10 Jun 2017
June 10, 2017
Just a quick rough-and-ready look at the figures, but there are obvious general trends with some clear inferences extending from them. There’ll be a more substantial, constituency-by-constituency analysis here in a few days, but for now here are a few points. If you’re reading the Sunday papers tomorrow, though, expect ‘SNP collapse’, ‘great Tory victory’ and, most of all, ‘the end of independence’ bollocks. Just remember, the SNP holding 56 seats with 50% of the vote was freakish and unsustainable. If they’d got today’s result in 2015 then again today, we’d not be hearing anything other than that the SNP continues to dominate Scottish politics and independence remains a serious option. That said, the SNP’s voteshare drop is important for what it tells us about independence supporters as much as the SNP.
1. The old ‘Tartan Tories’ just left the SNP. The primary reason for the SNP losses, whoever took these seats, was that up to 1 in 5 SNP voters from 2015 moved to the Tories on Thursday. The SNP lost 13.1% of its voteshare and the Tories gained 13.7%. Where this topped up the Tories enough, the Tory candidate won. Where it didn’t, it sometimes took enough from the SNP to pull them below Labour.
2. Labour performed at about the same level as its disastrous 2015 effort. By far the largest variable in Labour gaining 5 seats (except Edinburgh South, which was different) in return for a marginal increase in its vote (2.7%) was the Tory resurgence.
3. The SNP’s late worries of a small but highly significant move of Corbyn enthusiasts from SNP to Labour were well-founded. Although the Tory resurgence was by far the largest numerical variable, in most seats it would not have been enough to deprive the SNP of the seat. Mainly, the slightly increased turnouts pushed up Labour’s voteshare enough to get them over the line. The parties will have enough post-mortem info to confirm how significant the Corbyn effect was but it seems credible and even likely that this was decisive in most Labour wins.
4. There is some evidence of Labour folk voting ‘tactically’ for the Tories, but it’s not much of a deal nationally. Labour gained voteshare in places like Moray, Angus and Perth, compared to 2015. It looks like this practice in Ayr and Ochil, did exist but hard to distinguish this from natural movement in middle-class areas away from Labour. However, by far the largest variable even in Ayr was the SNP-to-Tory trend.
5. There is also some evidence of Tories voting tactically for Labour or Lib Dems, but again it’s not that much of a deal nationally. See, for example, Edinburgh South and East Dunbartonshire.
From these trends, we can make a few tacit inferences.
First, the Tories are back in business and are close to the upper threshold and geographical disposition of the olden days before the early 90s. However, in those days the Tories had lost ‘Tartan Tories’ on the East Coast and now they have all of those back. It’s reasonable to infer, then, that this could see them bag a bit over 30% of the vote and a small few more seats in future elections.
Second, The SNP is a centre-left party now, for sure, but it occupies similar political ground to which ‘New Labour’ did until 2010 – encompassing further-left folk and folk of the centre, and even some of the centre-right. It’s best bet to remain the dominant party it is is to stay where it is. The Tartan Tory thing was always a carbuncle on the SNP when it became a party of mass support and especially from 2007. It can move a bit left for now, but if it goes too far it’ll lose votes to Tories and Lib Dems.
Third, Labour has just had its junior status in Scottish politics confirmed. And it seems likely that Corbyn won 5 of their 6 seats. Labour should assume that “them that’s going have gone” from SNP to the Tories. Their best bet for holding onto that voteshare now, and perhaps even improving it a little in due course at the expense of the SNP, is to go with the Corbynite message (tempered for Scotland and with a bit of populist commonsense) and keep left of the SNP.
If these inferences follow through, the most likely prognosis for the next while is that the SNP stabilises as Scotland’s centre/soft-left (but populist when it needs to be…) party with a voteshare in the high 30s; Labour makes a little ground up as Scotland’s further-left-but-not-bonkers party and moves towards 30%. The Tories serve as the main opposition, Scotland’s unionist voice and the party for that 30% or so of folk who are once again unashamedly anywhere on the right.
For independence, this all means that the 45%+ who presently support independence are spread across the SNP (pretty much all of them), Labour (probably over a third of them) and those who didn’t have a vote this time (EU citizens who are not British and folk aged 16-18; maybe two thirds of a total of just under 6% of the electorate, so adding an additional 2% to the present YES tally?). Any efforts to increase this figure will need to be directed at non-SNP supporters. The Labour Party will resist this, of course, and its ability to do so is likely to rest upon Corbyn’s success or otherwise in the coming months and years.
In the end, if independence supporters work hard to show how Scottish independence will produce better and more suitable policies for Scotland, and and to stress the importance of human agency and control of their own destiny and values, then they’ll likely win over enough Corbyn enthusiasts who nevertheless think his vision can’t be achieved in Scotland as part of the UK.
If the UK Tory government, now reliant upon sectarian and homophobic DUP politicians, doesn’t tip Scots over the edge, nothing will.
And if there’s another election? Then the subsequent Corbyn minority government – and that’s what would happen – would likely keep independence off the agenda for some years to come.