King of the Mountains Award 2014

by Charlie_East_West on January 3, 2015

king of the mountains shirt

Our annual end of year King of the Mountains prize is awarded to whoever has seen their reputation make the most significant climb upwards over the past year.

In 2010, this went to Uruguayan footballer Diego Forlan, for transforming himself from a bit part Manchester United footballer to one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup. In 2011, it went to Angela Merkel for becoming European matron. In 2012 and 2013 it went to Ed Miliband for finally growing a pair of political cajones. And we break the unsurprising news to you all that Ed Miliband is not even close to making it a hat-trick of Mountain awards.

Who is the winner of our 2014 King of the Mountains award? Ed Miliband isn’t going to like the result. The winner is the SNP.

The major political story of 2014 was undoubtably the Scottish Independence Referendum. Readers of these pages will be able to testify that I was rather caught up in events from my old homeland. After spending a bit of time up in Scotland in the weeks leading up to the vote on September 18th, it was pretty clear to me that the campaign was no longer about petty nationalism, and instead the Yes campaign was largely a campaign for progressive change – free from the rotten old husk of Westminster.

In the end, the result was 55%-45% in favour of the No campaign, but not before the polls had indicated that the Yes vote might just sneak it. This scared the living daylights out of the old order at Westminster and in the weeks leading up to the vote, the three main UK parties were either stating Scotland would end up like a Banana Republic if it went independent, or, if Scotland stayed within in the Union it would receive a showering of devolved gifts which only just fell short of offering free whisky to all Scots and ensuring that Scotland would receive automatic qualification for all future World Cup Finals.

Subsequent events since the Referendum have shown that defeat has proved to be a victory of sorts for the SNP. They still remain the protest party in power in Scotland, and as Alex Salmond stated during his resignation speech – they & Scotland would be holding Westminster’s “feet to the fire” to ensure a new and fair devolved settlement was put in place.

The Westminster feet are now holed up in a hospital burns unit as promises have been broken, with accusations that a Tory trap has been set to offer Scotland more tax varying powers, but with the nasty little caveat of any future funding formula being cut – therefore forcing Holyrood to increase taxes to bridge the gap in funding.

The Labour Party brand is now seen as toxic in Scotland, due to their complicit collaboration with Tories on the No campaign, and the general perception that they betrayed their Scottish voter heartlands just to protect their Scottish parliamentary representation at Westminster.

The SNP meanwhile, appear to be reaping the benefits. Coming down the tracks is the 2015 General Election, where the SNP are expected to make significant gains from Labour, which, in a twist of fate for Labour, would result in them losing much of the Westminster representation that they were so desparate to protect by campaigning for a No vote.

Since September 18th, the SNP has added around 80,000 new party members and now have three times the amount of party members as the Liberal Democrats have in the UK.

The SNP has two towering figureheads in the new Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the most able politician in the UK – Alex Salmond, who is now trying to win a seat in Gordon from the Lib Dems and head back down the road to Westminster to hold a few feet to the fire.

It is actually plausible that the SNP end up holding the balance of power at Westminster after the 2015 General Election. So, while most London commentators continue to narrowly focus on UKIP and whether they can get a handful of MPs in May 2015, the real potential power grab is in Scotland – where the SNP could end up with between 25-40 MPs and become the third largest party in terms of parliamentary representation at Westminster. Alex Salmond as Deputy Prime Minister? That is one hell of a sharp intake of breath for the main three parties, and indeed for England.

Move forward to the 2016 Holyrood elections – again, it is likely that the SNP will reap the benefit of their surge in popularity and win the Scottish election with a sizeable majority.

The SNP is well run and popular with the Scottish electorate, and now has a cohesive and well drilled campaign movement towards their ultimate aim of independence. Since September, it is now obvious that the so-called 45% are not going to simply sulk in the corner of the Scottish political room. Real change is demanded from Westminster for Scotland. Failure to do so will only lead to one eventual outcome – IndyRef II – probably in 2017 or 2018, with a different result.

In losing the Referendum, the SNP may well find that it was the best result for them in the short term as they reap the rewards of being the only party with the credibility in demanding change. The elections in 2015/2016 are coming soon enough to ensure that their huge galvanised supporter base will result in significant Parliamentary gains and success for the SNP.

Well played to the SNP. King of the Mountains. Every loser wins.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth January 3, 2015 at 8:42 am

It is perhaps also worth noticing that the Scottish referendum clearly laid out what is wrong with the referendum as a decision-making process. All the energy, all the passion can be on one side whilst the other sneaks home on the votes of those who can only just give a damn and may even be voting against the style of their opponents – particularly if exuberance tips over into aggression, as is always possible.

Expect to see a re-run of all this in the referendum on EU membership – which might even be decided by us lefties, who, having initially taken a “plague on both your houses” line, are finally moved to vote in favour of continued EU membership by the antics of the Kippers and their kin.

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Charlie_East_West January 4, 2015 at 8:38 am

Mike – I completely agree.

The tipping point for the survival of the Union could be the outcome of the EU referendum. If Britain decides to come out, despite Scotland wanting to stay in, then a IndyRef rerun is likely to happen.

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