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Decentralization: An Institutional Strategy of Appeasement
Unformatted Document Text:  16 The Ethnoterritorial Party Threat Strong Threat (to Labour) in Scotland The emergence of ethnoterritorial parties across Great Britain, therefore, had different effects on the electoral security of the two mainstream parties. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) challenged the Labour Party’s regional dominance and, as a result, its national standing, while leaving the Conservative Party, if not completely unaffected, at least not threatened in terms of its national strength. Between 1970 and 1997, the SNP consistently captured more than 11% of the vote in Scotland and achieved an average of 18.8% and 4.4 seats per election (see Table 1). Survey data reveals that former Labour voters were the number one source of new support for the SNP during every General Election between 1970 and 1997 except one. 17 Moreover, in the February 1974 election, the SNP gained as many votes from former Labour voters as from long-time SNP supporters. 18 This flow of voters from Labour to the SNP was not, furthermore, offset by a reverse flow of disgruntled SNP voters back to Labour. During these three decades, fewer than 10% of all Labour support in any given General Election came from former SNP supporters. 19 [Table 1 about here] While the loss of any support in Scotland was problematic for the Labour Party, the SNP’s threat especially during the 1970s was further exacerbated by the geographic concentration of the defecting Labour voters in Labour’s marginal seats, defined as districts won by 10 percentage points or less. As politicians recognized at the time, this distribution of SNP support posed a severe danger to Labour. Labour MP John P. Mackintosh (1975: 3) remarked: 17 British Election Study, various years; Scottish Election Study, various years. 18 Based on the results of the February 1974 British Election Study, 21% of the SNP’s February 1974 vote came from those who voted Labour in 1970. Those who supported the SNP in 1970 also made up 21% of the SNP’s February 1974 vote. British Election Study, February 1974. 19 British Election Study, various years; Scottish Election Study, various years.

Authors: Meguid, Bonnie.
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16
The Ethnoterritorial Party Threat
Strong Threat (to Labour) in Scotland
The emergence of ethnoterritorial parties
across Great Britain, therefore, had different effects on the electoral security of the two
mainstream parties. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) challenged the Labour
Party’s regional dominance and, as a result, its national standing, while leaving the Conservative
Party, if not completely unaffected, at least not threatened in terms of its national strength.
Between 1970 and 1997, the SNP consistently captured more than 11% of the vote in Scotland
and achieved an average of 18.8% and 4.4 seats per election (see Table 1). Survey data reveals
that former Labour voters were the number one source of new support for the SNP during every
General Election between 1970 and 1997 except one.
17
Moreover, in the February 1974 election,
the SNP gained as many votes from former Labour voters as from long-time SNP supporters.
18
This flow of voters from Labour to the SNP was not, furthermore, offset by a reverse flow of
disgruntled SNP voters back to Labour. During these three decades, fewer than 10% of all
Labour support in any given General Election came from former SNP supporters.
19
[Table 1 about here]
While the loss of any support in Scotland was problematic for the Labour Party, the
SNP’s threat especially during the 1970s was further exacerbated by the geographic
concentration of the defecting Labour voters in Labour’s marginal seats, defined as districts won
by 10 percentage points or less. As politicians recognized at the time, this distribution of SNP
support posed a severe danger to Labour. Labour MP John P. Mackintosh (1975: 3) remarked:
17
British Election Study, various years; Scottish Election Study, various years.
18
Based on the results of the February 1974 British Election Study, 21% of the SNP’s February 1974 vote came
from those who voted Labour in 1970. Those who supported the SNP in 1970 also made up 21% of the SNP’s
February 1974 vote. British Election Study, February 1974.
19
British Election Study, various years; Scottish Election Study, various years.


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