Mhari Black has been facing a lot of flak on social media for the things she’s being saying about Scotland in relation to London and the two places’ relative political power. This tweet from her summarises her position to date:
“Scotland has 59 MPs. London has 73. The second largest country in the UK can be outvoted by a single city. That’s the real shame.”
People from all over the political spectrum have descended on her, pointing out that the reason London has more MPs than Scotland is that it has a lot more people. In fact, proportionally, London should have a lot more seats in the House of Commons than it actually does relative to Scotland.
However, Black did have a relevant point, buried in amongst everything – but the thing that would have made it make sense was missing, and the omission was telling. What she should have said instead was something like this.
Scotland is small and England is big. 85% of the population of the UK is in England, less than 10% of it is in Scotland. Hell, even England’s biggest city has a lot more people in it than all of Scotland, and thus has more political representation than all of Scotland as a result. Given the fact that Scotland has a very different political texture than England, there is no way Scotland’s voice can really be given full expression unless Scotland completely has jurisdiction over its political decision making process, and that can only really happen via independence. When London has more of a say than the entirety of Scotland, it’s obvious that being a junior partner in the Union isn’t going to work for much longer.
It seems clear to me upon reflection that Black didn’t want to point out that what made her point about London make sense is that Scotland is small. I guess it might be seen as talking the place down, or possibly being negative in terms of the overall independence argument (Scots might fear leaving the UK when the size of Scotland is brought into play. Being a small constituency within a UN permanent council member could be preferable to being Slovakia. Or rather, trying to be Slovakia, so long as the debt burden doesn’t make EU membership some ways off). Unfortunately, it left her open to the criticisms she faced, all fairly played.
It shows that the SNP is going to have to think a little deeper about its messaging before Indy Ref 2 campaigning kicks off for real. I still think they have the upper hand here, particularly as none of the Unionist arguments really stand up post-Brexit (even the debt one is undone by the fact that the British government is talking about reneging on the EU divorce settlement figure. If Britain can do it, why not Scotland? As ever, the May government is setting all sorts of precedents within the Brexit process that may come back to haunt them). But the Nats could become undone by just this sort of thing.
The Conservatives have given up on Scotland and are looking forward to the day when there will be 58 less opposition MPs in Parliament in 2020 when despite their poll ratings they could be struggling with rising inflation and general anxiety about the effects of leaving the EU. For all their problems there is no sign of a complete collapse in Labour support and if things turn nasty on the economy the voters are more likely to vote Labour than Liberal Democrat except in the South and South West. If the UK parties want Scotland to stay in the UK then they must keep out of the referendum campaign and leave it to the Scots to make their own decision. It was Cameron’s intervention that bumped up the YES vote and made another referendum possible.
“You talk shite hen”
My reaction was different to both of you. I’m thinking that if Scotland can be independent, then why not London? I guess London is too interconnected to its hinterland. It would probably need to take the Home Counties with it. But I don’t see that happening.
Mhairi’s point would be better made if London spoke with one voice. But it has most of Labour’s front bench in its ranks, alongside Conservatives in the leafy suburbs, unlike Scotland which is mostly SNP. So London probably doesn’t outvote Scotland.
Outside Dundee and the Glasgow area all the other 27 local authority areas in Scotland voted NO, many by large majorities, especially Borders, Edinburgh, Orkney and Shetland. It would not be hard to envisage a situation where most of the geographical area of Scotland wished to remain in the UK even if there was a narrrow vote to leave.