Monday, May 27, 2019

It's big, it's decisive: the SNP have won the European elections in Scotland by a landslide

So, as I quite often do in the immediate aftermath of an election, here are a few random thoughts in no particular order...

* Yesterday I posted a list of benchmarks for SNP success, and the party has sailed past all of them - including the one I was most dubious about, ie. the 36.9% share of the vote achieved in the 2017 general election.

* The most important thing from the point of view of both the SNP and the wider independence movement is that the 2017 result is no longer a problem.  It should never have been a problem in the first place, because it was a landslide for the SNP of 1987 Thatcher style proportions.  It saw them win 60% of the seats and almost as big a share of the vote as they won tonight.  There was only ever an issue because of the ludicrous media spin on the result - but that spin is now at an end.  In terms of political momentum, the swing in the SNP's favour tonight supercedes the swing against them two years ago, meaning that we'll hear no more about Ruth Davidson's supposed fightback against an independence referendum - or at least not until and unless she reverses tonight's result in a subsequent election, which looks a very remote prospect.  For now the SNP are indisputably the ascendant party, and to the extent that any party can claim to speak for this country, the SNP have earned the right to make that claim.

* That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the 2017 tribute act in the Tory leaflets may have been the crucial factor in saving Ruth Davidson's sole Scottish seat.  It would seem plausible that the tired old "no more referendums" pitch may have won back just enough of the hardline unionist voters who would otherwise have been tempted by the Brexit Party.  If so, we should raise a glass to Ms Davidson's lack of imagination, because the Tories' success in clinging on to their seat contributed to the Brexit Party's failure to take a second seat.  If the final result had been SNP 3, Brexit Party 2, Lib Dems 1, the perception would have been that the SNP win wasn't quite so clear-cut.  As it is, no-one can really doubt the SNP's dominance.

* In every other sense apart from the fact that they won a seat, it was a truly awful result for the Scottish Tories - they hit an all-time low in the popular vote.  Only proportional representation saved their bacon.  We've all seen the map - if this had been a first-past-the-post Westminster election, the Tories would have been completely wiped out and the SNP would have won almost every single seat.  The trend was no different in the north-east seats that the Tories gained two years ago and that had looked absolutely rock-solid for them until a few short weeks ago.  This is happening partly because of the resurgence in SNP support, and partly because the natural Tory vote is split down the middle between two parties.  So the SNP's chances of winning back their former north-east heartlands in a snap general election depend to some extent on whether the Brexit Party vote holds up in the coming months, and indeed on whether the Brexit Party decide to contest every Westminster seat.  (I suspect they'll feel obliged to, because any party that wants to present itself as seeking to win an election can't give its opponents a free pass in selected seats.)

* Although the SNP's 38% share of the vote tonight looks similar to the 37% achieved in 2017, pound-for-pound it was a much better result, simply because this was a proportional representation election and there was more competition to beat.  The Brexit Party are the most obvious example of that, but the Greens also took 8% of the vote, in complete contrast to the general election in which they barely put up any candidates.  Ian Blackford made a telling point on the BBC results programme - the SNP's winning share of the vote in Scotland was larger than the share achieved by the first-placed party in England.  That wasn't the case in 2017.

* As far as the interminable discussions about tactical voting are concerned, the SNP could only have gained a fourth seat if a very large number of Green and Lib Dem voters had switched to them, and the Greens could only have won a seat if a very large number of SNP and Lib Dem voters had switched.  The reality is that the whole idea that any party just needed a modest number of tactical votes to tip them over the edge was proved to be bogus.  Anyone who followed the advice of the Remain Voter website to "tactically vote Lib Dem" in Scotland must be feeling a bit foolish, because the Lib Dems would have comfortably won a seat anyway, and they were nowhere near to winning a second seat.

* If there's a cloud on the horizon for the SNP, it might be Jo Swinson.  I know some people will scoff at that idea, and I entirely share the view that she's going to be an uninspiring leader and that the Lib Dems' Britain-wide interests would be best served by choosing someone else.  But history does show that British party leaders with a Scottish accent tend to be worth a few extra percentage points to their party in Scotland (for example the Lib Dems under Charles Kennedy unexpectedly outpolled the SNP in 2005).  The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that Swinson will not, as we assumed until recently, be leading a party that no-one is paying any attention to, but rather one that suddenly seems to have captured the zeitgeist south of the border.  But the impact of that might be counterintuitive - if she primarily takes Scottish votes from Labour and the Tories, that could split the unionist vote in such a way that would make it easier for the SNP to win certain Westminster seats.  We'll just have to see how it all plays out.

* Does the Scottish Labour wipeout mean that the game's up?  Maybe, although some people made the same assumption after 2015, only for Labour to show some signs of life in the 2017 local and general elections.  This may not be the final twist in the tale, but Richard Leonard's party are certainly in a highly vulnerable position, and a few more results like tonight could mean that they eventually cease to exist as a credible electoral force.

* Although the UK result was a complex one, the London media and political establishment love winners and losers, so I suspect that the Brexit Party's twelve-point lead over the second placed Lib Dems will be more than enough to ensure that the No Deal Brexiteers in the Tory party will remain emboldened during the forthcoming leadership election.

* It's to the credit of the new BBC Scotland channel that it ran its own results programme, but having dipped in and out of it I did think it was odd that it didn't seem to cover the Scottish results as they came in, which you would have thought was the main point of such a programme.  Viewers found out about the results almost indirectly - a presenter would say something like "oh, by the way, a few more local authorities have declared since we last spoke..."


  1. Good night for the SNP and in particular the top circle of the SNP. There has been some discontent in some parts regarding the SNPs strategy over recent months in that they should be less vocal regarding a second EU ref etc. These results prove that that the strategy has worked.

    Scottish Greens are disappointed that they could not capitallise of the growth in Green support both in the rest of the UK and EU wide but they are being hurt by being the second 'Pro indy party', any attempt to push their agenda is pilorized as trying to split the pro indy vote.

  2. So the Brexit Party got humped; a worse result for them than Major and Thatcher in Scotland. Was supposed to be their night too.

    By contrast, 4/6 seats for 100% Remain and nearly 2/3 of the vote. A truly epic win for them in Scotland's second EU referendum.

  3. Ruth still on course to be FM in 2021

  4. Across the EU, right wing nationalists have won 9% of the vote; any serious surge failed to materialise. The Greens and Liberals had a great night however, making significant gains.

    In the UK, the right wing nationalist vote won the election with 32%; ~4 times that of Europe as a whole.

    Farage, president of the Alternative for Deutschland (in the EU parliament), will be pleased. The EU result doesn't matter to him now that the UK can follow a hard right agenda alone with brexit.

  5. Ignoring actual seat allocations, the % combined party vote shares in Scotland and Britain appear to mirror almost exactly the leave/remain figures from 2016, although it’s a bit tricky to know how to allocate the labour/conservative votes. The BBC seem to ignore them, which seems as though that’s the way forward for many!
    Good strong result for SNP that will, as James said, be a good buffer in the politics of the next little while.

  6. 1. SNP up to 37.9% from 29.0% (previous maximum was 29.1%).
    2. SNP up to 3 MEPs from 2 (previous maximum was 2).
    3. Party of Independence have landslide victory.
    4. Party of Independence win umpteenth election since 2007.
    5. Popular endorsement of ‘Stop Brexit’, ‘Scotland in Europe’ ‘Independence in Europe’.
    6. Turnout was 39.7%, up from 33.5% (which is the previous maximum ever).
    7. The voting proportion lends legitimacy to the results.

    Let's get these messages out there!

  7. Good result for SNP and independence. Keep the pressure on.

  8. Great to see Scotland a sea of yellow once more.

    SNP + green shares certainly suggest another pro indy majority for holyrood for a election held right now. Also, maybe 46% for Westminster quite possible. Ties in with 49% yes 'tomorrow' on average.

  9. I never realised Swinson was Scottish, i always thought she was an English Libdem who was parachuted into the constituency. I have read elsewhere that she actually lives in England and is rarely seen in the area.

    1. Born in Glasgow according to Wikipedia, although she studied at the LSE, which may explain why she has what someone called a "Fraser Nelson accent". I think it's fair to say she's identifiably Scottish, though.

  10. 23 point lead for the SNP. They utterly crushed Farage.

    We may still need to add any EU citizen votes that were not counted. If there's enough of these, the Brexit seat may need to be give to a Remain party.

  11. Thanks for the update here James. Good news for the SNP and for a very pro EU Scotland.

    Just one thing, the Labour branch in Scotland, an arm of the UK Labour party, is not really 'Richard Leonard's party', when all is said and done. He likes to prentend it's his 'party', maybe he is having a party on such a massive wage, but he takes his orders from the UK Labour party.

    Anyway, it's probably all technical now, because Labour branch in Scotland have really blotted their copy book, especially since 2014.

  12. This is like the worst ever result in the entire history of time for the Tories in Scotland right?

    Surely Ruth will resign? Farage just got his ass whipped worse than Major did in the famous 1997 Tory annihilation but he's still got more chance of being FM. Jeez, even Wullie Rennie's in with a better shot.

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  14. Is Willie Rennie First Minister yet?

  15. I understand Remain parties are tipped to take 67% of N. Irish EU parliament seats.

    That would be a major blow for the unionist and reinforce the need for N. Ireland to remain firmly in the single market / free movement zone, protecting the GFA.

  16. "So the SNP's chances of winning back their former north-east heartlands in a snap general election depend to some extent on whether the Brexit Party vote holds up in the coming months, and indeed on whether the Brexit Party decide to contest every Westminster seat. (I suspect they'll feel obliged to, because any party that wants to present itself as seeking to win an election can't give its opponents a free pass in selected seats.)"
    Ye wad hope that we had learned, as a people, frae 2017* o the risks o voting for a pairty whas candidates are numpties acause they hae nae credible candidates (*other elections may apply an a) to wit the Marjerys, Touchy Thonsons, Stephen Kerrs, Kirstenes and the ilk). For wha but numpties wad the Brexit Pairty hae tae stand as candidates in ony putative GE?
    Rosa Alba Mac

  17. It must be awful being Michael Gove and despising yourself so blatantly.

  18. I stole this from another site...

    "In 2016, Scotland voted 62% Remain. last night, the unambiguously pro-Remain parties in Scotland got 62% of the vote.

    In 2014, Scotland voted 45% for independence. last night, the unambiguously pro-Indy parties got 46%."

    Not much has changed really.

    1. In 2014, the pro-indy party vote in the EU election was 37%. In the indyref that followed just a few months later, the Yes vote was 45%.

      The pro-indy parties have just got 46%. So if follows that in iref#2, held sometime in the next year, we might expect 56% Yes using the same scaling factor.

      Which is not far off some polling from Panelbase on the subject (if brexit goes ahead).


    2. Ah but, Nicky was asking everyone to vote snp specifically to vote brexit and said it wasn't an independence endorsement.

      She seems to have forgotten that today???

    3. Rubbish anon. All SNP leaflets had made clear Scots would be given the chance to vote for independence.
      Whit's wrang wi ye man.
      What country doesn't want to be free.

  19. Well I know I'm late in putting a comment but happiness can't be rushed, first Celtic then SNP how happy can this man be ? not much more but as its the EU elections and for 5 months only I don't think there can be much to read into this I'd like to say there we go its independence next Monday but I am beginning to now believe that I will live long enough to see the cursed Butcher's apron removed from our country and sunshine on our children's faces, grandchildren as well for those of us that are so lucky to know we have them and they will be in a proud independent country.

  20. Another lost election for the press manufacturered behemoth Ruth "Well look" Davidson. She starts every sentence with "Well look" then rambles dung. Was Annabel Goldie drawing more?