The Tory resurgence in Scotland has come at the expense of Labour, not the SNP (see the second graphic here). Labour’s reduction to minor party is cataclysmic for it and the Tories new role as leaders of the unionist movement in Scotland will help the SNP towards winning the next independence referendum.

The SNP performance was as impressive as in 2011 (up marginally in the constituencies, down marginally in the lists). The Greens, who ‘game’ the lists, did better than last time. The number of MSPs on the independence side is therefore pretty much unchanged.

On the unionist side, though, while the numbers are broadly the same, the Tories’ success means make-up is likely to have a radically different effect. The Tories did literally as well as they could have by hoovering up Labour/Tory swingers – this helped along by Labour’s move left to higher income taxes for everyone, ambivalence about the union and by Ruth Davidson’s sterling personality.

But now that the Tories are the official opposition and Labour/Tory swingers have already bitten the bullet, what about working-stock, materially middle-class Scots with a powerful social and emotional aversion to the Tories, yet who today remain anti-SNP and anti-independence? These folk are the key to the next referendum result.

For years to come, the stuff of Scottish national political dialogue will now be a Tory opposition attacking a centrist SNP government. During that time, the UK prime minister will change, but only Tories will have a say. Then, the bookies are 90% sure, the 2020 UK election will return yet another UK Tory government and prime minister. During all of this, Labour seems likely to stay well to the left; a minor party of limited influence and not even the official opposition. Losers not winners.

Come 2021, those working-stock, middle-class Labour remainers will have to reconcile themselves to either accepting what will seem like semi-permanent Tory rule in the UK alongside a semi-permanent devolved SNP administration, or to take some kind of control over their destiny by making a choice, even if through gritted teeth. If Labour remains on the high-taxing, employer-bashing left, then the old bonds will be aspirational working-stock folk will be loosened and for many that choice will be to support ‘centrist’ independence and hope that a new kind of Labour – one which isn’t locked in the past – comes out of the other end of independence.

2 Responses to How Scotland’s Tory resurgence helps only the SNP and the pro-independence cause
  1. Interesting article

    “Come 2021, those working-stock, middle-class Labour remainers will have to reconcile themselves to either accepting what will seem like semi-permanent Tory rule in the UK alongside a semi-permanent devolved SNP administration, or to take some kind of control over their destiny by making a choice,”

    Why should they ? whats the difference ? Tories are low tax , centrist , SNP are the same , though they claim some radical polices , what have they enacted up to now ?

    Whats the betting the Land Reform act , gets kicked in the long grass , the “Named person ,” will be similarly diluted

    Scots love to think they are progressive with a social conscience , just don’t get them to pay a penny more in tax , to prove this .

    The SNP high command realise this and I do admire our FM , for the difficult job she has of placating her “activists ” , and ensuring low tax , high spend , for her middle class voters .

    reminds me of the Zulu chieftain Cetshwayo with a large army to “occupy ” , and the young bulls spoiling for war , yet himself fully realising the dangers of war .

    • Thanks for this, Papko. V well put. It’s the central question, really, isn’t it? A lot of people are traditionally Labour because they’ve always hated the Tories and always will. These folk are going to hate having a Tory speak ‘for them’ as the voice of unionism, hate watching a new Tory PM come in they can do nothing about and above all hate watching the Tories re-elected in 2020.

      And they’re not daft. With Labour a minor party of protest in Scotland and unable to win elections in England (ironically, their only hope is a deal with the SNP) they’ll want some control of their own destiny even if that means accepting the sad fact to them that the Scottish Labour Party as they knew it has essentially passed way. I remember the dejection of the SNP folk at my count in 2010 when they wondered if Labour’s amazing result (a swing towards Labour in Scotland) meant they’d lose in 2011. Then I remember everyone’s feelings at the 2011 count in the same Grangemouth sports hall as we all wondered what had happened in that 12 months to have such a radical effect.

      Reflecting on it now, the thing which happened was that very 2010 result where Scotland overwhelmingly voted Labour and got a Tory government. That’s coming again in 2020 – that’s why I think there’ll be a fillip for independence after that election, running into the 2121 election and through a 2122 referendum itself.


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