Election Comment: Terry Murden
SNP’s trojan horse ready to be unleashed on Tory Britain
So, there will be no new coalition, but there will be cooperation, of sorts. Even without the benefit of a hung parliament that would have allowed it to overturn government policy, the SNP’s Trojan horse filled with 56 MPs is big enough to demand everyone’s attention.
Returning Prime Minister David Cameron spoke, as Tory Prime Ministers always do, of building One Nation, but Britain is broken by the new electoral map. The yellow hue at the top of these islands is the colour of rebellion and a new army bearing the scars and bitterness of losing last year’s referendum battle is in no mood for compromise.
Mr Cameron says he will deliver on the Smith Commission’s devolution agreements: on more tax and spending powers, on giving the Holyrood parliament a greater control over measures to boost economic growth.
It is another pledge that will be monitored relentlessly, but the nationalists should not worry. He will deliver and it will feature in the Queen’s Speech at the end of the month. He has no choice. He may have a majority, but it is wafer thin and he knows that the SNP is not there just to make up the numbers.
And so two parties who are polar opposites, unionists and separatists, may be forced into an uneasy truce in order to achieve what they each want. And after all, they have helped each other get this far, even though they wouldn’t admit it. The SNP’s almost clean sweep in Scotland undermined Labour’s hopes of forming a government, thereby handing the Downing Street keys to Mr Cameron. His scare tactics warning that a Labour government would be manipulated by the SNP seem to have been enough to swing some English voters his way.
Whatever the cause , the SNP is now the third biggest party in Westminster and it is the Tories who have to contend with this gang of noisy new housemates.
One unique problem the SNP faces is that it cannot get substantially bigger. Short of winning the three seats it lost, this is as good as it gets. Even so, few believe that those 56 are there simply to pick up their generous MP’s pensions. They are on a mission, and matron back home will be watching their every move to ensure that when they come back they brief her on the progress being made towards achieving their ambitions.
What is evident is that the status quo is no longer tenable. If constitutional matters were a dominant theme of the last parliament those debates will seem like mere casual conversations compared to what is to come.
The SNP is no longer sending token jocks to London to remind the metropolis that these islands extend beyond Islington. This time, they will be a seriously powerful influence, with enough presence to ensure Scottish affairs and interests are at the top table of discussions.