Opinion: Why did the SNP outperform the Lib Dems?

We are assured by the Scottish Lib Dems that there is NOT an upswell of Scottish Nationalism taking hold at the moment. And indeed it is true, many SNP voters do not actually support independence. They do not mind a referendum, they will simply vote no.

Yet if you strip away the nationalism of the SNP, you are left with a party that is very similar the Liberal Democrats, only more forthright for example in not wanting to replace Trident.

That being the case, why is it that in the space of a couple of years, the SNP has suddenly done so well, and not the Lib Dems?

I think the answer is obvious.

We have a leader who is low key and who has failed to capture the national debate in this country.

I am sure that if he could do better he would have done so by now.

It is time to give someone else a chance, before it is too late.

I have written to Ming to tell him so.

I do not believe in plotting. Everyone should send him an email and let him know, whether you think he should continue or not.

Then it is up to him to decide.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lembit's Unicycle 13th May '07 - 12:53am

    What went wrong?

    The leadership of the Scottish party frittering away the 2005 result and more importantly the Dunfermline by-election result.

    By the time last Thursday came about the ripples from Dunfermline had well and truly receded back to just Dunfermline.

    To establish themselves as the main opposition party to Labour they should have left the Executive and gone into opposition shortly after the by-election.

    Instead they carried on with Labour which became more apparent in the election as commentator after news anchor reminded voters of that fact.

    The Scottish leadership has a lot to answer for in fumbling the ball of being in second place in 2005 and missing the opportunity to consolidate it after Dunfermline.

    Ming is not the only one who has had his chance and maybe Scottish members should be asking hard questions of why the Scottish leadership failed to establish themselves as the alternative to Labour and why they got bogged down in attacking the SNP instead of Labour.

  • Rob Blackie 13th May '07 - 1:28am

    Geoff – maybe you’ve forgotten that the SNP have not been in goverment since 1999 in Scotland – so are hardly likely to the the recipients of a ‘kick the establishment – including Labour’ vote.

    The SNP are not by any means a consistently left of centre party – they’ve stood on Reaganomics tax cuts in 2003 and this time round on cutting public transport schemes to pay for road building.

    The SNP may have had an increase of support after getting their old leader back – but they are by no means similar to us in policy or in governmental experience.

  • Alison Goldsworthy 13th May '07 - 10:51am

    ummm.. which geoff payne is this? …..

  • The SNP did well because they were the main opposition party in a year when Labour were very unpopular. There’s not much more to it than that, to be honest…

  • agree with you there Graeme. Presumably the same could be applied to Wales

  • Liberal Neil 13th May '07 - 11:52am

    It looked to me like the Scots had decided it was time for a change and went for the most obvious opposition to the incumbents rather than the party that had been in coalition with them.

    I suspect there is also a fair amount of differential voting between the Scottish Parliament elections and the Westminster elections and that the Lib Dems are still lined up to take more of their target seats in the general election.

  • There is no question that nationally, the results for the party in the Scottish Parliament elections were disappointing.

    However, it is important to remember that only one party, the SNP increased their representation. All the others, Labour, Lib Dem, Tories, Greens, Socialists, Independents, all lost out in the nationalist surge.

    However, as Liberal Neil points out, there is now a pattern of different voting in Westminster and Holyrood elections.

    In Edinburgh South and Edinburgh North & Leith, two of our key parliamentary target seats for the General Election, we polled well, reaffirming our position in both seats as the alternative to Labour.

    It was particularly encouraging for me that in the SNP’s best ever election, the Lib Dems overtook the nationalists in Edinburgh North & Leith with an 11% increase in vote.

  • If the LibDems and SNP are virtually indistinguishable except on independence then I’d suggest the LibDems need to look at their policies and see how liberal they are.

    The SNP are a social democratic party, not a liberal party.

    One of my criticisms of the LibDems in Scotland is they seem to be a social democratic party and don’t offer much different from the other 2 main parties in Scotland.
    Perhaps its time to take a step back, look at policies and think will this reduce government power? Will this free people to live their lives as they wish without interference? Will this let people make their own choices about how they live and how they spend their own money?

  • Geoffrey Payne 13th May '07 - 6:34pm

    I have to admit that I thought my alias would appear rather than my actual name. So I am the anti-establishment Geoff Payne, not the pro-establishment one who is currently finding fame and fortune in the party.

  • Geoffrey Payne 13th May '07 - 6:47pm

    I will feedback on the naysayers. Interesting point made by Rob about the SNP taxcutting agenda, I was not aware of that. Maybe their model of the Republic of Ireland? In which case, I wonder how they will get on with the Greens.
    In response to Peter and Graeme – remember that at the last conference there was talk of the Lib Dems finishing in second. It is easy to make up a different storey after the event.
    And to Tristan, if there was any demand for free market party in Scotland, it would have been the Tories and not the SNP who would have made the advance. Positioning the Lib Dems to the right of the Tories does not seem sensible, particularly in Scotland of all places.

  • Geoff is not “pro-establishment” and even less “finding fame and fortune.”

    I knew this wasn’t by written by Geoff because he never starts sentence with prepositions or conjunctions. You notice things like that about your friends.

  • Geoff; since when was reducing state power a right wing agenda? I think you’re confusing liberalism with redistribution, I’m (very) left-wing compared to most of the party, but I also agree with Tristan, who (assuming it’s Tristan Mills) I know to be as on the right of the party as I am on the left.

    We need to be properly liberal, and understand that our message must be to give people the opportunities to help themselves. That’s a left wing position if ever I heard one, it’s certainly opposed to the established governance tendencies.

  • I read this and thought it must be “our” Geoff Payne and not Newham’s. The single sentence paragraphs gave it away. This would be the respected anti nuclear, pro environment, ex early 80’s Young Liberals activist, Geoff Payne. I don’t believe this Geoff Payne has any less right to use his name than the other one – indeed how do we know he doesn’t object to the other Geoff Payne going round using his name? :oP

    You are right that the SNP are increasingly similar to us – the reason being that they can see that our policies hold a great deal of appeal to voters North of the Border. As with Cameron’s tories, the devil is in the detail – as Rob Blackie rightly points out, when push comes to shove, they’ll show their nasty side.

    Tristan, reducing government power isn’t an aim in itself – it can be a dangerous thing. Whilst I don’t wish to try to teach you to suck eggs, surely freeing people to live their lives without undue interference in general is the ideal? I thought that experience had taught us that sometimes that means that the government must take some control to safeguard those rights? Whilst I don’t approve of the willingness to control and nanny the populace espoused by the “socialist” left, there are two sides to every freedom and two sides to be protected.

  • That was meant to be a man with his tongue stuck out, but once again I have been foiled by a computer that is smarter than I am…

  • OK I sometimes put my foot in it. The other Geoff Payne is someone I admire, there is nothing wrong in being pro-establishment, or in seeking fame or fortune.
    Although I am not pro-establishment, the only reason I do not seek fame or fortune is that I lack the courage to do so.

  • Hywel Morgan 15th May '07 - 10:45am

    If anyone tries to seek their fortune through the Liberal Democrats they are sadly misguided!

  • If anyone tries to seek their fortune through the Lib Dems they are sadly misguided ? – not so sure about that.

    Why was it right to form a coalition with Labour to provide Scotland with a workable administration but when the arithmetic made that no longer possible after the SNP beat Labour in the election, the party could not make a deal with the SNP or is this standoff just a bargaining manoeuvre ?

    I hope this is not an attempt to give Labour another chance in return for some vague and breakable promise of PR by Gordon Brown to Ming Campbell – seems all too likely after his comments on that party.

  • For a party that has been in opposition for 85 years apart from the National Government and the Wartime Coalition, another period in opposition seems like madness. The Liberal Democrats should be taking every opportunity to be in Government wherever they can find common ground and do not betray their principles.
    Apart from the obviously considerable differences over independence there would seem to be plenty of common ground with the SNP over things like more powers for the Scottish Parliament, abolishing the council tax etc. Alex Salmond does seem to be a charismatic leader like Tony Blair was in the early days and it will be easier to break away from Salmond if he turns out to be a disaster than it was to disengage from Blair because Salmond does not have a huge majority as Blair did.

  • Bridget Fox 16th May '07 - 1:51pm

    We do not need to be part of a formal coalition in Scotland to get Lib Dem policies implemented. Salmond has said he will seek support on an issue by issue basis. This gives our MSPs a clear opportunity to vote through some of their manifesto policies without being constrained to support SNP initiatives with which they disagree. This is a good place to be!

    Salmond is also fortunate in that he can blame the lack of a referendum on the other parties, while knowing that most Scots aren’t that keen on one anyway.

  • My feeling is that now he has been elected Alex Salmond will be there for quite a while if he is reasonably competent and lucky. His election has broken the SNP’s credibility barrier and they will be largely unaffected by the backlashes against the UK Government that often destroy local administrations.
    His problems will arise if he gets the extra powers for the Scottish Parliament also sought by the Liberal Democrats as then he will be held accountable for the way he exercises them whereas a Parliament with limited powers can always blame the UK Government if things go wrong.

    This is quite a way off and in the mean time it does seem odd that a party that presumably aspires to rule the UK should refuse to join a Scottish Government with which it has many policies in common although it might be wise to get out, if it is not forced out by the results of the next election, when the extra powers start to be implemented.

    The attitude of Scottish Liberal Democrats does seem a bit immature by refusing to take responsibility, although we do not know what the SNP offered or required in return for their support. Unfortunately the public will see it as sour grapes and give all the credit to the SNP for any successes. They might become like the Parti Quebequois, running the country for ever and occasionally calling a referendum.

  • Erlend Watson 4th Jun '07 - 6:07pm

    The Scottish Lib Dems made a big point before the election of saying we would not join a government to push a referendum through. Personally as a Scottish Member I was less than totally convinced by this.

    But having pledged that for the previous 6 months, can you imagine what Tories and New Labour would have said if the day after the election we had gone back on that.

    In my opinion the former was a wrong tactic but the latter was a principled stand.


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