PArliament (does Dave Webcameron know this?). Fry has started making overtures to the nationalists and is calling for independence.
The Lib Dems and Scottish Greens have long since supported increased tax varying powers with moves to full fiscal autonomy; and this is obviously a kernel of the SNP fiscal policy.
So yesterday the Nats published a report indicating that Labour were out of step with the other parties. The Nat enterprise spokesman – Jim Mather – is well-respected in business, and comes across as a dour bank manager type (of the kind that the Nats need to convince the populace they’ll not be reckless on spending.
To identfiy common anti-Labour ground on economic policy is crucial for the Nats in establishing an anti-Labour coalition after the next election. As main beneficiaries of the collapse of the Scottish left (the jumble of acronyms that was formerly the SSP) they are well-placed to do well on the list vote, and winning 6 seats from Labour in the constituency vote could be enough to tilt the balance their way (given Labour’s underperformance in the list vote in previous elections). In coming weeks watch for the Nats identifying other common policy areas with Lib Dems and Greens. By the time of the election any assumption that there will be a third Lib-Lab pact may be out of the window.