Keeping Perspectives

Published: 16 December 2019
Author: David McCrone

Instead of focusing on the success of the SNP, we should compare the Labour and Conservative vote share in Scotland and England since 1945, states David McCrone, University of Edinburgh.

In the immediate aftermath of elections, comment usually focuses on the here-and-now to explain what happened and why. We would do well to keep a time perspective. Rather than focusing simply on the undoubted success of the SNP, let us compare the Labour and Conservative vote shares in Scotland and England since 1945.

Here is a table comparing Scotland and England with regard to two things: (a)  the Labour share of the vote in the two countries, and (b) the Conservative share in the two countries. These are by no means simple reflections of each other, otherwise the first two columns would be mirror-images of each other, and patently they are not. We can then combine the differences to get a measure (‘the combined gap’) of how much (or how little) the two countries diverge.




The point about comparing Labour and the Conservatives is that they are the two main ‘British’ parties. Indubitably, the rise of the SNP is a major factor, but we should see that as an effect, and not a cause of the divergence. In other words, political space has allowed the Nationalists to grow and prosper; they did not create it as such. 

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