Scottish Parliament elections 2016: Ignore the Tories, independence parties were the real winners

Written by Jim Sillars on 9 May 2016 in Comment

Jim Sillars says the election result shows independence is on the march again

There are none who deceive better than those who deceive themselves. The right-wing press was in raptures over the weekend about the increase in Tory seats in Holyrood, and so got the election result and what it means for independence, totally wrong. The wish became father to the thought and boasting, whereas a little sensible analysis would have shown just how wrong they are. Independence parties won, the Unionists lost, in the overall vote.

Immediately after the referendum Scottish politics was fixated on the surge in SNP membership, support from the Yes movement, and the slaughter of Labour in the Westminster election. We forgot that in getting a No vote, the Tories were helped by their Labour allies to get their first victory in Scotland for a generation. Labour paid, and has continued to pay, the price for their folly, whereas the Tories were bound ultimately to gain.


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In this election the Tories farmed that No vote, and did well out of it in terms of seats. But, no doubt drunk on their second place, their claim that “independence is shredded” is plain daft. The Tory constituency vote was only 22 per cent and their regional vote only 0.9 per cent higher. Ruth Davidson may have made them less toxic, but they are still a minority.  Something I am sure the SNP will remind them of when their head swells beyond their electoral capacity.

An analysis of the results shows that in those areas in the North East which voted No, the SNP vote tumbled. In Angus it was down 9 per cent, Banff 12.15 per cent, Moray 11.71 per cent, John Swinney’s seat 12.26 per cent. The No vote was clearly in evidence. Perhaps as an aside we should ask why with those areas represented by past and present senior Ministers, they were and seemingly remain impervious to the idea of independence?

But look elsewhere in Scotland. The SNP vote up in nearly every constituency across the central belt. Even where we lost it was up. Ayr +5.42 per cent, Eastwood +6.87 per cent, Galloway +4.97 per cent. In Glasgow and Inverclyde the SNP vote was up substantially. Bob Dorris had an increase of 13.67 per cent, Bill Kidd 8.53 per cent, and in Provan Ivan McKee, who doesn’t hide his independence commitment, put the vote up 13.09 per cent. In only one seat in Glasgow was that not the case, due to Patrick Harvie coming a good second, but then he too is for independence.

The message from the election is that the SNP constituency vote overall, taking account of the lost votes in the North East, at 46.5 per cent, plus the Green vote, is that the idea of independence is still in the ascendant, and that those Labour voters who came out for Yes in 2014, are still with us, plus some more. In East Kilbride, a typical central belt seat, the Labour vote fell by 17.26 per cent.

My information is that once the EU referendum is out of the way, the Yes side will be coming back together, to rebuild its organisational structures at the community level, and start to produce policies around which the movement can re-launch an educational campaign to take us from that 45 per cent in 2014 to a winning number in the years immediately ahead.

It is a pity that the SNP was not bold enough to ask for another referendum mandate. That may seem an obstacle, but that little technical defect does not mean it cannot be overcome with political power. Independence is on the march again. 

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