General Election 2015: Labour-SNP partnership would revive Scottish independence, says former head of civil service

Lord Gus O’Donnell warned that such a coalition would raise questions about the legitimacy of the Westminster government

Chris Green
Monday 30 March 2015 17:16
Comments
Lord Gus O’Donnell, who presided over the negotiations which resulted in 2010’s power-sharing deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, also warned that such a coalition would raise questions about the legitimacy of the Westminster government.
Lord Gus O’Donnell, who presided over the negotiations which resulted in 2010’s power-sharing deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, also warned that such a coalition would raise questions about the legitimacy of the Westminster government.

A coalition between Labour and the SNP after the general election would revive the issue of Scottish independence and put the Union under fresh strain, the former head of the civil service has said.

Lord Gus O’Donnell, who presided over the negotiations which resulted in 2010’s power-sharing deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, also warned that such a coalition would raise questions about the legitimacy of the Westminster government.

The former cabinet secretary pointed out that the SNP could find itself with a “pivotal role” to play after 7 May despite only representing the views of a small part of the overall electorate.

“If there were to be a new Labour prime minister he would almost certainly be dependent on the support of the SNP. He would also be governing over a largely Conservative-voting England – rather ironic given the previous years of Conservative rule over a Labour-voting Scotland,” he told Sky News.

“This will inevitably put strain on the cohesion of the Union, and once again raise the thorny issue of whether it is fair for Scottish MPs to vote on matters only affecting England. Ultimately it would put the question of Scottish independence back on the agenda.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband has ruled out a deal with the SNP, saying his party is focusing on winning a majority. But support for the nationalist party has surged in Scotland, putting it on course to become the third largest in Westminster.

Polls suggest that the SNP could gain as many as 55 seats, mainly from Labour. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has said she will not support a Tory government if she becomes kingmaker after the election.

“By holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, SNP MPs can work with others to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street,” she said today.

Lord O’Donnell also said voters had a “desire for change”, warning that the public mood may turn to anger if the next prime minister came from a party which did not have the largest share of the vote.

“If this General Election doesn’t produce a result that satisfies the majority, there is a danger that existing dissatisfaction might be compounded, developing into further anger and frustration,” he said.

“And however that anger finds expression, there is a danger that it will make the politicians’ job and that of the civil servants a whole lot harder.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in