Taken from the March 2015 issue of Housebuilder magazine.
Six months ago we were all fixated about whether the SNP might lead Scotland to a ‘Yes’ vote in the independence referendum and what that might mean for housebuilding. I assumed that if the SNP lost on September 18th they would lick their wounds and retire to gentle obscurity; perhaps rallying sufficiently to have another pop independence in thirty or forty years.
But instead the SNP’s defeat at the referendum has turned into glorious victory. Scots have flocked to the Saltire and the SNP now has 80,000 members compared to the 10,000 Labour musters north of the border.
At the same time, Labour’s support has slumped. Ed Milliband is trusted by Scottish voters about as much as David Cameron and given the Conservative’s toxic brand north of the border that is quite an achievement.
Labour is running at about 30 percent in Scottish opinion polls with the SNP running at about 40 percent.
As a result, the SNP could clean up in Scotland at the general election. A recent poll showed that the SNP could win 35 of Labour’s 41 Scottish seats.
Such a result would make it hard for the Labour Party to win an absolute majority in Parliament. Were the Conservatives also to fail to win outright, the SNP would then be the most significant kingmakers, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, the Democratic Unionists and UKIP.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has already ruled out doing any deal with the Tories, which would make Labour the only game in town. But relations between Labour and the SNP are vituperative and, of course, the SNP does not have the UK’s long term interests at heart. It wants to move Scotland to independence and would not wish to have its support squeezed by a formal coalition as happened to the Liberal Democrats. It seems clear that the rise of the SNP is unlikely to result in the sort of formal five-year coalition agreement we have become used.
Will all this have an impact on the housebuilding? Perhaps not. At present no-one knows what would happen on issues such as planning, help to buy and housing numbers. But political uncertainty could mean an impact on the pound and on business confidence and, eventually, on demand. If the UK no longer looks like a safe haven for overseas buyers, and if domestic confidence slips as a result of political uncertainty, then all our businesses will suffer.