Six issues that will decide the General Election: nationalism

Alex Salmond in a kilt pictured with bagpipers
The former SNP leader Alex Salmond led the campaign for Scottish independence and is looking to win a seat in Westminster in May.
Photo: Scottish Government

Nationalism is fundamental in explaining why this country has, at the moment, such an open political field. Gone are the days where you only vote Labour or Tory with the Liberals as your protest vote. The rise of the SNP and UKIP threatens to rip apart the support for the traditional big boys.

UKIP are campaigning vigorously for an EU exit. They’ve achieved a monumental rise in support over the last few years because of this. They ended up winning the European Parliament election in 2014 and have gained two seats in the House of Commons.

In doing so, UKIP took two Conservative-held seats and they even took the Conservative MPs with them as well. The defections of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless from the Tories is symbolic of a deep split that the party has over the EU. The Tories have promised a referendum on EU membership should they be elected in a move to try to stem the leaking of their support to UKIP.

The other parties to have offered a referendum on EU membership are UKIP, who would campaign to pull out, and the Green party who would campaign to stay in.

Elsewhere, the rise of nationalism hasn’t avoided Labour’s vote share either. In Scotland, the SNP are surging in support. In the independence referendum, 45 per cent of Scots voted to leave the UK and I suspect many more wanted to but were more cautious about its possible consequences.

With Scotland being a Labour heartland, pollsters have shocked the party with suggestions that they could be set to lose all but five of their Scottish MPs. Therefore, the SNP could end up supporting a Labour government and have huge influence over UK policy.

As a result of further Scottish devolution, the Conservatives have decided to jump on the nationalist bandwagon by pushing for ‘English votes for English laws’ in Westminster. If successful, non-English MPs would not be able to vote on issues that only affect English constituencies. Labour have not followed suit and that has angered many English voters which could prove decisive.

With minor parties leading the nationalist insurgency, it now seems at least one of the main parties is jumping on board. Though whatever the outcome is in May, the rise of nationalism will be pivotal in deciding how the next government of the United Kingdom is formed.

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