First Minister to make decision in Autumn
Sturgeon expected to opt for three-year parliament
Westminster’s fixed-term parliament and Holyrood’s four-year cycle means the next but one Scottish election will have to be held in 2019 or 2021 to avoid clashing with the UK poll in 2020.
A three-year term could work to the advantage of the SNP because Labour is unlikely to recover in that time, according to academic Prof Adam Tomkins who is also an adviser to Scottish Secretary David Mundell.
Mr Mundell told the Commons last week that the Scottish government was being given special powers to choose the duration of the parliament that will be elected next year.
Prof Tomkins, a specialist in constitutional law at Glasgow University, believes the First Minister will make her decision in the autumn and that she will go for the shorter option.
“I reckon she will go for 2019. It would almost guarantee the SNP eight years in power,” he told Daily Business after addressing a debate on Home Rule held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. “The SNP would beat Labour who will not have recovered by then.”
The big question for the First Minister will be whether or not she puts the prospect of a second independence referendum in her party’s manifesto.
Political pundits believe she will wait, not only for the “material change” she has spoken about, but also until the polls tell her that she could expect at least a 60% vote in favour of independence. Current polling would suggest that is unlikely.
Eight years of government, including the current year, would provide a long enough time to press the case for separation and will also overlap with the European referendum and other potentially explosive issues such as the debate over renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.
An EU vote to take Britain out of the EU would constitute “material change” although Trident would be a vote for the status quo. Even so, it might be sufficiently sensitive to create a backlash against Westminster.
Last night’s debate was organised by The Spectator magazine and sponsored by the wealth manager Brewin Dolphin.