Almost three years earlier than expected, Theresa May has called a general election to take place on today on the 8th of June 2017. The background as to why she called the snap election so early closely relates to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Mrs May has made this move to strengthen her Tory majority in Westminster as a means of securing her party’s mandate to extract Britain from the EU.
The polls put the Conservatives considerably further ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, so all things being equal, it looks like we will have a Tory majority come June. Though it is important to point out that even in the run up to the EU referendum, the polls had a remain vote in the bag, so anything is possible.
In Scotland, there is a number of interesting things happening amongst the political landscape. A number of factors are going to come in to play as campaigning becomes ever more fevered before polling day. Aberdeen will know more than most about the political factors that are pulling at both ends of the spectrum, so when we examine the climate from the point of view of the granite city, we can begin to make a number of interesting speculations.
The Independence Question
Back in March, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her plans to hold a second referendum on independence before Britain’s departure from the EU. The whole situation is up in the air as despite Sturgeon’s rationale that the Scottish people deserve a second chance in the wake on the EU referendum, where Scotland voted to remain, the UK government has rejected this call as it has been so soon since the 2014 referendum where the Scottish people voted to stay in the UK.
Aberdeen residents will be all too familiar with how important the city’s position is within the question of independence, as the North Sea oil fields are regarded as a vital component to the economy of an independent Scotland. The city has suffered in the recent past due to the tumbling price of crude oil, and increased competitiveness from market. At one point it was estimated that almost two thirds of oil and gas companies working out of the city cut jobs, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Is Oil Recovering?
Despite the heavy toll that was seen over the course of the last two years, the experts are starting to show optimism for the future. Due to the amount of specialist companies working out the North East, and Aberdeen’s ability to export to the rest of the world, voices in the industry are saying that the worst is over. This certainly is good news not just for those working in the oil and petroleum, but for the city as a whole.
As we’re seeing signs of recovery in the likes of local house prices and greater confidence in the service industry, which is mainly supported by local oil and gas, Aberdonians will likely have more to think about than most when it comes to polling day in just a few weeks’ time. Being a centre of international industry, and also an Eastern facing sea port, you’d imagine that membership to the EU would raise more questions here than in other parts of the UK.
The European Union
A lot has been written about the implications of Brexit on Aberdeen, and looking at the numbers it’s clear that Aberdeen saw the benefits of EU membership outweighed the downsides. At the time of the referendum on EU membership, residents of the city comfortably voted that they wanted to stay, with 61.1% of residents showing their support for this option. Being in the EU has more benefits for Aberdeen that a lot of other places in the UK. The free trade agreement with the rest of the continent is massively beneficial to the economy of the city, as thanks to the oil industry, Aberdeen is home to a number of highly specialised engineering firms. Many of these firms enjoy being able to share their expertise through relationships with other oil producing EU members such as Ukraine, Italy and Denmark.
Compared with UK’s ability to produce oil, these markets are rather small, but in terms of the economy of Aberdeen, leaving the EU must been seen as some sort of threat to trading with these nations. When the general election comes round in just a few weeks’ time, will the people of Aberdeen now be voting for a ‘soft Brexit’?
The Local Political Situation
How Aberdeen regarded the UK’s membership of the EU is in contrast to the way the rest of the UK voted, so we could see that people in Aberdeen will act in a way that secures their own interests this coming election. To an extent we have already seen this reaction in the 2015 general election, when both of Aberdeen’s traditionally Labour seats, swung dramatically to the SNP.
This was particularly indicative of the Aberdeen North seat when we examine the numbers closely. This had been a Labour stronghold since the mid-30’s, with a number of MPs serving for decades in some cases. However, in the 2015 general election, the SNP won the seat after a 26% swing in their favour.
What now remains to be seen is come the end of polling day, will the people of Aberdeen stick to their guns and support the SNP? Will they revert to the way it was before and favour Labour’s leadership? Or will they be taken in by the EU scepticism of the Conservative Party, and opt for the ‘hard-Brexit’ that many other Scots are struggling to swallow. The polling booths will soon tell the tale.