|Written by Chris Young|
Try as we might, the spectre of last year’s referendum is proving tough to shake off as the General Election battle moves into its 3 final weeks of frenetic fighting.
This week saw Britain’s main parties put their electoral offers to the country with the launch of manifestos packed with pledges and promises galore.
First it was Labour, as Ed Miliband stressed that economic competency would be front and centre of his plans for the next 5 years.
Then came the Conservatives, with David Cameron promising the “good life” and vowing to be the party of the working class.
Confused? You weren’t the only one.
Next up it was the turn of Nick Clegg, making his pitch on Wednesday to be front and centre of a second coalition government.
But as each argued their plans would bring something new to the table, north of the border, they face the same challenge; how can they make good on their promise to extend Scottish devolution in the face of an almost insurmountable SNP onslaught?
And how can they pacify English voters concerned about the impact of an SNP influx into the Commons?
In one fell swoop of the pen, the Tory manifesto reignited the debate on English Votes for English Laws.
Launching his party’s Scottish manifesto in Glasgow, Mr Cameron sought to shrug off accusations that he’d welched on his deal to keep the Union alive by proposing to exclude Scottish MPs from voting on income tax issues.
Campaigning in the Midlands, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, himself the subject of accusations of selling his colleague Jim Murphy short on the promise of no additional cuts to the Scottish budget, pledged that his party would reject a deal with the SNP on the basis that it would be a “betrayal of the English vote.”
All as the Lib Dems – also proposing an “English only” stage of voting - fight in vein to hold on to even 1 of their 11 Scottish seats and UKIP – largely irrelevant as a force in Scottish politics – promised to scrap the Barnett formula at a cost, some predict, of £8 billion to the Scottish budget.
While the SNP ride high in the polls – breaking the 50% mark in support at the start of the week – by the time the votes are cast, counted and confirmed, it will either be Mr Cameron or Mr Miliband who are handed the keys to Number 10.
Nicola Sturgeon sought to extend the hand of friendship to Mr Miliband during last night’s televised debates with another offer to form a post-election alliance, an offer he politely rebuffed.
But ultimately, how Scotland votes may end up playing a crucial role in the final outcome.
You might say it’s a case of the lesser of two EVELs’.
Latest polls (Scotland) – TNS (Mar 18 –Apr 8): SNP 52%, Lab 24%, Con 13%, Lib Dem 6%, Others 5%
By Chris Young, Public Affairs Account Manager - 3x1 Public Relations