We all knew that this would be a historic night for the SNP and would end up with a first full term for Nicola Sturgeon. We also thought that this would be a terrible night for Scottish Labour. What we did not know is that tonight would be redemption night for both of the coalition partners in the last government.
For the SNP, so much has changed but so much has stayed the same. Rather than become the beneficiaries of Scottish Labour’s collapse, their share of vote has only gone up – to date – by 1.1%. They have picked up 10 seats from Labour but to date have lost four seats. It did look like the early result at Rutherglen, where the SNP unseated the Labour shadow cabinet minister James Kelly – would be this election’s equivalent to Nuneaton or Basildon. That we would have a second majority government on the spin. That currently is not certain to happen.
Instead, the story has turned out to be redemption night for both of the coalition partners. The Lib Dems held both the Orkney & Shetland seats before claiming the Fife North East and Edinburgh West seats from the SNP. The Tories wins were more spectacular, and puts them on course to snatch second place from Labour. The first signs that the Conservatives might be on for second was Jackson Carlaw’s defeat of Ken McIntosh in the three way marginal at Eastwood. Then came Ruth Davidson’s win in Edinburgh Central. The constituency wins underpinning the story of the 8.5% swing from Labour to the Conservatives.
The reasons for SNP’s projected win are fairly well discussed, given their safety first manifesto. A hopelessly split party on the verge of civil war with very real decisions about where it should go next and no real plan on how to bridge the divergent priorities of middle Scotland and middle England have contributed to Labour’s collapse here. It is also very clear that there is a constituency here in Scotland that 30 years ago would have been Conservative (but firmly on the Tory Wet wing) but as time went on would have been what we now recognise as Blairite. Those people, probably in the Professional class, commuter belt Scotland, are pro-Union and are not sure where they sit in post Referendum Scotland. An ideal starting point then for a Conservative revival.
So far, a good night for the Conservatives, a good night for the Lib Dems and a catastrophic night for Scottish Labour. The SNP might still talk about what might have been. But with the list votes still to be counted, it is certain that Nicola Sturgeon will be heading back to Bute House.