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.





8 Responses to The Tartan Tories have left the SNP for the real Tories – and they’re not going back
  1. If we think back to 2015, we were in a situation where both Cameron’s antics with EVEL, and the failure to honour the Vow, had left Scots in the mood to send SNP representatives to Westminster to fight for more powers fot Holyrood.
    Because a future Indyref wasn’t on the table, this could be done without reopening the divisions of 2014, generating a substantial anti-SNP Media blitz, or allowing Unionists any dog whistle attacklines.
    Unfortunately, this election has had to be fought with the live issues of Indyref2 and Brexit. he former gave the Tories a mainline into the slight majority of Scots who still oppose Independence. The latter compromised our base vote, as a third are in favour of Brexit: when you are a single big issue party like the SNP, it’s perilous to have that support further sub-divided by a second major issue.
    In respect of left wing politics, I suspect more SNP votes went to Labour than we realise – this is perhaps being masked by a concurrent hemhorrage of right-wing/Unionist Labour votes to the Tories , who bought the line that this election was principally about stopping Indyref 2.
    I note that the Corbyn manifesto, however, lifted several policies which the SNP has implemented to popular approval in Scotland.
    I also wonder about the real success of the Labour Manifestoin England. Particularly in the South, there seems to have been support from the wealthy who were firmly against a Hard Brexit – I can’t explain the Chelsea & Kensington result, for example, in any other way.

  2. I reckon it was labour voters who voted tory and some snp voters voted labour due to corbyn effect. Cant imagine many went from SNP to Tory considering how far apart they are politically

  3. Obviously we will have to wait to see if further information is forthcoming, but your evaluation is persuasive. The one thing though that you did not explicitly mention is the Brexit negotiations.

    I suspect that as they are revealed and the consequences for the UK start to become an unpleasant reality, they will almost acquire a power of their own to persuade some of the – at present – unitary statist Tory and Labour voters that independence may be in their best interests.

    If such is the case then, although considerable effort will still be required, the political juggling act of appealing to the different demographic groups will not be as difficult as it could be.

    Good article.

  4. Wings has done an analysis of the votes distribution in the seats which changed hands and it seems that Mr Joyce’s conclusions regarding what he calls ‘Tartan Tories’ are substantially correct. There were clear transfers of votes from SNP to Tories. This was abetted in several specific locations where the former Lib Dem vote shifted tactically to the Tories. In these seats, some of which were Labour gains, there was very little gain in the Labour vote, but the transfer from SNP to the Tories enabled Labour to edge ahead. In a couple of constituencies there were specific issues regarding particular candidates.
    In England and Wales, it is clear that Mr Corbyn has changed the hegemony to some extent, particularly in motivating more young people to vote. He has also articulated redistributive and collectivist policies, which have resonated with many, probably including some moderate, ‘one-nation’ Tories.
    However, as I write, the situation is fluid. It looks as if Mrs May is not long for No 10 or, indeed, Westminster. Many Tories see her, probably panicky and unconsulted decision to ally with the DUP as toxic. But, what emerges is probably not yet formed.
    100 years ago, Lenin would have urged to ‘seize the time’, but nowadays revolutions are more democratic. The theatres of action at the moment are in Westminster and Northern Ireland and I think we will have to spectators for the moment. But this should not distract us from the task of reflecting on the poor SNP campaign and the SNP’s role in the independence movement.

  5. Excellent initial analysis – confirms my own impressions of the election result. The other group to have a significant impact were the roughly 200k people who voted SNP last time but didn’t bother voting at all this time.
    Part of the impact of this – as you say – is that the SNP ‘broad church’ has become significantly less broad – and the centre-point of that broad church is now further to the left than it was. This perhaps frees up the SNP to be a tad more ambitious or radical in policy development, where needed. They must stay the course with the Brexit-linked indyref – the election has many implications, but the rationale and basis of the mandate for that policy has not changed. One key problem the SNP had in this election was that it failed to counter the successful strategy of the Cons, SLab and LDs of disentangling indyref2 from Brexit and dealing with it as a stand-alone issue, making it seem imminent, and driven by our obsession with indy – rather than by the Tory obsession with Brexit and the way it is being handled. Their disingenuous narrative was not adequately countered.

  6. Sad to say that our country is now at the
    THe behest of the Orange lodge.

  7. Presumably the Tartan Tories who have gone home to Mummy,voted SNP in the past but were No to independence.
    That is the only explanation I can think of.
    Anyway,their votes are responsible for the DUP now having a say in our governance.
    Much to answer for.


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