Friday, 6 May 2016

The new Scotland

Well, that was an interesting night. Against my better judgement, I stayed up for the whole thing, once it became clear that this wasn't going to be a straightforward election by any means. The SNP, as predicted, have won a historic third term in office, albeit missing out on a majority by two seats. A commendable result after nine years in power and 99% of the media against them.

In essence, the Greens' gains came at the expense of the SNP, perhaps most symbolically in Edinburgh Central, where the Greens' Alison Johnstone's hefty 14% share of the vote almost certainly allowed Tory leader Ruth Davidson to scrape past the SNP's Alison Dickie for a win. This was even more apparent on all important regional lists, where the SNP failed to gain enough seats to make up for some surprising losses in the constituency ballot. Seriously, those results in Edinburgh are just bonkers - Lib Dems soaring to 42% in Edinburgh Western while losing their deposits in all other Edinburgh constituencies bar one. The affluent unionist-leaning constituencies have, it seems, mastered the art of tactical voting.

The big story, unsurprisingly, is the Tories coming second, and not just scraping it either, but bagging a whopping 31 seats. I can't say I'm sorry to see Labour crash and burn - they've brought it on themselves and deserve nothing less than a generation (or perhaps a lifetime) in the political wilderness for their behaviour during and since the independence referendum - and in many respects I actually think having a full-blooded Tory opposition rather than a feckless, infantile Labour opposition might actually concentrate people's minds a bit. The main political fault line in Scotland was confirmed last night as being very much one of a left-leaning, progressive "nationalism" versus a cruel, right-wing unionism. At the very least, I hope the Tories in Scotland now face scrutiny for what their masters in London are doing - something Davidson and her cronies have inexplicably managed to avoid to date. I'm just astounded at how readily such a large swathe of Labour voters gaily embraced their supposed mortal enemies... but then, we saw how happily they worked together during the referendum, so perhaps, for a great many of them, these supposedly vast ideological differences really are purely cosmetic.

Ultimately, with the combined SNP and Green seats, we still have a pro-independence majority, and as far as I'm concerned that can only be a good thing. And, though I voted SNP on both ballots, I look forward to seeing whether the Greens are able to use their likely status as kingmakers to steer the SNP in a more radical direction on issues on which they've been rather timid - council tax and land reform, to name a couple. And words cannot express my delight at the fact that, contrary to what some of the polls were suggesting, the repugnant David "Toad of Toad Hall" Coburn failed to make inroads in the Highlands and Islands, meaning that Holyrood remains a UKIP-free zone. And, in spite of early reports from the ground, voter turnout was actually up compared to 2011, reaching an all-time high for Scottish parliamentary elections. Hooray for democracy! I think.

So, once again, to recap my predictions from the other day:

SNP 71 (+2)
Labour 26 (-11)
Tories 21 (+6)
Lib Dems 6 (+1)
Greens 5 (+3)

And in reality...

SNP 63 (-6)
Tories 31 (+16)
Labour 24 (-13)
Greens 6 (+4)
Lib Dems 5 (+0)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Scottish parliament election musings

So tomorrow we go to the polls... or rather, those who haven’t already voted by post go to the polls. This has been a weird and curiously low-key election — one in which all the major parties, bar the one everyone knows is going to win, effectively conceded defeat several months ago, with the Tories actively campaigning on a “vote for us to be the opposition” ticket. Still, I don’t think the result is a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination. The way the D’Hondt system works, the line between a minority government and an outright majority is a very fine one indeed, and the eventual result will inevitably come down to the precise distribution of the vote in the various constituencies and regions.

I’m not a betting man (though I did buy a lottery ticket once, about 15 years ago — somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t win), but these are my predictions for the outcome. Come Friday, we’ll see how close I was.

- The SNP will win another majority, with a very modest increase on their 2011 result of 69 seats. They will not, as some have predicted, take all the constituency seats. I’m going to take an almighty gamble and predict that Nicola Sturgeon will be First Minister next week.

- Labour will remain the second largest party, but their lead over the Conservatives will be reduced to a handful of seats (say 5). Kezia Dugdale will remain in place as leader, if for no reason other than that you can’t go any lower than rock bottom.

- The Conservatives will make modest gains, picking up some of Labour’s hard unionist vote, but there will be no glorious revival... though the media will continue to inexplicably fawn over the unimpressive Ruth Davidson.

- The Liberal Democrats will gain one more seat than they did in 2011, prompting much chest-beating and claims of a Lib Dem revival from the amusing Willie Rennie. Failing that, they will retain the exact same number of seats as in 2011 and will claim that “the vote held up.” No one will listen because no one takes Willie Rennie seriously.

- The Greens will make respectable gains, albeit not to the extent that many of the polls have predicted. They’ll probably double their 2011 result of 2, but not much beyond that, and as such, will fail to overtake the Lib Dems as the fourth largest party, more’s the pity.

- RISE, Solidarity and UKIP will all fail to win a single seat. David Coburn will be deposed as UKIP leader.

So (and in the famous last words of Paddy Ashdown, I’ll eat my hat if this poll is accurate), here are my guesses:

SNP 71 (+2)
Labour 26 (-11)
Tories 21 (+6)
Lib Dems 6 (+1)
Greens 5 (+3)