In May 2015, the thing many Yes supporters had said would happen duly happened: the Conservatives won the UK election, and therefore retained ultimate control over Scotland’s budget and all reserved policy areas for at least another five years. (And by almost universal consensus at least 10 years, because nobody realistically believes Labour can win in 2020.)
If the Tories do win again as expected in 2020, then from 1979 to 2025 Scotland will have been ruled by Conservative governments it overwhelmingly rejected at the ballot box for 33 out of 46 years, despite Labour’s constant promises that it will ride to the rescue. Nobody can say they weren’t warned.
Even though the media was predicting Ed Miliband becoming Prime Minister right up to the eve of the vote and polls had put Labour in the lead for almost the entirety of the preceding four years, wiser eyes saw through them and told Scots what was coming over the horizon.
All of the following quotes come from Wings Over Scotland (the publisher of this book) and date back to more than two years before the referendum, and nearly three years before the general election.
LABOUR WIN WESTMINSTER, SNP WIN HOLYROOD
As opinion polls currently stand, this will be the outcome of
the 2015 and 2016 general elections on respective sides of
the border. (In reality we don’t think there’s the slightest
chance of UK voters choosing Ed Miliband as their next
Prime Minister when it comes to the crunch, but this is a
Politicalbetting.com today reports a dramatic surge of 9 points in Labour’s UK lead, from 6% to 15%. But at the same time it sounds a note of caution: even with Labour so far in front, twice as many people want David Cameron to remain Prime Minister than want Ed Miliband to take the job. And when it comes down to it, that’s what will decide the outcome of the next Westminster election. It doesn’t matter how much the electorate likes your policies if it doesn’t believe your leader has the strength to carry them out. Labour is infamously reluctant to sack its leaders, and unless something makes Miliband voluntarily fall on his sword in the next three years – and we can’t imagine what that would be – he’ll lead Labour into the 2015 campaign. If he does, we’ll make our prediction now: regardless of what other events may transpire, Labour will lose.
Cameron’s rating among Scots is twice as bad as in the
whole of Britain, as you’d expect. But even factoring in SNP
voters, for Scotland to have such a low opinion of a Labour
leader makes a mockery of the notion that Miliband can
lead his party to victory in 2015. Get ready for a Tory
government until at least 2020, folks.
For our money there’s still no chance of Ed Miliband
becoming PM in 2015, for reasons we’ve explored in
some depth before, but a great many Tories would still
be very comfortable with the insurance of Labour losing a
contribution of 20-25 MPs towards a majority or plurality.
We’ve been pointing out for months on end that Labour
isn’t going to win in 2015, of course, for all manner of
reasons. But the key one, overriding all others, is that the
British public simply can’t abide Ed Miliband.
And when your leader is less popular than one of a party with no MPs, and straining to be marginally more beloved than Nick Clegg, you just don’t win elections. http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-coming-man/
Throw in the incumbency effect, the likelihood of some
proportion of UKIP supporters voting tactically to ensure
they get their referendum, and the solidifying of what’s left
of the Lib Dems and David Cameron and George Osborne
will be feeling very confident indeed of a second term
Farage will marshall his forces to opportunistically grab
himself a few MPs if he possibly can, but he won’t lose
sight of the overarching objective. His supporters will go
into the polling booths knowing exactly what is expected
of them – above all else, to ensure that Ed Miliband
does not become Prime Minister.
But what I believe more firmly than ever after this evening
is that the party’s supporters will vote tactically and smartly
next year to ensure that David Cameron returns to 10
Downing Street in such a way that he’ll be locked into
holding an EU referendum. Even Nigel Farage doesn’t think
Nigel Farage is going to be the Prime Minister, and that
means Cameron is the only route to their goal.
(Our reasons were proven to be on the money too. We’d said the English public would reject Ed Miliband personally, and that a significant proportion of UKIP supporters in marginal seats would tactically switch to the Conservatives late on in order to ensure a Tory victory and an EU referendum. A subsequent report by the British Election Study found that that was exactly what had happened.)
In January 2016 the Guardian reported that David Cameron had written a resignation letter to be used if Scotland voted for independence. But the No vote saved the Conservative Party from a damaging leadership battle months before a general election, and saved David Cameron’s career.