The Scottish National Party's landslide General Election victory north of the border will actually push Westminster to grant greater powers for English MPs, says Societe Generale.
The Conservatives defied all forecasts and won the election by a slight majority (331 seats) but the SNP won all but three seats (56 seats) in Scotland. Effectively, the SNP wiped out Labour north of the border.
In SocGen's latest research note, the bank said that the SNP is likely to receive greater devolved powers, as promised to voters in exchange for them opting against Scotland severing the 307-year old union with the rest of Britain in September last year.
However, SocGen warned that it is also likely to lead to Westminster cutting off Scottish MPs' abilities to vote on English laws as there will be a backlash over perceived "Scottish triumphalism."
In fact, SocGen said it is likely to lead to federalism (emphasis ours):
The single most important factor that wiped out Labour’s chances of a return to power was the near-total victory for the SNP in Scotland which saw the number of Scottish Labour MPs plunge from 41 to only 1, whereas the Conservatives only had 1 seat and they retained it. This completely changes the dynamic of the devolution debate.
In its election campaign, the SNP trumpeted the power it expected to have over the predicted Labour government because it expected to be the informal coalition partner in that government. The Scots will still receive fresh devolution powers as part of the settlement promised by the Westminster parties to win the Scottish referendum but the next phase is likely to be a solidification in England of the backlash to what was perceived as Scottish triumphalism; that will reinforce the drive for “English votes for English laws.”
That means the creation of some procedural changes in the UK parliament that will prevent Scottish MPs from voting on legislation that primarily affects England. The UK is rapidly heading towards federalism. Cameron has a strong commitment to maintaining the integrity of the union but all the pressure from his own MPs (validly reflecting the views of English voters expressed in this election) will be to ensure a more accurate balance of power between Scotland and England in English affairs.
On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister David Cameron said spoke outside 10 Downing Street to say that Britain is "on the brink of something special."
He said that since the Conservatives are now a ruling majority government, he will be able to deliver on his manifesto promises.
"We can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone," he said. "We will govern as a party of one nation — one United Kingdom."
However, SocGen also warned that Cameron has to form allegiances and partnerships early on, otherwise the party will not be able to pass legislation and could lose power very quickly (emphasis ours):
Once the dust has settled and the Conservatives resume the task of running the government, they will have to think carefully how best to get their planned legislation through parliament. The new government will have a majority but it will not be a large one. In the life of a typical parliament, by-elections occur as a few members resign or die, and other MPs occasionally abstain on points of principle.
That means that, for smooth passage of their bills through parliament, the Conservatives will need some allies. The obvious one would be the Northern Ireland Democratic and Unionist party which has won 8 seats.
Recall that in the 1974-79 parliament, the Labour government had an initial majority of 4 which ended up as a minority government. To stay in power, it had to do formal and informal deals with the Liberals and also the SNP – that won’t be happening again!
This situation also requires the Conservative leadership to think carefully about which of their plans actually require formal legislation. They need to economise on the number of bills they put forward to minimise the risk of upsets.
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