In this page, I list a series of my posts on the Scottish Parliament election in 2016.
Outside of this blog, there will be loads of posts – e.g. What Scotland Thinks – which use the latest opinion polls to track the fortunes of each party.
My attempt to provide ‘added value’ is to invite you to step back and consider the context in which this election takes place, with topics including:
- The Scottish Parliament election 2016: the talking points so far
- The meaning of accountability in Westminster-style elections. Can we hold the Scottish Government to account, in a meaningful way, when there is such a gulf between (a) what it can reasonably do and (b) what parties promise to do when competing for office? I discuss the contradiction between the language of elections (let’s blame or praise the central government because it is in control and has the levers to make things happen) and ‘governance’ (let’s recognise the limits to the central control, and the pragmatic ways in which the centre shares policymaking responsibility with local bodies). We can use our knowledge of this contradiction to get beyond simplistic debates in which the SNP gets all the praise or blame for outcomes in devolved areas in Scotland.
- The meaning of accountability in multi-level systems. Can we hold the Scottish Government to account, in a meaningful way, when it shares policymaking responsibility with UK and EU-level authorities? I discuss the extent to which we can separate the effects of Scottish Government policies from those of other governments.
- The competition to frame issues and tell convincing stories. The debate on the Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SRIT) is a great case study of the importance of ‘framing’ and storytelling in politics. It can show us the importance of a competition to turn (a) a complex world with many causes of good or bad outcome, into (b) a simple world with heroes, villains and single causes. This discussions seems particularly apt when Scottish politics seems so divided, so that even our discussion of the mental arithmetic underpinning the SRIT is subject to the ‘devil shift’.
- What happens when we don’t pay attention to policy? It is common for people to argue that our obsession with the constitution distracts us from the day to day business of policymaking. But what actually happens when we pay minimal attention? I discuss the concept of ‘policy communities’, or the enduring relationships between policymakers and the groups most interested and active in specific issues.
- What happens when policymakers have multiple, potentially contradictory, objectives? The new ‘fiscal framework’ seems like a good case study.
- Would the Scottish Conservatives provide ‘strong opposition’? Not really
I’ll add to this list as the election unfolds (or if you send me suggestions for topics).
I’ll also write up some standard discussions of key part of the process (to feed into an article for Scottish Affairs):
- The nature of the debate. For example, which issues dominated the election?
- The unusual nature of this election. The key explanation for SNP success in the 2007 and 2011 elections relates to ‘valence politics’: the SNP does well in relation to its image of ‘governing competence’, leader, and its party’s ‘vision’ for the future. One’s constitutional preference matters, but successive studies have shown the importance of people voting SNP even when they support the union. Following the referendum, its success seems to relate more strongly to the constitutional preferences of its supporters.
- The role of the constitutional question. We are waiting to see how the SNP’s manifesto will describe the conditions under which it will propose a second referendum.
- The effect of SNP dominance on Scottish politics. I will discuss critically the idea that Scotland now has a ‘one party state’, but it clearly faces limited opposition despite the potential for its electoral system to oblige cross-party interaction.
- The effect of SNP dominance on policy. What is the SNP’s domestic policy agenda?
(so far, a lot of this is covered briefly in The Scottish Parliament election 2016: the talking points so far)
Please see below
Previously, this page only held my posts on the Scottish independence referendum and its aftermath. I updated the order of the list to reflect the No vote and the limited relevance of some (but not all) of the ‘if Yes’ ones. Most of the newer posts will relate to the policy process (life goes on, after all).
Life goes on after the Scottish independence referendum (the 3000 word version)
The Scottish political system and policy process share the same ‘complex government’ features as any country (the LSE 1200 word version)
What will devo-max mean? (the 2000 worder on devo max)
Scots should forget devo max, it’s not possible and wasn’t offered – here’s why (the shorter, more provocative, Conversation 1000 worder on devo max)
(read along with When People Talk About Media Bias, What Do They Mean? What is the Evidence? which also discusses the coverage of devo max)
IF NO – ‘DEVO MAX’ ISSUES
POLICY AND POLICYMAKING – the most relevant ‘life goes on’ posts are:
Some of these are still highly relevant (I put them in order), but you now have to look beyond the indy lens a bit:
GENERAL & DEBATES – some of these are still highly relevant, since they discuss UK and Scottish politics
So what if many SNP voters don’t support independence? (this may link to new work on the rising membership of the SNP, Scottish Greens and SSP)
Some are more about issues that arose during the debate:
Scottish Independence: How do you decide? (this is still relevant to life’s big decisions)
CONSTITUTION AND PARLIAMENT – a lot of these are still highly relevant, including discussions of the size and capacity of the Scottish Parliament if more powers are devolved:
Similarly, these posts are about things that won’t happen now, but the broader issues remain relevant:
Most of the rest are discussions of independence plans or post-referendum negotiations:
IF YES – NEGOTIATIONS
THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER ON INDEPENDENCE
MEANING OF INDEPENDENCE
What does Scottish independence mean? (this might still be handy to compare with ‘devo max’)
MISCELLANEOUS / LESS SERIOUS
How Scottish Are You?
When I do a post based largely on new research, it appears on the Future of the UK and Scotland site: http://www.futureukandscotland.ac.uk/about/people/paul-cairney
The Scottish push towards local democracy carries potential unintended costs (Democratic Audit)
Scotland special: NHS (New Healthy Scotland) (Total Politics)