So Much For Predictions

Personally I’m delighted the SNP’s forward march continues with another ground-breaking result. Let’s not forget, they are defying all political science here in surging ahead after nearly a decade in power. They are contradicting the electoral cycle that decrees the wheel spins and someone else replaces you once they see you operate in government. They are defying a voting system and the efforts of all opposition to come near unseating them. They break the record in becoming the first party to win three elections at Holyrood. The constituency vote was the biggest ever. Sturgeon has her mandate.

I have to ask though: where are all the genius forecasters who boldly told us an overall majority was guaranteed? People on my timeline said they’d have a majority on the constituency vote alone. Where are they all this morning?

As I said before voting, never rely on the polls to be precise – in this case, yet again, they were plain wrong – and be careful who you listen to. Siren voices saying not to vote SNP twice because a majority was certain were luring us on to the rocks. The most that could be said was that it was all but impossible to see anyone other than the SNP being the biggest party. Everything else is changeable. And so it proved.

There were hints of the long-awaited Tory surge but nothing definitive. Like in the indyref, the middle classes just shut up, plot in silence and decapitate adroitly. Here there was undoubtedly a Tory swing regardless but clearly in places like Edinburgh Central, North East Fife and Eastwood the combination of Labour collapse and anti-independence votes coalescing around the best placed to beat the SNP resulted in unexpected scalps.

We saw in the Euro elections when Coburn was elected for UKIP what happens when the vote weakens and leaks away. Here it was again. The pleas for SNP voters to give their second vote to Rise look funny if it wasn’t so tragic. In the Highlands they were behind the Christian Party.

The system is fickle and it’s true that mounting up extra SNP votes in an area like Glasgow where all the constituency seats were won means no list additions. But to do otherwise is to assume all eight seats would go to the SNP. Nobody could know that. Look at the loss of two seats in such as Edinburgh or North East Fife – none of them forecast. That’s why I bridled to hear Patrick Harvie describe 100,000 SNP list votes in Glasgow as wasted. Just because they didn’t go to his party doesn’t mean they’re wasted. People voted for their party of choice and the system denied them top-up members. But, as I’ve argued, the case for reforming the voting method is looking urgent.

So where are we now? Minority administration need not be a bad thing as was shown in 2007 but I fear the hubris of the Greens – as exemplified by new MSP Ross Greer on radio – may be indicative. He sounded a little triumphalist as though he would be making demands with this new-found power and there would be a Green agenda. He was, to be fair, non-committal but was not dismissing the idea of a demand for a total ban on fracking in return for support. Somewhat premature you might think? The alternative scenario is that the SNP will find the Tories in agreement with them on a range of issues including the budget as they did during the first SNP government. Indeed, the shock to Labour may mean an end to their knee-jerk opposition for the sake of it and a readiness to work with Sturgeon – after all they won’t be the big opposition this time and have to carve out a new position. There will in addition be no need for agreement on a referendum since, barring cataclysmic events, there won’t be one. So perhaps the Greens should cool their jets (do they have jets?) before declaring a Yes majority.

The bigger story really has to be Labour and what’s left of it. This is subterranean decline for a party that declared it was changing only a year ago. The Iain Gray line that this is a long-term strategy not a one-election plan falls flat when there is no advance to report. Labour have actually got worse and still have to plan to address the abiding question. McLeish is right – they need a narrative to deal with independence. Simply calling it an argument about the past is just denial and deflection. I know changing leader again looks useless but I argued before Lamont was made leader that they need to have a national debate with the membership before they elect someone to lead. What do they want? What do they think? Who are they? Get out into the country and find it, don’t just ask for votes at conference.

It surely is also the case that no Labour leader can survive losing to the Tories. It makes the party a laughing stock and the leader a lame duck open to daily ridicule. There will be no return to policy projection until the constitutional question is answered and nothing at all can happen while the leader herself has failed the most basic of tests. It’s goodbye, Kezia or goodbye credibility (or what’s left). And remember – no UKIP.

Well done, everybody. We Won. Again.

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52 thoughts on “So Much For Predictions

  1. Is the mandate gone? The one that was not made – the one for a referendum. No wool pulled over the SNP’s eyes, its aware that D’Hont is a ball and chain for representation. Turnout was sadly low, amazingly low in my eyes – but the worst aspect of all of this is the crowing by Tories that they are coming back – really, its Labour that have gone blue.

    I’ll miss Kezia. Sad that the LibLiars get any support at all.

    • Heidstaethefire

      That might not be the worst thing that could have happened. It’s now S.N.P v tories at Westminster, and S.N.P. v tories at Holyrood. Thst in effect wee Ruth will need to dismount from the buffalo and defend every jot and comma of the posh boys’ manifesto. It won’t be that hard to point out their shortcomings.

      • Heidstaethefire

        Sorry, ” That in effect means..” is what it should have said; long night, short fingers.

    • Tories coming back… or digging out and putting a postal vote in the hand of every known Tory voter “moribund, dead or alive” (I did not say the dead part). Labour voters staying home whether on taxes, disgust or Labour for Indy..

      And indeed, Labour voters – diehard unionist, soft-soap socialist Labourites, including in our family our very own Granny Labour, turning Tory.

    • “No wool pulled over the SNP’s eyes, its aware that D’Hont is a ball and chain for representation”

      The SNP got around 44% of the vote and around 49% of seats. Strange kind of “ball and chain”, that.

  2. I wasn’t surprised by the outcome – but it will barely dent the SNP’s ability to do whatever they wish to do in government.

    As I have being saying for sometime, (Not) Labour are finished in Scotland in their current guise. How a leader that brings them in 3rd behind the Tories can stay on is beyond me. But then who do they have to replace her with?

    Nicola was quite clear pre-vote – no referendum until it’s quite clear that a substantial majority of Scottish voters will vote Yes. We are a some way off from that at the moment.

    Sure there is the glimmer of “a material change in circumstances” with the EU vote but I think that is clutching at straws as I think the UK as a whole and each of it’s constituent parts will vote to remain in the EU.

    So we are back to where we always were – the SNP need to prove in Government that Scotland can look after itself and do well by its citizens such that enough of them are prepared to take the logical next step.

    It was 18 years between the devolution vote of 1979 and the rampant endorsement for restoring a Scottish Parliament. in other words, a generation.

    Maybe things will happen sooner but if not roll on 2032!

  3. Please please no deals with the Tories. That would be a disaster

  4. The one thing I take from this election is that the unionist feel safer in Tory hands and not labours. It does make me feel that those that voted for labour are either devout or soft supporters that are not quit ready for independence.

  5. To a certain extent I think these elections were somewhat of a sideshow. The big one is the EU Referendum. If and its an if at the moment England votes to leave and we vote to stay thus tipping the balance to Stay then I suspect we have a genuine Constitutional crisis coming from the English side. A vey different beast and all bets are off at this point.
    I think SNP will avoid any firm commitments (if they make them at all) on coalition until after June 6th therefore.

  6. Heidstaethefire

    I think your basic premise is right Steve, we’re still in the same place; having to govern competently, and bring enough of the no voters round. In that, we’re in a good position. Just under 50% of voters have just trusted an incumbent party to govern for the third time. There is a barrow load of poo coming down the line from the treasury in the next four years that will need to be handled. One benefit of minority leadership is thst it denies the opposition the opportunity to sit on their hands and absolve themselves of responsibility. As I said above, this will particularly affect the tories.
    As far as timing goes, my feeling is within ten years. I don’t see a Brexit providing the opportunity. I think Scotland will vote to remain, decisively but not enthusiastically. There are a lot of sensible reasons for voting to go, T.T.I.P, and the appalling treatment of Greece principally, but it’s a balance of the argument hold your nose and vote to stay position. I don’t think that’s a strong enough position to ask people to, in essence, leave one political union for another. And there is always the possibility of the old MacMillan trope, “…events, dear boy, events.”
    So yes, essentially in the same position, but with a better hand to play.

    • Heidstaethefire

      p.s. In yhe longer term, it scotches the myth that the second vote is some sort of fashion accessory.

  7. I didn’t hear him on the radio, but at this point in time I’d forgive Ross Greer sounding triumphant. He is young and on a well deserved high. The next few days and weeks will be interesting. I’d like to see Greens clarify their position on independence.

  8. It was sad to see (allegedly) intelligent folk spouting about the SNP “landslide” based on opinion polls. The clue is in the adjective. “Opinion”. If they are so intelligent, then they had an agenda.

  9. Disappointed that it came to two seats, and my own, last of the lot, Regional MSPs in which the D’Hondt system failed to respond to somewhat more than131K SNP vote with a corresponding List MSP or two, despite the proportionality of that List vote to the over all number of List votes cast in the Region. And that while other Green List MSPs were returned on a similar quanity of votes, 14K (and more) of Green votes in the NE Region also did not return a Green MSP.

    I was SSP. Whilst I am renouncing my membership for a number of (other) reasons, I also decided not to vote for them in the List vote as I calculated it would be so small as to be statistically insignificant, as my List SSP vote has always been in the NE Region.

    I spent six weeks in a not unstressful process research and enquiry over the allocation of my second vote. it mattered to me. It mattered that my list vote, this time, impacted (as part of a bigger whole). It may have had an element of Aspergic hyperfocus but still…

    In the end, it did not matter: if I had made the choice I did not make, my vote – with the others for that party in the List vote – would still not have changed the allocation of List MSPs; it did not return a majority government either.

    I did not expect my vote to be the single winning vote, but the decision of trying to ensure it contribute to the pile most likely to return (bizarrely) a majority for a party of which I am not (yet) a member weighed heavy. And in the end, due to the vagaries or inequities of the voting system, it did not matter.

  10. “after all they won’t be the big opposition this time and have to carve out a new position”…
    No Derek, we all have to change, that’s what went wrong, we voted the wrong way for SLab this time, we need to buck up our ideas

  11. Okay. Initially disappointed (why?!) but rallying again.

    Did former Labour voters really vote Tory? Seriously? These people clearly don’t have internet access and are ill-informed.
    Bottom-line is, SNP are still in charge of this gig and that’s the whole idea. Once the dust settles we’ll realise we’re putting the right message across very successfully. Health, education and infrastructure is in safe hands. It’s not such a bad thing that we have an opposition in Holyrood as complacency is more damaging than any Unionist rag. Scotland’s adult party will get on with driving the country whilst dealing with the girning Unionist weans in the back seat. No, we’re not there yet, but we’re in the right vehicle.

    What of British Labour in Scotland? it appears that Scotland has room for only one Unionist party and Unionist Scots have chosen Unionist Tory – these are the people Nicola’s been saying have to be convinced of the benefits of indy. Labour in Scotland will have decisions to make about what they’re actually doing up here. No doubt Labour Scottish Branch will be touting Federalist Scotland; not interested, we want the Full Monty so don’t go sleekit cap-in-hand too-little-too-late on us now.

    Meanwhile, the SNP have increased their vote in Scotland – we have a growing, life-long army – and we’re in safe hands with our brilliant FM, our talented team of MSPs and we have a powerful and not-going-anywhere New Media.
    Thanks again, Derek.

    • @Kevin Taylor

      Did former Labour voters really vote Tory? Seriously? These people clearly don’t have internet access and are ill-informed.

      I am not sure this kind of an approach is going to work. It is like telling SNP voters and supporters that they are part of a cult/stupid/moronic. As far as I can tell it is the more affluent areas of Scotland that are the most resistant to independence. Saying that these areas do not have internet access is not going to cut it imo.

      • As ever, the majority of those doing well for themselves are determined the status quo will prevail. That won’t change. Forget about them and look to inspire the rest.

        • Well Davie, to achieve independence we are going to have to win over 50 per cent of the vote. So we cannot really appeal to the minority because we failed last time, albeit with a very respectable 45 per cent.

          • We appeal to all those who failed to be inspired to turn out to vote this time.

          • Muttley: ‘So we cannot really appeal to the minority because we failed last time,’
            Then we’re doomed?

            Davie: ‘look to inspire the rest.’
            I’ll be looking to inspire the rest. I think a positive outlook is what’s required here. I’m not about to lay down and die just because a Tory is now a distant second-best in Scotland – now we know exactly what we’re dealing with in Scotland and she and her party will soon be outed and routed by the SNP.

            Besides, there’s always another generation open to new, fresh ideas. Not everyone in Scotland is ‘doing well for themselves’ as Davie puts it. I’ve already spoken with a couple of very disgusted former No voting left of centres who are making noises about seeing much clearer now.
            How about some enthusiasm, Muttley?

  12. It’s independence or bust for Scottish Labour now, but given their past ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I fully expect them to order the ship to steam full ahead towards the iceberg!

    Minority government doesn’t bother me – It’ll keep the SNP honest, and with Andy Wightman in parliament, Land Reform will get the boot up the backside it deserves.

    The SNP have been far too timid on this issue for my liking.

    Yes, the Greens may be a pain in the arse at times, but you can talk with them, compromise with them, and they did campaign for Yes during the referendum, so I’m not worried about the Greens. They’re a reasonable, mature bunch, and although I don’t like some of their policies, I do respect the fact they are prepared to sit down and negotiate.

    As for the North British Tories, well. last year we saw a triumphant David Cameron, and yet, here we are a year later with Cameron on the ropes, leading a divided party.

    Tories may gloat now, but the ensuring civil war that’s looming over Europe, and with Ruth Davidson having to defend Cameron and Co…

    The shine will come off.

    The battle lines are drawn – Pro-Indy Vs.Union, with Labour being crushed to death.

  13. Well, an interesting night…
    initially a bit bemused at the Ruth Davidson Party hubris. I only hope the people who voted for The RDP ( and let’s be honest there was no mention of the Conservatives in her promo, it’s all about Ruth ) are not disappointed when they realise , shouting , interrupting and finger pointing does not make your argument any better, just the sound bite sounds louder.
    Pleased for Andy Wightman

  14. I would like to think that labour in Scotland will sit down and reflect a little on what being “Indistinguishable from the Tories but less competent” meant. I think we can also see that there is a substantial number of people who, when it comes to the Union, switched to the tories. It remains to be seen if the Union suffers with its association with the conservatives as labour did.

    The ground has shifted and now it is SNP vs Tory. Interesting times.

  15. Good post Derek.

    I’d say not a bad night overall. 🙂

    • A pro-indy majority, with an SNP minority government being kept on its toes, with the greens pushing them hard on Land Reform…

      It’s a damn good night as far as I’m concerned.

      My greatest fear about the SNP was that they’d get complacent, that they end up morphing into Labour, with all the West of Scotland jobs for the boys and cronyism that blighted the region for decades.

      Well, no need to worry about that now. The SNP will have to keep upping their game, but they have Sturgeon, Swinney, and Hosie, so they’re in good hands.

      • Independence is a long haul fight. Always has been and last night night was another step in the right direction.

        As for complacency? There’s always that possibility in any sphere where an individual or group enjoys too much success. Having said that, I haven’t noticed much of it rearing its head from the SNP parliamentarians. Not yet.

        How and ever, huge and unrealistic expectation was placed upon the SNP for this vote by the media. They literally (IMV) were encouraging voter apathy/complacency.

        That the final tally came out the way it did? Well, like I said above, not a bad night. 🙂

  16. I am a member of the SNP, currently living in England but hoping to move back home in 2018 in time to prepare for Indy Ref2. I don’t now when it will be, but I am certain it will be. I refuse to be cowed or downhearted about this result. In every respect, bar one, it is a fantastic result. We came close to breaking d’Hondt again but it was always going to be a tough call. We are only two votes short of an overall majority but still the largest party by a country mile. I do not doubt that we will get the overwhelming amount of our manifesto through. There may be sympathetic Yessers on the Labour benches now unencumbered by ‘official opposition’ status who will feel freer to support the SNP under the guise of ‘consenual’ politics without attracting opprobrium as ‘Traitors’ to the cause of SNPBad – or maybe they won’t and they’ll eat each other until there is nothing left. That or they properly split from London, focus their fire on the Tories and ditch the SNP hatred. Trouble is their central cast remains the same so no Damascene conversion likely, but the sun is shining and I’m still half cut, so who knows.

    We gained a greater share of the vote than Labour and Tory combined in both lists, absolutely astounding figures for an incumbent party seeking a third term. Just savour that thought.

    The Rainbow parliament is back, where now your One Party State, lazy, Hack Bastards – Nicola can operate really well in these circumstances. Blockers blocking for blocking’s sake will have no hiding place with her and John Swinney pulling them by the nose. (I had a lot of Ballantine’s fine whisky last night so maybe still a wee bit rost eyed).

    The Tories are up but that makes them easier to knock down as their underbelly will be in view for all to see. Being a strong opposition should mean they also have an alternative plan for govt. scrutiny will be harder to avoid and Nicola will have longer to toy with Ruthie at FMQS. They won’t be smiling for long.

    Yes, the Rainbow is back and we are the biggest and brightest colour in it. The Greens have been rewarded for their commitment to the Yes cause, rightly so, their bounce has lifted them up, domestic politics is vibrant again. It will be sweet to see Patrick Harvey take wee Willie’s place at FMQS. He’s a smart guy and deserves a bigger audience.

    The Independence story was always more than just the SNP. Lots of lessons have been learnt from 2014 and the continuing support for pro-Independence parties is strong and will continue to grow . Then there is the Brucey Bonus – UKIP didn’t get shit.

    Optomistic much? Yeah! Why not!

  17. There were hints of the long-awaited Tory surge but nothing definitive. Like in the indyref, the middle classes just shut up, plot in silence and decapitate adroitly.

    Therein lies the success or not of independence. Are enough of the middle classes in Scotland going to support independence in the future? The Yes campaign did not manage enough of a breakthrough among this group in general to win in 2014. They still seem reluctant.

  18. Things may get very interesting in the summer….just a hunch! Keep the faith Derek.

  19. Hardly a shock SNP didn’t get a majority in a Parliamentary System that is designed to prevent majorities. They didn’t get one in 2011 either, remember…

    It’s certainly a difficult time for Labour. The problem they have is that if/when Kezia goes, they’re so hard wired in the old ways that it will be a coronation rather than a self examination and someone like Anas Sarwar will be held aloft as the new glorious leader (plenty skeletons in his closet, though…) Losing to the Tories in Scotland is an embarassment and Kezia is clearly unfit for purpose, but are the alternatives any better?

    A few interviews today saying people voted SNP not Labour because of the constitutional question. Certainly that will have been true in places and for some, but it’s excusing their own failing. A daily U turn on most policy issues, a manifesto that was launched a week before the election, and after postal votes were cast, a determination to turn any question about their future plans into an answer about the SNP being bad in the past or currently. They’re already the party of abstainers, but now they are deflectors too.

    Sorry, Labour, but I don’t see any way back for you in the short to medium term.

  20. Hope you don’t mind me posting a link here for a piece by Paul Mason, excellent analysis from an ‘outsider’.

    https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/elections-2016-the-scottish-earthquake-continues-f829864192b5#.me4ld9k8e

  21. Labour electorate voting Tory in Scotland, I find that hard to swallow. I think they vote Tory under the safe protection of Swinney’s mitigation, so lets give the Tory regions the respect they so crave and the policies they voted for. Lets see if Ruth’s can explain away the cuts coming, maybe if they feel the cuts it might make them not so classy eyed.

    Good piece Derek……..

  22. I agree with all the comments and blog. One thing sticks in the craw though, and that is the number of fellow Scots who voted Tory.

    This Tory party isn’t just a group who have a slightly different outlook on politics, a nuanced right of centre philosophy: they are a hard right cabal without any semblance of social conscience or notion of social justice; their whole raison d’etre is to enrich their pals in the City and themselves when they move on.

    Since Thatcher and the trashing of “One Nation Conservatism” they have declared war on working people (miners, anti-union legislation), they have attacked the poor, the disabled, the out of work while simultaneously handing the well off bucket loads of cash, they have sold off our assets at knock down prices, including social housing, to the enrichment of private interests, they are dismantling the NHS in England and privatising their education too, and aim to dismember the what’s left of the corpse of Attlee’s Welfare State. They shouldn’t be in parliament, they should be in gaol.

    I just don’t understand the mindset which says “I’m alright, Jock, I’ll vote Tory because I got where I am through my own efforts and deserve my success, while you lot deserve your poverty.” And these are people I pass in the street, and are probably my neighbours too.

    • I suspect we will see a softer form of Conservatism here – with a stronger emphasis on the unionism and less so on the neo-liberal agenda.

      Ruth isnae daft – she knows that if the Tories in Scotland simply ape Cameron and Osborne yesterday will have been their high point with the only way forward being downhill.

    • Wholly agree with you on this. However, there was one other depressing part of last night when the world’s greatest political liar got elected in Dumbarton. How anyone could vote for Jackie Baillie with her record of telling as many anti-SNP porkies as she can invent, I just don’t understand.

  23. ”What now for labour ? ” some have asked . Will they now see the light and embrace independence as a lifebelt as their party sinks beneath them ? With the likes of Baillie , Sarwar , Kelly , Lamont etc… all being returned mostly on via the List , I see no Damascene conversion for these self-serving second-raters . Good riddance !

  24. The Voting system is rigged.

  25. It’s been said before, but today sees the end of right-wing versus left-wing politics and the definite beginning of pro-indy versus anti-indy politics. A step forward in my opinion.

    Don’t pay the britnat bbc licence tax.

  26. Still say Slabour will now split. Good guys v’s self serving career politicians. There will be a lot of soul searching and blaming.

  27. He was, to be fair, non-committal but was not dismissing the idea of a demand for a total ban on fracking in return for support.

    Some-one needs to explain to Greer that if the Scottish government places a total ban on fracking it allows the Westminster government to overrule it.

    • Well, many of us have been patiently explaining exactly this point for a while now, in various fora. The fact that the greens have been simply ignoring it convinces me that they are not to be trusted.

      I also seen a lot of online arguments for indy supporters giving their list vote to either greens or rise but only the greens got any electoral benefit from it, precisely because they were backed by the establishment media to undermine SNP. Not to be trusted.

    • Someone will doubtless explain to Greer that the SNP doesn’t need his support. It only needs his party not to get right into bed with all three unionist parties at once. Was he thinking of trying that? Good luck explaining that to the people who elected him.

      The SNP seat total is too high to need anything from the Greens that they are in any position to withhold.

  28. Labour Hame is very quiet the day.

  29. Just wondering if Margaret Curran (remember her?) was devastated that Ukip failed to win a seat and prove that Scotland is the same as Britain.

  30. More clearly than ever before: it’s us or them. Pro-indy or anti-indy. For Scotland or against it. The constitution will be centre-stage for the next five years, unless brexit brings indy2 quicker.

  31. Simon Jenkins talked in the Guardian of a merger between SNP and Lab. A nonsense l know but what about two or three Lab MSPS crossing the floor to join the SNP? Possible or not?

    • I think that there is every likelihood of MSP’s crossing the house if Kezia Dugdale tries to hang on.
      Will the Lib Dems, Green, and labour now turn their guns on the real vandals Up Here, Ruth Davidson and the Tories.
      It is Tory Cuts to the poor, re4ward the rich, that is the main evil. Time the Better Together collaborators exposed Ruth for what she is. An outr and out enemy of democracy and social justice.
      BTW. Willie Rennie is a giggling fool.

      • Agreed on everything you’ve said there, but another thought occurs to me for pro-Indendence Labour MSPs. If the step to the SNP is a step too far and one that would result in a lot of blow back, a step to the Greens could work and reduce the personal flak they might get. They would be embracing a lot of their averred policies on tax and the environment and by moving to a smaller group, avoid the accusation of being opportunistic. The pro-Indy lobby increases and they keep a bit of political credibility.

  32. gordon purvis

    Derek, I don’t know if you get down to reading these after the fact but I equally thought back to your post last year regarding the Orkney case. You noted, and I agreed, that it might not be the best strategy to pursue the case of the errant MP so vigorously in the courts, in social media and elsewhere. Ultimately, that seems to have been a waste and at worst counter productive. It gives the idea of an angry crowd rather than the spirited upbeat gathering which we know it really is. Anyway, done and dusted now.

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