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Wings Over Scotland

The progressive alternative

Posted on July 13, 2012 by

This is a version of a piece I originally wrote for my personal blog way back in April 2011. Scottish Vote Compass no longer appears to be live, but the data is still extremely pertinent, as Labour continue to propagate the lie that left-of-centre social democrats can realise their goals by voting No to independence and electing Labour into power at Westminster.

It was called the “me-too” election. The Scottish media was (and still is) full of the widely-repeated wisdom that three of the four main parties contesting Holyrood seats (the other being the Tories, who nobody votes for in Scotland anyway) have triangulated (ie stolen each other’s policies) to such an extent that there’s almost nothing left to choose between them on ideology, and elections are now just a personality contest. But is it true?

Labour politicians and activists are fond of labelling the SNP with the tag “Tartan Tories“. This is because Labour’s primary strategy in most Scottish elections (whether for Westminster or Holyrood) is to paint themselves as the ideological opposite of the Conservatives, and therefore Scotland’s best protection against them.

It’s a message that plays well in Labour’s heartlands in and around Glasgow, because the Scottish electorate still has a visceral hatred of the Tories – especially if it’s framed around memories of Margaret Thatcher, a figure of near-mythical dread and evil in Scotland even though over 20 years have passed since she last held political office.

But even Labour’s most fervent supporters in the media grew tired of the party’s attempts to keep fighting decades-old battles, amid signs that the Scottish voters want the Scottish Government to decide what happens in Scotland rather than have them be used as an ineffectual stick to beat the Westminster coalition with.

Despite all the coverage about the SNP and Labour having near-identical policies (after the latter experienced sudden road-to-Damascus U-turns on long-standing policies about freezing the council tax and university funding), though, nobody seems to have done any actual research on whether it’s true or not – and if it isn’t, who’s actually closest to who. As ever, then, it was left to Wings over Scotland to apply some journalistic skills and discover the reality.

The now-defunct Scottish Vote Compass used to feature one of those handy polls where you could enter your own personal views on a range of issues and it’d tell you which party most closely mirrored your opinions overall. The interesting thing about SVC in particular, though, was that it provided the data on which that judgement was made – ie, it listed the answers of the various parties to all the questions.

So what would happen, I wondered, if I entered each party’s answers into the questionnaire? The results were quite enlightening.

(Before we start, it’s worth noting an odd quirk of the questionnaire, namely that none of the parties are shown as 100% in agreement with their own listed policy positions. It looks like that’s a result of the policies that are shared with others “diluting” the effect to varying degrees – the Conservatives and Greens are the outliers on the political spectrum in Scotland, so they “compromise” the least in terms of common ground with the others, and therefore get higher marks for self-agreement.)

Scottish National Party

(Click all images to enlarge.)

The SNP, WingsLand viewers won’t be all that surprised to note, are most similar to the Greens, and also fairly close to the Lib Dems, which is no shock as both of those parties are broadly social-democratic and left-of-centre. But in direct contradiction of the media line, they rank as a 0% match for Labour (the policies they do agree on cancelled out by the ones they don’t), and are most strongly at odds with the Tories.


Feed Labour’s answers into the poll and you discover that for all the party’s anti-Tory rhetoric, they’re the only party in Scotland who score a net positive match with the Conservatives, at a sizeable 15%. Labour’s ideological nemesis is not David Cameron, but the Greens. In line with the SNP result, Labour’s policies show just 1% alignment with the Nationalists.


Sure enough, the numbers generated by entering the Tory manifesto policies into the questionnaire shows that by far their closest political bedfellows in Scotland are Labour (a 16% positive match), they have a neutral relationship with their Westminster coalition partners the Lib Dems, and they’re at the opposite end of the spectrum to the SNP and Greens.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dem results back up the others – they’re closest to the SNP and the Greens, neutral with the Tories and Labour.


And finally, running the Green manifesto through the machine confirms the other results – they’re most aligned with the SNP, fairly amenable to the Lib Dems, mostly in conflict with Labour and violently at odds with the Tories.

In short, then? Don’t believe the hype. Contrary to the impression being portrayed in the media, the independence referendum offers voters a real ideological choice – Labour and the Tories on one side, the SNP and the Greens on the other, and the Lib Dems desperately trying to shake off the baggage of the London coalition to join the latter’s broad-church left-of-centre team.

As for the matter of who the real “Tartan Tories” are (other than the actual Tories, of course), the numbers seem to speak fairly clearly for themselves.

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    9 to “The progressive alternative”

    1. MajorBloodnok says:

      Very interesting analysis indeed Stu, illustrating what we’ve suspected all along – the convergence of Labour and the Tories.  I hope enough Labour members and supporters see this!  Also, it might be instructive to run Labour’s Westminster recent policies/pronouncements through the mill as well… and it’s good to see you back in the saddle and on form.

    2. McHaggis says:

      I’ve said it elsewhere, but to be a Labour supporter in Scotland as well as a unionist (I appreciate a few Labour voters would back independence, but leave those to one side for a moment…) means the price you are willing and dare I say it *happy* to pay in your position is to accept that for long and regular periods, Scotland will be governed by your so-called arch enemies – the Torys.

      In effect, you are willing to accept regular and lengthy rule from a party (or parties as it stands at the moment) who have been utterly rejected by the Scottish electorate you are supposed to be representing.

      It absolutely bamboozles me why any Labour supporter in Scotland would see that as a price worth paying to retain the union.

    3. John Lyons says:

      Labour are in complete denial of this, and unfortunately there is nowhere to engage them to debate the point. Labour Hame used to be as quiet as the grave. Now I’m wondering what’s quieter than a grave! No new posts since June 8th!

      I seriously believe most Labour Supporters support independence. Why else are they hiding from thier own party? Possibly many “Labour Supporters” are actually in Trade Unions and are unhappy with “Their Party” but are awaiting the official line from the trade Union before doing anyting. Surely as we can plainly see Labour do not stand up for traditional Labour values anymore so can thier party members. Surely those members are fed up of that.

      This is were we win independence! By ensuring these people come to vote YES! Not necessarily in support of the SNP, but for the Chance to embrace change, not only at a national level, but also at a party level, for the Scotland we deserve, and for the Labour party we deserve!

    4. Juteman says:

      As the referendum gets closer, the gulf between the Naes and Yaes will widen.
      The difference will become apparent to even the most blinkered Labour voter.

      Vote for a fair and more just Scotland, or vote for a dying system of patronage and self interest.

    5. Chris says:

      The political compass has a map of where UK parties stood in 2010 (Wings used this map before):
      They believe it’s not as simple as left or right on the political spectrum, but you need a 2D map with authoritarian-liberal social policies on one axis and economic left (communist)-right (neo-liberal) on the other axis.
      They also have a map showing how the three main parties have shifted over the last 40 years, with Labour shifting closer & closer to the Conservatives

    6. Domhnall Dods says:

      fascinating analysis. who was behind this website? 

    7. Arbroath1320 says:

      If anyone needed convincing that YES is the way to go then perhaps this might open up a few eyes!

    8. Arbroath1320 says:

      I know we’ve had discussions on here in the past concerning the Orange Order and its close ties to Labour. Thing is who knew the Tories were looking to get into the same bed as Labour with the Orange Order?

    9. Appleby says:

      The Tories are sinking to new lows in their desperation too. It does reveal a great deal about their character and just how little they care about anything beyond securing their own seats. High time to sweep them out of office and out of any influence in Scotland by breaking away from their Westminster power base.

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