It's happened again - the SNP have notched up an impressive local by-election win in a formerly Labour-dominated area of the central belt, which is exactly the sort of place where they were constantly losing by-elections to Labour on worryingly sizeable swings in the aftermath of the 2017 general election. It does feel like something fundamental has changed.
Leith Walk by-election result (11th April 2019):
SNP 35.7% (+1.4)
Greens 25.5% (+5.9)
Labour 15.5% (-7.0)
Conservatives 10.7% (-3.7)
Liberal Democrats 8.6% (+4.8)
Independent - Illingworth 1.5% (n/a)
UKIP 1.2% (n/a)
Socialist Labour 0.8% (-0.1)
Independent - Scott 0.2% (n/a)
For Britain Movement 0.2% (n/a)
Scottish Libertarians 0.2% (n/a)
Technically this was an SNP gain from Labour, as the vacancy was caused by a Labour councillor's resignation, but psephologically that's a meaningless point because the SNP comfortably topped the poll in the ward last time around. Nevertheless the swings speak for themselves - there was a swing of more than 4% from Labour to SNP, and of roughly 2.5% from Conservative to SNP. The Tories must be particularly disappointed, because it's not all that common for them to go backwards in local by-elections - very often their vote share actually increases due to the greater motivation of their supporters to get out and vote.
To return to the subject of the previous post, I know some people will say that by-election results like this, along with the trend in recent opinion polls, suggests that the SNP's parking of the indyref issue over the last couple of years has paid dividends, and can continue to do so. I'd just point out that a strategy that makes it more likely that the SNP will remain the dominant party is not necessarily the same thing as a strategy that brings us closer to independence. Even if we have another twenty years of SNP rule at devolved level, we'd still look back and wonder what it was all about if we weren't an independent country at the end of it.