Scottish independence referendum, plus jokes.

Wings Over Scotland

Why Labour doesn’t need Scotland

Posted on January 10, 2012 by

One of Labour’s sneakier tricks in opposing Scottish independence is to appeal to Scottish voters’ sense of social responsibility. The former party of socialist internationalism begs the Scots to show Unionist solidarity with their poor comrades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who would – the story runs – be abandoned permanently to the mercies of the evil Tories if the Westminster Parliament was deprived of its traditional sizeable block of Labour MPs from Scotland.

This narrative is regularly propagated by Labour’s friends in the media (and sometimes by gleeful Tories too). Only today, for example, the Scotsman carries the line in a piece which asserts that an independent Scotland would leave David Cameron “with an inbuilt Tory majority for his party in the rest of the UK”.

There are, of course, innumerable things wrong with this argument – for one, the dubious morality of using Scottish MPs to impose a Labour government on English voters who may have rejected one, when Scotland has its own Parliament and England doesn’t. (An offshoot of the timeless West Lothian Question.) And for another, the highly questionable premise that the modern-day Labour Party is ideologically significantly different from the Tories anyway.

But the biggest problem with the notion is simply that it’s completely untrue.

Much of the reason is careless pundits who focus on the fact that Scotland habitually returns 40+ Labour MPs, but who forget that it also sends members to Westminster from the other parties to offset them. In October 1974, for example – which we’ll discover shortly is a significant date – Labour won 41 Scottish seats. That sounds impressive, until you realise that Scotland also voted in 30 non-Labour MPs (16 Tory, 11 SNP, 3 Liberal), meaning that the net contribution of Scotland towards a Labour majority was just 11. So let’s take a look at the whole historical picture.

Labour didn’t become a significant electoral force at all until the 1920s, with Ramsey MacDonald its first ever Prime Minister in 1923, albeit leading an extremely shaky minority government which only lasted 10 months. Universal suffrage for all men and women over 21 finally arrived in 1928, but the modern political era starts with Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour landslide, and particularly with the Representation Of The People Act 1948, which abolished multiple voting, multi-member constituencies and other anachronisms to create the framework which still essentially, with a few tweaks around the edges (eg lowering the voting age to 18 in 1969), governs British elections.

The 67 years since the end of World War 2 have seen 18 General Elections to the Westminster Parliament, with the following outcomes (sources below):

1945 Labour govt (Attlee)

Labour majority: 146
Labour majority without any Scottish MPs in Parliament: 143

1950 Labour govt (Attlee)

Labour majority: 5
Without Scottish MPs: 2

1951 Conservative govt (Churchill/Eden)

Conservative majority: 17
Without Scottish MPs: 16

1955 Conservative govt (Eden/Macmillan)

Conservative majority: 60
Without Scottish MPs: 61

1959 Conservative govt (Macmillan/Douglas-Home)

Conservative majority: 100
Without Scottish MPs: 109

1964 Labour govt (Wilson)

Labour majority: 4
Without Scottish MPs: -11
(Con 280, Lab 274, Lib 5)

1966 Labour govt (Wilson)

Labour majority: 98
Without Scottish MPs: 77

1970 Conservative govt (Heath)

Conservative majority: 30
Without Scottish MPs: 55

1974 Minority Labour govt (Wilson)

Labour majority: -33
Without Scottish MPs: -42
(Without Scots: Con 276, Lab 261, Lib 11, Others 16)

1974b Labour govt (Wilson/Callaghan)

Labour majority: 3
Without Scottish MPs: -8
(Lab 278 Con 261 Lib 10 others 15)

1979 Conservative govt (Thatcher)

Conservative majority: 43
Without Scottish MPs: 70

1983 Conservative govt (Thatcher)

Conservative majority: 144
Without Scottish MPs: 174

1987 Conservative govt (Thatcher/Major)

Conservative majority: 102
Without Scottish MPs: 154

1992 Conservative govt (Major)

Conservative majority: 21
Without Scottish MPs: 71

1997 Labour govt (Blair)

Labour majority: 179
Without Scottish MPs: 139

2001 Labour govt (Blair)

Labour majority: 167
Without Scottish MPs: 129

2005 Labour govt (Blair/Brown)

Labour majority: 66
Without Scottish MPs:  43

2010 Coalition govt (Cameron)

Conservative majority: -38
Without Scottish MPs: 19


All UK general election results
General election results in Scotland 1945-2001 (Table 1e, p.13)
General election results in Scotland 2005 and 2010


So in summary we can see the following:

- on ONE occasion (1964) Scottish MPs have turned what would have been a Conservative government into a Labour one. The Tory majority without Scottish votes would have been just one MP (280 vs 279), and as such useless in practice. The Labour government, with an almost equally feeble majority of 4, lasted just 18 months and a Tory one would probably have collapsed even faster.

- on ONE occasion (the second of the two 1974 elections) Scottish MPs gave Labour a wafer-thin majority (319 vs 316) they wouldn’t have had from the rest of the UK alone, although they’d still have been the largest party and able to command a majority in a pact with the Liberals, as they eventually did in reality.

- and on ONE occasion (2010) the presence of Scottish MPs has deprived the Conservatives of an outright majority, although the Conservatives ended up in control of the government anyway in coalition with the Lib Dems when Labour refused to co-operate with other parties in a “rainbow alliance”.

- which means that for 65 of the last 67 years, Scottish MPs as an entity have had no practical influence over the composition of the UK government. From a high of 72 MPs in 1983, Scotland’s representation will by 2015 have decreased to 52, substantially reducing any future possibility of affecting a change.

The simple reality of the matter, established indisputably and unambiguously by these stats, is that England and the rest of the UK are and always have been perfectly capable of electing a Labour government if they want one, whatever Scotland does.

The truth is that Labour doesn’t need Scottish MPs, and an independent Scotland would NOT give the Tories a permanent majority in the remnant UK. Those are the facts, and voters should be deeply mistrustful of anyone who tells them anything else.

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62 to “Why Labour doesn’t need Scotland”

  1. rodmac says:

    An excellent myth buster article!!

  2. RevStu says:

    Cheers! The myth gets regulary rubbished whenever some clueless idiot trots it out online, but I figured it'd be handy to have an easy definitive reference to hand.

  3. Daniel Walters says:

    As a Tory-hating Englishman (who otherwise wishes the SNP the best of luck), that's quite reassuring. Thanks!

  4. Dubbieside says:


    The Labour MP myth got another airing today in The Guardian. They were getting taken to task about it though.

  5. RevStu says:

    "Cameron and Osborne believe that only one UK politician is in their league. That would be the man they refer to as the Master, Tony Blair."

    Wonder if they mean that in the Doctor Who sense…?

  6. Alex Grant says:

    Excellent article Stu and one that we need to spread especially in the West of Scotland.
    I am certain the majority of Labour voters believe otherwise

  7. gracie says:

    Thanks for this article, excellent information and thanks for researching it and giving us something tangible to point to, when supposed "leftie" publications like the Guardian trot out their lazy sloppy journalism.
    Is it just my paranoia  or is the Guardian gradually leaning more to the right every day? 

  8. John Jones says:

    That's all very interesting as a history essay. But the subject in hand is politics and what's likely to happen from here on in.
    I'm sorry to say that you've committed the cardinal error and based your analysis on an entirely anachronistic perspective.
    Yes, as you point out, in the general elections between 1945 and 2010 there would have been relatively little change to the Westminster outcome if Scottish seats had been excluded. But that was then and this is now: the past, as they say, is another country.
    For most of the period you're studying the Tories had a hefty electoral presence in Scotland: indeed in 1955 they famously won a plurality of Scottish votes; and even in the first Thatcher victory in 1979 they were capable of winning 31% of the vote in Scotland. Unless anyone wants to argue that those days are coming back and that the Conservatives are once again going to be a major electoral force north of the Border, taking comfort from playing with a data series stretching right across the ages of Macmillan, Heath and early Thatcher, where the hypothetical removal of the Scottish seats would, as you've shown, have hurt the Tories as well as Labour, is very unwise.
    The only past elections that are actually relevant to understanding what would happen in future Westminster elections shorn of the Scottish seats are, in my view, those from 1997 onwards, when the Tories were finally reduced to where they are now, and where they seem likely to remain, which is to say effective electoral irrelevance in Scotland, with just a single MP. In other words, only from 1997 can we get any sense of what in modern political conditions, with Labour benefitting vastly more than the Tories from Scottish support, a new Parliament without any Scottish MPs might look like.
    What this much shorter timeframe tells us is less reassuring for English Socialists. Yes, the Blair governments, despite the Tories' virtual disappearance in Scotland, didn't need to rely on Scottish MPs to control Westminster in 1997 and 2001. But are you really sure that those historic landslides, unusual by any standards in the UK's electoral past, provide confidence that Labour can expect to form governments regularly in London?
    2005 is more comforting, as a solid but not landslide UK victory for Labour again didn't rely entirely on the party's domination of the Scottish seats. But in 2010, the most relevant prior example because reflecting the most recent political conditions, Labour won 41 Scottish seats and the Tories only 1, the consequence of which yawning gap north of the Border was that the Tories failed to gain a Westminster majority despite a comfortable lead in England. Had the Scottish seats not been available, Antony Wells, the political commentator, calculates that we'd have been looking at Cameron romping home with, taking account of the new Welsh boundaries, a tidy majority of 50.
    This is why many people, reflecting on the more recent past, are even wondering if Cameron's interest in helping Alex Salmond hold a legally-watertight referendum in the near future might be motivated by the thought that, along with the coming boundary changes across the UK which will also help the Tories, he has in mind the eventual disappearance of the Scottish seats from Westminster and Labour having to start future races for power with, in effect, an additional 40-seat deficit vis-a-vis the Tories.

  9. RevStu says:

    "The only past elections that are actually relevant to understanding what would happen in future Westminster elections shorn of the Scottish seats are, in my view, those from 1997 onwards"

    Arguably so. But Labour won three of those elections in an absolute canter without Scottish help, and even in 2010 – in the midst of absolute economic catastrophe, with a disastrously unpopular leader and a toxic legacy – without Scotland they would still have restricted the Tories to a very small and fragile majority. I have no idea what Antony Wells is basing his figures on – I've provided the actual numbers above, and the Tories would have had a weak majority of 19, not a healthy 50. He's probably lazily forgetting that SNP and Lib Dem MPs from Scotland also count towards the opposition.

    Politics swings back and forth. Labour and the Tories go from weaker to stronger and back again. Nobody is saying that without Scotland Labour would ALWAYS win at Westminster. But it would absolutely remain highly possible.

    (Bear in mind that Scottish representation at Westminster is about to be slashed by over 10%, too.)

  10. Geoff, England says:

    One thing you forgot to mention is that post-WWII elections(apart from the significant blip of the Thatcher/Major era) have usually seen Labour gain the largest number (if not an outright majority) of votes cast in England.  Are the peddlers of the "permanent Tory hegemony if the Scots leave" myth aware of that fact , or do they simply overlook it because dealing in facts would weaken their case?

  11. Malcs says:

    I find this article a convincing rebuttal. The dissent from John Jones was undeserved, patronising, and bigger on rhetoric than reason.
    As an Anglo-Scot I'm not massively enthused by the prospect of Scottish independence – I think both sides forget how much they actually share – but I do hope that at least one referendum in the UK will be fought on the basis of honest argument.

  12. Morag says:

    Scotland used to have 72 seats.  It's about to have 52.  That's a lot more than 10%, it's an absolute loss of 20 seats.  Scotland is losing influence at Westminster even within the UK.

  13. RevStu says:

    Yeah, it used to have 72, but currently it only has 59, and has done for most of the era John was talking about.

  14. I think you're a bit off on the February 1974 figures, which without Scotland would actually have changed a Labour minority government to a Tory minority government. Labour were only just the largest party int he Commons, with 301 seats to the Conservatives' 297. Without Scotland, the Conservatives would have been ahead by 276 to Labour's 261, certainly enough to remain in power as a minority government – and had they not pissed off the Ulster Unionists, they would have had a majority of the 564 remaining seats.

  15. chrisp says:

    'New Constituency Borders' will make it difficult for Labour to hold a majority in England and Wales alone and render the research a bit anachronistic… 

  16. RevStu says:

    "February 1974 figures, which without Scotland would actually have changed a Labour minority government to a Tory minority government"

    True enough, but it's still no practical change – hung parliament vs hung parliament, and either way there'd probably have still had to be an October 74 election.

  17. RevStu says:

    "'New Constituency Borders' will make it difficult for Labour to hold a majority in England and Wales alone and render the research a bit anachronistic…"

    They'll make a difference, but not that vast. Point is, Scotland only supplies 20 seats or so towards a Labour majority. Given that as recently as 2001 Labour had a majority of almost 170, that's an awfully big margin of error.

  18. chrisp says:

    "Given that as recently as 2001 Labour had a majority of almost 170" Far from typical that- and since then the game has changed – new labour have evolved from a party that supposedly represented the popular left to a kind of 'tory-lite' to appeal to the swing voters they need in middle England. Until the memories of Iraq, tuition fees, academies etc etc fade from the mind they'll not see a majority anywhere near that again.  

  19. Andy JS says:

    This article is not very convicing in my opinion. What happened between 1945 and 1983 is completely irrelevent to modern politics; between those dates there wasn't as big a divergence between Scottish and English voting patterns as there is now. And the article itself points out that the Tories would have won a majority in 2010 without Scotland and the same thing is likely to be true in 2015. So as far as modern politics is concerned, Scotland is making a big difference to UK politics.

  20. RevStu says:

    That’s an incredibly narrow definition of “modern”. 2005 is ancient history now?

    (And, y’know, I have news for you – David Cameron is the Prime Minister, and commands a majority.)

  21. McV says:

    Great stats, and will be very useful for smacking down arguments with unionists in future debates. But I’m curious about one point.
    In the last 4 elections, they go from a 40 drop to a 38 drop to just a 23 drop, to a massive swing over to Conservative majority. Was this because of a fall in labour voters in England or as a factor of a change from Labour to LibDem in Scotland?

  22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Some of that is accounted for by the fact that the number of Scottish MPs has fallen from 72 to 59 since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, with most of the losses from the reduced number being Labour MPs. The rest comes from the fact that Labour has lost around 5m votes in England since its victory in 1997. (13.5m then, 8.6m in 2010.) Only about a million of them went to the Tories, and another 1.5 or so to the Lib Dems. The other 2.5m either voted for smaller parties or gave up voting entirely in disgust.

  23. McV says:

    Many thanks for the response good sir. That’ll help in my debates. ;-)

  24. Alan says:


  25. Ali says:

    not sure why you are so hung up on UK historical politics, or current politics… an independent Scotland can choose to change the way politics in Scotland work.

  26. Alan says:

    Just thinking… How much vote rigging?

  27. george firewood says:

    I think everone has missed a vital point and that is that the scottish people would not have had to put up with any tory goverment whatsoever if we were an independant country.

  28. Steve Syme says:

    I had a look at the 2005 numbers…

    Labour majority 66, but you say, without Scottish labour MP’s its 43?

    …as there were 41 labour MP’s in Scotland, hows this work out? It oughts be corrected to just being a majority of 25 surely?


  29. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    As the piece notes: Labour’s 41 MPs don’t exist in isolation from other Scottish MPs. Those count towards the opposition. The figures are “without Scottish MPs”, not “without Scottish LABOUR ones”.

  30. Angus McLellan says:

    Can I nitpick? It seems unreasonable to mark down Feb 1974 as no change. Absent Scottish seats, Heath would have led the largest party. Sure, since the question put had been Who Governs? the answer would still have been Not You Mate! Wacky hijinx ensue.

  31. John says:

    Even if Scotland did make a difference to the outcome of the UK Government, as this article suggests, it’s not right for Scotland to impose a Labour government on England if the majority in England vote for the Tories. The same goes for England imposing a Tory government on Scotland when we vote for a Labour government. 
    The two countries have different needs politically and the Union is passed it’s sell by date. Independence is the way forward for the benefit of Scotland and rUK. 

  32. Bob Leslie says:

    Just a few stats to add to your argument:
    In reality, the only time Scots votes made a difference to who ruled in Westminster was for 18 months in the hamstrung Wilson government of 1964. At that time, there were 71 Scots MPs out of 630 (11.27%) of which 43 were Labour (6.83%).

    In the last election there were 59 Scots MPs out of 650 (9.01%) of which 40 were Labour (6.15%).

    Under current arrangements, therefore, Wilson would have probably lost that one too with Scottish votes once more completely irrelevant!

  33. An interesting read, though I think you underplay both the extent of the change that there would have been in the swing elections and also the fact that Labour is now much more dominant in Scotland’s MP representation than it was up to the 60s or 70s.  Taking the examples in isolation -
    Without a majority in 1964, Wilson would very probably have gone back to the country much earlier, as in 1974 – perhaps May/June 1965 – if he even made it to No 10 at all.  Without Scotland, the overall numbers get very tight indeed and Douglas-Home (presumably representing somewhere else*) may have stayed on.  Either way, it’s unlikely that there’d have been either a Tory leadership change or a 1966 election, Wilson would have been unlikely to have done as well in 1965 and the whole future changes.
    In October 1974, the situation’s similar.  Without a majority even from the start, it’s almost certain that Labour wouldn’t have governed for close to five years: perhaps no IMF humiliation on there watch or, if there was, it would probably have brought the government down so no winter of discontent in 1978/9 for Labour.  Similarly, with the prospect of another election so soon, would so many Tory MPs have voted for Thatcher in a leadership election to be rid of Heath?  A sizable number were using her as a stalking horse to enable them to vote for someone like Whitelaw in the second round.  The closer maths may have prevented Thatcher from becoming Tory leader or PM.
    In 2010, again there’d have been significant differences.  While Cameron would have become PM with an overall majority, it would have been an overall *Tory* majority rather than a coalition one.  That means no coalition bargaining, full-on austerity, no Lib Dem vote collapse (perhaps the opposite with Ed Miliband leading Labour, or maybe David Miliband would have won without Scottish Labour votes?), a much smaller rise of UKIP with a third not government-or-Labour English option.
    In Feb 1974.  Without the Scottish MPs, it’s likely that Heath would have remained PM with most MPs and an ever greater lead in votes.  While the answer to ‘who governs?’ wouldn’t have been wholly clear, office would provide authority and he would probably have seen down the miners on something closer to his terms.  However, the inflationary boom was getting out of control and his government may still have fallen mid-term.  A second defeat for Wilson though would probably have meant the end of his leadership so another election in 1975 or 1976 would have seen PM Heath facing Callaghan or perhaps Foot as Leader of the Opposition.  How that would have turned out is anyone’s guess but it would certainly have been different.
    Finally, there’s the question of individuals.  Assuming they didn’t take English seats but were active north of the border, no Scottish MPs means no Alec Douglas-Home, no Gordon Brown, no John Smith, no Jo Grimond, no Charles Kennedy, no Alistair Darling, no Robin Cook, no Malcolm Rifkind, plus many more, more junior politicians.  They played a significant part in the UK’s politics and to say things would have been the same without them is fanciful.
    Scottish Labour’s UK representation mattered and continues to matter.

  34. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    That’s an awful lot of ifs.

  35. Counterfactuals usually are!

  36. Lots of long winded comments,for me it comes down to Scotland,once again,leading the way and doing so by GOOD example.That is the way to fairness independence first instructions later.

  37. Jim says:

    The 1992 election is also not correct to be categorised as ‘No change’ – although the Tory majority was 21 (vs 71 without Scottish MPs), that majority was whittled down bit by bit over the term of office, to the point where it was hanging on by the skin of its teeth. The latter part of the administration was dominated by rebellions over Europe, made crucial due to the wafer thin majority. The Tory rebels over Maastricht would have had little leverage if the majority was 70+, the entire tone of that administration would have been different. Major wouldn’t have needed to fight his own party so much, he would have been able to concentrate on running the country, and perhaps Blair would have been less successful in ’97.

    If English and Welsh constituency boundaries reflected population distribution more accurately (rather than having a built in Labour bias as now) then without Scottish votes, its doubtful Labour could form governments south of the border with anything other than a landslide of 1997 proportions.

  38. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “The 1992 election is also not correct to be categorised as ‘No change’ – although the Tory majority was 21 (vs 71 without Scottish MPs), that majority was whittled down bit by bit over the term of office, to the point where it was hanging on by the skin of its teeth.”

    Nevertheless, it was still a majority for its entire duration.

  39. Illy says:

    Weren’t there some nice pictures here?  I’m sure I saw some nice graphics of this data last time I looked.

  40. Ed says:

    Help! I’ve been trying for almost an hour to find the infographic that shows the effect of the Scottish vote on UK election results since 1945 – the one with two adjacent timelines. Where is it? I’ve tried searching this site in vain (partly because I can’t remember even roughly when it was posted) and Google Images is giving me nothing.

    It’s a very useful graphic for undecideds and folk in England who have problems with being ‘abandoned’.

    It would ideal if the article containing that graphic was included in the Reference section, under ‘Why Labour doesn’t need Scotland’.

  41. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Help! I’ve been trying for almost an hour to find the infographic that shows the effect of the Scottish vote on UK election results since 1945″

    Here you go:

    I’ve added the Reference tag to it to make it easier to find in future.

  42. Sherry Cunningham Greene says:

    Please send new posts! Slàinte mhath!

  43. S Ennazus says:

    The sad thing is, the main reason Scots would vote for independence is because of how awful the Tories treat people, so Scotland can become a separate state in the EU without a Tory ever destroying people’s lives, communities, industries and the environment again, just so their tax dodging corporate donors who live in tax havens can make more money, and their upper class friends can be given a Tory safe seat to live for free off the tax payer. The whole of the UK should get rid of the Tories and stay together, instead of helping them split up the UK.

  44. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    We tried for 60 years. We’ve given up waiting.

  45. gorscot says:

    A decent attempt, but lacking in any factual or analytical information, which in fact debunks your assertions. You choose to omit a number of key points. As of now, it is much more difficult to elect a Tory MP than a Labour MP, because of the historical boundaries.It requires circa 7,500 extra Tory votes. You may recall, more likely not since as a xenophobe you have no interest in British/English politics, that the LibDems blocked Tory boundary reform as a tit for tat for Tory refusal to back change in the voting system.With a Tory Govt not reliant on LibDem support, that reform would be advanced, at a stroke, adding, on best psephological estimates,circa 70 seats to the Tory column.
    Current OP estimates, if an election were to be held tomorrow, predict a Labour majority in a Westminster Parliament, including Scottish MP’s, of 56 to 76. However, that is essentially misleading, and is heavily based on a UKIP OP rating relevant to the upcoming EU elections. There is absolutely no reality of those figures attaching to a General Election, and since the ratio of Tory voters to Labour voters ‘defecting’ to UKIP is 2.5/1, the Tory party would gain considerably.
    Now, move forward to a General Election, say in 2017, devoid of Scottish MP’s, and that projected Labour majority has entirely disappeared, replaced by an overall Tory majority of circa 40 seats. And no reasonable prospect of a Labour Government for, in the opinion of many analysts, for up to 50 years!
    Your analysis is flawed, fatally, because it looks back and not forward, and times have, significantly changed.I know of at least 20 UK professional psephologists who would concur with my progressive analysis, and none who would credit yours as anything other than a historical analysis, and certainly not impartial!
    It is interesting that there are a number of humanist,christian, muslim,charitable and other groups, as well as socialist and trade union members, in England and Wales about to enter the debate precisely because of the very real fears which Scottish Independence presents in relation to a more egalitarian society. Nationalism has, of course, been regarded as the enemy of the working people throughout history, indeed oft described as a tool of the ruling classes to divide workers and reduce collective action on their behalf. As Lenin wrote, ‘Marx had no doubt as to the subordinate position of the national as compared to the labour question’. Indeed, CK Maisels, writing in The Marxist, is directly critical of the SNP.” Anyone reading the press from 1966 onwards can clearly see how the SNP was manufactured for the job of providing the diversion from the Labour Party.It was to gain this very thing that they were after all created by the bourgeoisie”. “Misguided comrades who believe that Scottish Nationalism is a progressive force, either do not understand,or opportunistically refuse to accept,the fundamental role of Nationalism”.
    n his article ‘Nationalists against Workers’, Johnston writes “Rather than strengthening the forces of socialism such a ‘popular front’as we currently witness of various leftists joining together with hedge fund managers for Scottish Independence serves only to weaken the movement of socialism whilst bolstering the nationalists”
    So you see your deliberately deceptive, and highly inaccurate, analysis, reflects only the deception which underpins nationalism. Scottish Nationalists not only do not care for the plight of the working people of England and Wales, and would happily consign them to endless Tory purgatory in pursuit of their corrupt end, but continue to deceive the traditional caring Scottish socialist that they are a party of the workers! Nothing could be further from the truth, and together with humanitarians, muslims et al WHO DO CARE, your lies will be exposed to the scrutiny of labour voters in Scotland, and they will defeat the ends of nationalism and continue the struggle of ordinary people across the UK against their elitist oppressors!

  46. Pedant says:

    It’s “Ramsay MacDonald” not “Ramsey MacDonald”, dear.

  47. Aldo says:

    @Gorscot -

    Historical evidence is all we have to go on. Any predictions on your analysis of the political landscape in the future is irrelevant.

    You forget that independence is not SNP, they have just been the vehicle to get us to this point. Scotland has the power to make change and vote for the party we decide which is the whole point.

  48. HYUFD says:

    Gorscot Your boundary changes point is irrelevant, Blair and Attlee all won more votes than the Tories in England and Wilson did in 1966 and October 1974, as a result they won more seats. The boundary changes issue has only emerged in the last decade or two because of lower turnout in Labour seats.

    In any case boundary changes would only add 20 seats to the Tory total, less than a third of the 70 you state

  49. HYUFD says:

    Jim Even with boundary changes adding a net 20 to the Tory total, Attlee in 1945, Wilson in 1966, and Blair in 1997, 2001 and 2005 would all have won comfortably

  50. Richard says:


    It might be helpful, while you have that crystal ball out if you could give me Tuesdays Euromillions numbers.

    Surely, any predictions are mere speculation and assertion?

  51. John Prestwick says:

    The consequences of not having Scotland in UK elections would be a bit more complicated than that.

    For example, if Scotland had been in the UK in 1974:
    - The February 1974 election would still have been a hung parliament but with the Tories as the largest party, not Labour, so Heath would have temporarily stayed in power.
    - He would have almost certainly called an election before the end of the year, as Harold Wilson did.
    - Part of the reason why Wilson won the October 1974 election was that there was a swing towards Labour by voters who just wanted a stable government. The miners’ strike was also defused after the election; it’s not clear whether Heath would have handled it better than Wilson, but he would have probably stopped it, thus giving himself a small enough boost to win a majority.
    - This means that the 1974-1979 Parliament could have been a Tory government, not Labour.
    - If Heath had been in power in the late 1970s, it might have been Labour that ended up defeating the Tories after the Winter of Discontent, not the other way around.
    - This is all theoretical of course and shouldn’t be treated as serious analysis. But I reckon that theoretically, if the UK didn’t have a “left-leaning” Scotland in 1974, it is entirely possible that we would have never had Margaret Thatcher!
    - Not only that, but we probably wouldn’t have had Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, either. Nor would we have had Charles Kennedy, John Smith, Menzies Campbell, David Steel or Jo Grimmond as party leaders.

    It’s also worth noting that even without Scotland, the voting system is biased in favour of Labour. This is because Labour’s safe seats tend to be areas with low voter turnout, whereas turnout is higher in Tory safe seats. If you look at the results in England in the 2005 general election, Labour won a majority of the English seats despite narrowly receiving LESS votes than the Tories!

  52. Paul says:

    How do the maths work here, out of interest?

    1974 Minority Labour govt (Wilson)
    Labour majority: -33
    Without Scottish MPs: -50
    (Without Scots: Con 276, Lab 261, Lib 11, Others 16)

  53. Moreida Lord says:

    Excellent article Stuart – as always the facts speak for themselves. Thank you!!

  54. Martin S says:

    But… but…

    Scots made a difference in 1964 and (Feb) 1974. And those are the *only* Labour victories between Attlee and Blair.

    If we replace Labour victories with Tory victories in 64 and 74, we have uninterrupted Tory government for nearly 50 years. (Without 64, Wilson doesn’t get 66.)

    Put another way, England without Scotland only elects Labour governments in landslide years – 1945 and 1997.

    So no. Labour needs Scotland rather a lot.

  55. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “(Without 64, Wilson doesn’t get 66.)”

    Says who?

    “Put another way, England without Scotland only elects Labour governments in landslide years – 1945 and 1997.”

    Er, rubbish. 2005 was hardly a “landslide year”.

  56. Rivers says:

    I’m sorry but I don’t know what this article is basing these figures off. As far as I can tell it seem to be viewing a “majority” as a majority over the second largest party rather than a majority in parliament. For example in 2005 Labour won 355 seats, 41 of which were in Scotland. Considering you need 325 seats to win a majority we see that the absence of Scotland in 2005 would have left Labour the largest party but short of a majority.
    This simple fact means that without Scotland Labour would have only been able to form a majority government in 1966, 1997 and 2001. There would have been multiple periods of Labour minority governments or some form of Labour coalition but parliamentary majorities would not have happened. The only bright side for us English Socialists is that demographic changes mean the Tories may well die off in the next few decades.

    I don’t know why this argument is being peddled anyway. If I was Scottish I would be more inclined to vote for independence knowing that Labour had to rely so heavily on Scotland to get into power.

  57. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Considering you need 325 seats to win a majority”

    Oh for heaven’s sake. You don’t still have 650 seats if there are no Scottish ones.

  58. Konrad the wise warrior says:

    Just a wee note here, but if voters in rUK prefer to have a Tory government, why should Scotland skew their elections and create the conditions for a different government?

    As we campaign to have the government we vote for, why should we be concerned if Westminster goes to the Tories if England, Wales and Northern Ireland vote for them?

    What is the problem there?

  59. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Just a wee note here, but if voters in rUK prefer to have a Tory government, why should Scotland skew their elections and create the conditions for a different government?”

    Well, because “rUK” isn’t a country yet. But we don’t anyway, so it’s a moot point.

  60. Josh says:

    Interesting piece. I see that you are still responding to comments, so I would like to ask a question. Like Paul above, I am confused by your maths. You write:

    1964 Labour govt (Wilson)

    Labour majority: 4
    Without Scottish MPs: -9
    (Con 280, Lab 274, Lib 5)

    I can see that the Conservatives get a majority of 1, with 280 to 279 seats. Now, switching 6 seats from Conservative to Labour flips the positions of these parties. So surely it should read “Without Scottish MPs: -6″. OK, this is perhaps a typ0. But then you write:

    1974 Minority Labour govt (Wilson)

    Labour majority: -33
    Without Scottish MPs: -50
    (Without Scots: Con 276, Lab 261, Lib 11, Others 16)

    Adding these up, we have 564 seats without the Scots. So 283 seats forms a majority. Labour needs 22 seats; not sure where you pulled the number 50 from. Finally:

    1974b Labour govt (Wilson/Callaghan)

    Labour majority: 3
    Without Scottish MPs: -8
    (Lab 278 Con 261 Lib 10 others 15)

    Here I can understand how the mistake might occur: Labour has 278 seats, the other parties combined have 286; the difference is 8. But only 5 of those need to change for a majority.

    Maybe my maths is wrong. Maybe I have misunderstood what you mean by majority. However, it seems that every time you give numbers that can be checked for consistency, there are errors. Your aim is to clear up misuse of numbers by “careless pundits”, but why should I trust your analysis?

  61. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    ‘Maybe I have misunderstood what you mean by majority.”

    Yes, you’ve bewilderingly misunderstood the terminology.

    “Here I can understand how the mistake might occur: Labour has 278 seats, the other parties combined have 286; the difference is 8. But only 5 of those need to change for a majority.”

    “Adding these up, we have 564 seats without the Scots. So 283 seats forms a majority. Labour needs 22 seats;”

    There’s no mistake there. Labour’s 1974b “majority” is -8. Majorities aren’t counted by how many seats need to change hands, they’re counted by how many more seats the government has than the combined total of the opposition. Which in these cases happens to be a negative number.

    However, you’re right that in all the blizzard of cross-referencing numbers and tables and correcting the first draft of the article I did make two small arithmetical errors which didn’t materially affect anything – in 1964 Labour’s no-Scots shortfall should have been 11, not 9, and in 1974a 42 rather than 50. Both now fixed. Do let me know if you spot any others.

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