Today’s election results were a success for everyone not wearing a red rosette. The SNP will return to government, the Conservatives will find themselves as the official opposition, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone have some more friends and the Liberal Democrats get to remain a party.
We’ve taken a quick look at the successes and challenges facing the parties.
- Winning 63 seats is a tremendous achievement for the party. Falling just short of a majority is certainly no failure, indeed it shows just how remarkable the result in 2011 was.
- What happens with the manifesto? Not having a majority means they won’t be able to push everything through.
- The campaign wasn’t fought on a platform of independence but is a second referendum now off the agenda? Maybe, maybe not. And if not, how could we avoid it becoming even more class-orientated than previously, now that the SNP will have to rely on left-wing Greens to deliver it, and now that their mandate is strongest in west-central Scotland?
- The routing of Labour in their traditional heartlands is an amazing achievement, and difficult to overstate – but is it coming at a cost? The Tory resurgence, the Lib Dem wins in Fife and West Edinburgh, even possibly Iain Gray holding East Lothian may all be indicators that the ‘Tartan Tories’ are dead, and that voters from the right are starting to look elsewhere. Has the party’s centre of gravity shifted from rural north east to the post-industrial west central Scotland?
- What a night! I would defy any strategist in that team to say they realistically felt they’d win the number of seats the eventually did. Ruth Davidson led from the front winning Edinburgh Central in a surprise result.
- They’ve worked well with a minority SNP government between 2007-11 extracting some notable concessions. But, though they’re significantly stronger now, so are the SNP. How will they manage this in Holyrood? Do they risk precipitating indyref2 by talking about it too much? Should Ruth just get on with being an effective opposition?
- Now that the SNP have shown a (admittedly small) sign of weakness on their right, the Conservatives have an opportunity to be an effective opposition and really become the party to end the SNP’s remarkably successful ‘all things to all people’ trick.
- The challenge is now to use this result to build a real power base at the local elections next year. Only by laying strong foundations at local level can the party look to maintain, and improve, their presence at Holyrood in five years.
- Where does the party go from here? Decimated in numbers and experience and undoubtedly demoralised from a campaign that yielded little in the way of positives.
- Kezia Dugdale must stay on. The party would’ve known when they elected her that doing so was a bit of a hospital pass and there’s no suggestion that anyone could’ve done any better.
- It can get worse. The SNP are the natural party of the left now. The Conservatives the natural party of the right, and of the ‘No’ voters. Labour have to discover what their role is at Holyrood.
- But that is not to say it definitely will. The Tories show that a toxic brand can be overcome, but it is not a quick process. The SNP may have usurped them as the party of the left, but the power of Labour’s brand in this space shouldn’t be underestimated, even if it is somewhat tarnished at the moment.
- Winning an additional four seats and increasing their vote share is a tremendous result for a party who were essentially up against the #SNPBothVotes strategy. Do the Green’s now hold the power in deciding whether or not there will be referendum 2 – the SNP now need their votes at Holyrood. An alternative voice at Holyrood that has earned the right to be heard.
- Willie Rennie with possibly the result of the night, winning Fife North East from the SNP. Another couple of good constituency win/holds and a regional seat addition ensured they retain ‘main party’ status at Holyrood. The continuing presence of a Liberal voice in the Scottish Parliament is welcome, regardless of political leanings. Their complete demise would have been a sad sight for such an historic party.
- How can the Lib Dems build on this unexpectedly positive result? What is their voice, where is their niche, where can they start to claw-back votes from other parties? Difficult questions remain.
In the weeks ahead we’ll look at some of these topics in more detail.