Increasingly, the Unionist vote is concentrating in one placeby Malcolm Rifkind / May 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
Scotland and the Scots are unpredictable. It was once remarked that we are well-balanced; we have chips on both shoulders. That balance now seems to be changing. If the evidence, so far, is to be believed the General Election on 8th June will have one outcome which we have not seen for generations.
Not only will the Conservatives triumph in England. It now seems likely that they will, for the first time ever, dominate Wales and enjoy a resurgence in Scotland to an extraordinary degree. Such a result would mean that the Conservatives would become again a British, not just an English, party; a title they have been unable to claim, with any conviction, for many years.
This would have profound implications for the future of this island as a “United” Kingdom. It would be a severe blow to Nicola Sturgeon and the Nationalist’s apparent bandwagon.
One is occasionally reminded of how the Tories were once before a powerful force in Scotland; indeed, of how, in 1955, they won over 50 per cent of the vote and 36 out of 71 seats north of the border. That is true; 1955 was an “annus mirabilis.” But such statements are, nevertheless, misleading.
Scotland has, rarely, been Tory territory. After the 1832 Reform Act it was, as a poor country, overwhelmingly dominated by the Liberals with the Tories rarely able to win more than a handful of seats. This dominance lasted until the collapse of the Liberal Party after the downfall of Lloyd George in 1922 and the emergence of Labour as the party of the Left. Labour, quickly, dominated the industrial central belt of Scotland where most of the population live. But with the exception of Dundee and Aberdeen, they never won majority political support elsewhere. The Highlands, the North East, the Borders and Edinburgh were difficult terrain for them.
With the collapse of the Liberals and the nonexistence of the SNP in the early 20th century, the Tories, usually referred to as Unionists, were a minority but held a solid bloc of Scottish seats for the next 50 years.
The General Election of 1955 did indeed give them a majority but only because the SNP did not exist and the Liberals only put up candidates in 6 out of 71 seats. In the rest of Scotland you had to vote Tory if you did not want to vote Labour.