Socialist Worker

SNP remain largest party in Scotland—but gloss is coming off its radical image

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2558

Support for Labour in areas such as Glasgow, pictured, was due to the Jeremy Corbyn factor.

Support for Labour in areas such as Glasgow, pictured, was due to the Jeremy Corbyn factor. (Pic: Duncan Brown)


The Scottish National Party (SNP) has won nearly 1 million votes in Scotland. It gained a 37 percent share of the vote and 60 percent—35 out 59—of Scottish Westminster seats.

Once again the SNP returns as the largest party in Scotland at Westminster, but it lost 21 seats and around half a million votes compared to 2015.

In every constituency it lost votes compared to the last general election. The gloss is coming off Nicola Sturgeon’s party as hopes in its radical image fade.

Yet claims that this is a resounding rejection of independence are false.

Using the crude measure of first past the post elections independence has won this election—all three of the anti-independence parties’ seats combined amount to 40 percent.

There is no doubt the Tories have continued their successful rebranding as the staunch defenders of the British union. They have gained 12 seats, 13 in total, and 29 percent of the vote—double their share in 2015 and over 300,000 more votes.

The Tory party gains continue the trend seen in the south and Borders, Perthshire and the north east. It came second in the Scottish parliament and local council elections in the last year.

Traditional “Tartan Tory” areas of Scotland are returning to the Conservative and Unionist Party and deserting the SNP, particularly in Perthshire and the north east. These were areas with both higher than average votes against independence and to leave the European Union (EU).

The SNP leadership staked so much on a second independence referendum, which it tied to maintaining EU membership. This made these areas ripe for the Tories.

The Lib Dems gained 3 seats, a total of 4, but with 40,000 fewer votes than 2015 but a similar 7 percent share.

Surface 

On the surface it may seem that Scottish Labour’s strategy to compete with the Tories for the unionist vote has been a success—Labour gained 6 seats, a better result than anyone predicted.

It came very close to picking up other seats and at 27 percent of the vote it wasn’t far off the Tories.

Polls showed that it had boosted its support by around 7 percent in the final week or two of the campaign. They also showed that support was coming from Yes, No, Leave and Remain voters.

It was not because of right wing Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale’s strategy, but the Jeremy Corbyn factor.

His left wing manifesto saved Labour’s skin in Scotland and helped the party stem the flow of unionist voters to the Tories. In the end it meant Labour got just 10,000 more votes than in 2015, and third place behind the Tories again.

In all of Labour’s gains the Tories gained more votes than Labour since the last general election. In two of the gains Labour actually got fewer votes than in 2015, only the SNP lost much more.

Turnout was down in virtually every constituency and overall from 71 percent in 2015 to 66 percent.

Arguably it is voters from the more working class areas that have been uninspired by the choice of the SNP and an anti-Corbyn Scottish Labour Party leadership.

Socialists should take from these results that independence, which Socialist Worker supports, is not and should not be the only key fault line for the left.

We should not postpone the fight against austerity to focus on a second referendum and let the SNP off the hook. Battling against those attacks now should be at the centre of the left’s political action.


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