Election is still crucial in devolved Scotland

May 18, 2001

Academic experts are eager to see the turnout, which will reveal whether Scots see the election as "first order", of key importance, or "second order", typically local election status. Most of the issues that are generally central to campaigning, including education and health, are now devolved.

David Denver, professor of politics at Lancaster University, said: "In many ways in Scotland, it ought to be seen as second order because all the important decisions that affect people day to day are made in Edinburgh. But there is no evidence whether that's the case. This general election in Scotland is a new experience. Nobody knows what will happen."

Professor Denver said Scots' voting intentions differed between Westminster and Holyrood: "Support for the Scottish National Party is higher for the Scottish elections and support for Labour is lower, so people do seem to distinguish between them."

Bill Miller, professor of politics at Glasgow University, said it was assumed that turnout across the United Kingdom would fall because the opposition was weak and the outcome predictable. There was speculation that turnout would drop far more in Scotland, showing that Westminster was seen as increasingly irrelevant. But Professor Miller believed this view was current only among "journalists and the chattering classes".

He said: "I think people will be caught up with the coverage of Mr Hague and Mr Blair and vote because it is an election rather than looking too carefully at the list of responsibilities."

Ultimately, he said, the Scottish Parliament's budget was a proportion of Westminster spending, which made the Westminster outcome significant for Scotland.

Universities Scotland is happy to let Universities UK take the lead in campaigning for higher education, but it will give support where necessary. In contrast, the National Union of Students Scotland and Association of University Teachers Scotland are keen to mobilise their members.

Mandy Telford, Scottish president of NUS, said: "The general election matters to Scottish students. Although funding for Scottish-domiciled students is under the Scottish Parliament, thousands of students in Scotland are from elsewhere in the UK."

Scottish students will also continue to pay tuition fees if they study south of the border unless Westminster drops the fees, she said. NUS Scotland will continue to campaign on many reserved areas that directly affect Scottish students, including state benefits, graduate loan repayments and the minimum wage.

"There are also issues that have always been important to students on a UK basis, such as equal pay, Section 28 and race relations," Ms Telford said. "We have sent a general election briefing to Scottish students' associations outlining the issues and voting rights. The student vote can make a difference at both Holyrood and Westminster. Politicians must be aware of that."

The AUTS said the general election remained crucial to Scottish universities. Science funding through the research councils depended on Westminster, it said. The funding of institutions throughout the UK had an impact on UK pay negotiations, and employment rights for staff on fixed-term contract were only as good as those that can be won from Westminster legislation.

David Bleiman, assistant general secretary of the AUT, said: "A government that slashed public spending in England would automatically starve Holyrood of funds through the Barnett formula, and we would all suffer."

  Election 2001 index page

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.


Featured jobs