For the second time in two years, I find myself befuddled by an election result. So sorry if this is all a bit disjointed - I'm working it out as I go along...
I voted SNP on both constituency and list vote, and obviously I was hoping for another SNP majority, so I'm a little disappointed on that front.
On the other hand, I'm inclined to think that this actually is the right result - the SNP scored 41.7% on the (proportional) list vote, and so to win an outright majority there would actually have been something of a distortion. As it is, getting 48.8% of the seats is something of a distortion, but at least it's a change of degree rather than type. The results for the other parties are all "about right" - the Greens 'should' probably have picked up another 3 seats and the Lib Dems 2, while Labour 'should' have 1 more seat and the Tories 1 fewer, but none of those are vastly inaccurate. (Those totals aren't quite right due to rounding errors.)
Anyway, the most important outcome from this election, for me, was achieving competent governance, which I felt that only the SNP could offer. That they are by far the largest party, albeit just short of a majority, probably achieves that. And, in fact, I actually felt that the previous minority government, from 2007-2011, actually worked better than the majority, because it forced the SNP to compromise, do deals, and resulted in a fairly balanced programme of government. So that's good... provided Labour, the Greens, and the Lib Dems (in that order) are willing to engage in that dealing rather than mindlessly obstructing everything. That, of course, remains to be seen.
So, on balance, I'm fairly happy with the result.
My initial reaction to this result was that this kills the question of a second referendum dead, even in the event of a Brexit. On reflection, I think that may be premature - the SNP's position was that they were going to wait for a clear and sustained show of public opinion (probably in the polls)... and I think that if the polls do show a clear majority in favour of independence then that's pretty much all the mandate you need. (Besides, barring Brexit, it probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to put the question of a second referendum out to pasture for five years.)
What this does mean, however, is that it's now even more important that the UK votes to Remain. Because while I think a clear majority in the polls would constitute a clear mandate, I'd rather not have that put to the test. (Besides, I honestly believe that's the right result for all of the UK anyway.)
It's also important that the various pro-independence groups avoid the temptation to now turn on one another. There are already some signs of that happening, which is unfortunate. I can think of nothing more damaging to the cause than it all devolving into a whole bunch of infighting and recriminations.
On the Tories
It's been a good night for them, and a good night for Ruth Davison in particular. I suspect that a lot of this is down to people who previously voted Labour on an "anyone but the SNP" rationale returning 'home', rather than any genuine shift in public opinion. And part of it is also a result of her hard line against a second referendum.
What will be interesting now is how the Tories decide to act in opposition, especially on matters other than the constitution - will they be a constructive opposition who serve to hold the government to account, or will they adopt their own version of the Bain Principle and just obstruct everything regardless?
Oh dear. I really think they're done, with only next year's council elections left to finish off the job.
I think there are three points of interest out of this:
- Will Anas Sarwar launch his inevitable bid for the leadership now, or will he let Kezia keep the poisoned chalice for another year, let her take the blame for the council elections, and take over the wreckage?
- Will Labour be willing to deal with the SNP to see some of their agenda implemented, or will they stick to the Bain Principle and complete their slide into irrelevance?
- And where will they stand on the issue of the constitution? Will they shift to be pro-independence, will they join the Tories in their hard-line against, or something else?
Needless to say, I have recommendations:
On the first, I have no particular interest either way. I don't think Anas Sarwar is the answer, but I don't think that matters - I'm pretty sure he will be the next leader; I just don't know when.
On the second, it's dead simple: the Bain Principle was madness when first stated. Something like that should never have been considered, never mind adopted, and it needs to go, like, yesterday. Otherwise, Labour does, because they're of no use to us.
On the third, I'd recommend Labour should be the party of Devo-Max. (Note: they shouldn't position themselves as that party; they should be that party.) That means that, as of now, they should take the view that absolutely anything that can be devolved should be devolved. And the point needs to be made to the UK Labour Party that they basically can't win back Westminster if they don't win back Scotland, and this is the price of winning Scotland. Even this may not be enough.
(There are some who will argue that Labour should switch to supporting independence, but I don't think that works - their remaining support seems split pretty evenly on the issue. But I think there's actually a majority in Scotland for whom DM would be the preferred outcome anyway. Besides, Labour should be seeking a distinctive position on the constitution, and this is the only one that's left.)
Of course, if and when they then find themselves in a position to deliver devo-max, they have to actually do it. Even if they aren't in power in Holyrood at the time.
The Greens and the Lib Dems
A good night for the Greens, and a middling one for the Lib Dems. I think the Lib Dems have now fallen as far as they're going, but I also think they're probably going to stay there for the foreseeable future. I don't see them coming back in any meaningful manner.
The Greens are another matter; I think last night was the point where they overtake the Lib Dems permanently, and I'd expect them to continue to make modest gains. But I can't see them gaining much more traction unless and until independence comes; the battle-lines are pretty solidly drawn between the SNP on the 'Yes' side and the Tories on the 'No', which squeezes everyone else.
RISE and Solidarity
As expected, neither of these parties got anywhere. I'm not sure I care, since there's no way I'd consider voting for either anyway.
However, one piece of advice: the proportional system we have favours bigger parties and chews up the little guy. So if you want to get anywhere, you need to merge - two very slightly different flavours of socialism aren't going to get anywhere; one merged party might just.
And I think that covers everything. Now the dust has started to settle somewhat, I'm feeling rather more sanguine about the whole thing. I think we're going to be okay.
But we do need to avoid a Brexit.