Disclosure of interest: the author is a member of the Labour Party (as well as a Yes voter).
The astonishing development since the referendum on 18th September is the news that the SNP has almost doubled its membership over the period, from about 26k to about 53k (and still rising). The Green Party has seen an even larger increase in proportionate terms (again, still rising) and the SSP has likewise benefited. Overall, more than 30k have newly joined these political parties.
Beyond that, the talk is about an alliance of parties in pursuit of tactical voting with a view to inflicting maximum damage on Labour in Scotland at the UK General Election in May 2015 and the Holyrood one in 2016. The principal canvassing target would be the 40% or so of Labour voters who voted Yes and, through them, the aim would be to unseat as many sitting Labour MPs as possible. All of the Glasgow constituencies had a majority for Yes, suggesting that they must be particularly vulnerable to such an effort. There would be no escape for the Lib Dems either.
There has to be a good chance that such an exercise would meet with great success. It’s likely that it would deliver a majority for the SNP in Holyrood. Given the electoral system, it’s more difficult to assess exactly what the effect would be on the Westminster results for Scotland, but it would be significant at worst and sensational at best. (It’s possible that it might have the unintended consequence of increasing the number of Scottish Tory MPs.)
The problem, though, is that Westminster doesn’t care about Holyrood, especially not now. There is no chance of agreement to another referendum any time soon (though that’s not the same as saying never).
Moreover, there is no leverage to exert at present: Scottish Westminster seats aren’t part of David Cameron’s electoral arithmetic; his concern is UKIP, which is far more important to him than his single existing Scottish MP. All that annihilation of Labour in Scotland would achieve in fact is to ease the way for another Tory government, probably with UKIP pulling its strings. “Lucky” Dave does it again.
The man who really does care about Scottish seats at Westminster is Ed Miliband.
Before the 18th, the Labour Party had about 190k members throughout the UK. About 13k of those members were in Scotland, i.e. under 7% of the total, but that figure will be lower now, given that some of the recruits to the other parties will of course be defectors from Labour.
If all those new members had instead joined the Labour Party, then (assuming 5k of the 30k were existing Labour members) it would have taken the Scottish section of the overall UK membership up to about 20% of the total. Think of the influence the Scottish bloc would have if it were 20% of the Labour Party.
The real power is at Westminster. The way to make progress is for a UK government to be in place which is beholden to a party manifesto that sets out in unambiguous and specific terms a policy commitment to more powers for Holyrood. That’s not going to happen with the Tories; there needs to be a Labour victory in 2015.
If those new joiners had instead flooded the Scottish Labour Party (trebling it in size) then setting the agenda for the manifesto for 2015 would have been a slam dunk.
I can’t help feeling that an opportunity has been missed here.