Scotland awakens to a watershed political and historical moment

What a night.  Having had no sleep, it is hard to order one’s thoughts but here goes.

First, no attempt here to jump on a bandwagon.  As someone sitting on the outside of the SNP looking in these days, I grumped and moaned and doubted all the way through this election.  Perhaps because I work closely and feel a frustration at the national narrative not turning into delivery on the ground.  And I work with and for so many people who have been promised social justice for generations and have yet to see it happen.  You cannot ignore it and it shapes your view and judgement.

But I was wrong, the SNP was right, they have fought an absolutely wonderful campaign, Alex Salmond and his team have achieved an incredible feat and have not only broken into the Labour heartlands in the central belt but have turned the whole of Scotland sunshine yellow.  Amazing, quite amazing.  Salmond deserves his victory and is spot on in claiming the SNP to finally be the national party of Scotland.  His team deserve this victory and huge congratulations to them all.  In particular, I am delighted to see MSPs like Sandra White, Maureen Watt and Adam Ingram rewarded with constituencies of their own.

A lesson learned then.  Believe and don’t doubt.  Something for the burd to think about.

But if I’ve got some pondering to do, it is nothing as to the root and branch review that Labour now has to undertake.  The defence line that was trotted early in the evening that this was a Lib Dem collapse that then coalesced around the SNP was remarkable in the scale of its denial.  Former minister and Labour big hitter after another fell as the dominoes began to topple.  And still the team that had failed to create a coherent, positive national campaign continued to ignore reality.  Until John Park turned up on STV.

Yes he shares the blame, as campaign co-ordinator, he must do.  But his role was to deliver the organisation on the ground and he did.  What failed was the lack of vision, positivity, the lack of an air war.  And when it was time to hold the hands up, John Park did.  The first to say we failed, this is a bad night, and Labour is going to have to do some long hard thinking in the months ahead.  Good for him.  A little honesty goes a long way.

The Labour group that goes into Holyrood on Monday is almost totally unrecognisable.  Who’d a thunk it?  And they must use this opportunity to rethink how they engage with the Scottish people and consider their values, and how they provide an alternative to a triumphant SNP.  They need to totally re-evaluate who they are and about time too.

Not only them of course. The Lib Dems are finished as they are.  Tavish must go and the rumours that he is positioning himself as the next Presiding Officer are astonishingly arrogant.  Who is Tavish kidding?

Moreover, the Tories have lost seats – not only to the SNP (Edinburgh Pentlands!) but also to Labour who against all the odds, held Eastwood.  Annabel, your time is up, time to ship out.

The count continues today.  As James Mitchell – part of the STV team which provided outstanding overnight coverage – pointed out, they finished at 5am with 46% of the vote and the SNP’s heartlands have still to declare.  The early list results suggest the numbers will keep on stacking up all day.  The SNP is on course for an absolute majority.  Wow.

It has been truly wonderful to watch through the night, old pals and new faces being elected to Scotland’s Parliament.  There are many fine people going to Holyrood.  And interestingly, from my perspective anyway, the SNP group will have quite a different shape and flavour to it.  More women (including my old boss Fiona McLeod, a real champion for children, back with her own constituency in Strathkelvin and Bearsden), more people from what used to be seen as the left of the party, Holyrood’s first visually impaired MSP in Dennis Robertson, a long time disability campaigner.  And of course, a fine replacement to Bashir Ahmad in Humza Yousaf, who has so much more to offer Scotland than the fact that he is from the BEM community.

Expect more focus on social policy and social justice.  That in my book can only be a very good thing.

But 5 May belongs to the victors.  And also to all those who helped make this astonishing seismic shift possible.

A hat tip, then, to the backroom staff – the men and women who have worked tirelessly for the SNP for many, many years.  Long hours, pittance pay, for the love of country and cause.  Peter Murrell, Ian McCann, Kevin Pringle, Trudi Logan, Alison Hunter, Beverley Murray, Irene White, the late wonderful Joan Knott, Lorraine Reid, and Stephen Noon who developed and produced the manifesto.  And as Alex Salmond himself pointed out, people like his longstanding election agent Stuart Pratt.  A man who has worked all his life for a day like this.  None of them seeking the limelight particularly, all of them doing it for others.

(an update – as soon as I had done this, I started remembering all the folk who I hadn’t mentioned.  Not just Allison, her daughter Mhairi, and Claire Bennett, another HQ stalwart.  And others like John Fellows who was at Westminster, John McInnes in the Scottish Parliament office and then in Alex Salmond’s team, the younger turks like Geoff Aberdein, Ross Ingrebrigsten – the boys in suits who work ridiculous hours and whose speciality is blending into the background! I’ll still have forgotten some who deserve a mention, if you think of any add them in the comments thread…)

And of course, this day is the realisation of a dream, for all the Nationalists who spent their lives working for a day like this but did not live to see it.  It was a wee tweet that caused the burd to totally fold into a sobbing mess, from an old hand from Cumbernauld who was there when the seat was East Dunbartonshire and it was taken first in 1974 by Margaret Bain, as she was then.

Margaret was my godmother, and is still often in mine and my family’s thoughts.  A wonderful, compassionate, intelligent woman and politician.  Who like many lived and breathed the see-saw SNP years but never gave up.  The old guard in Cumbernauld were delighted not only to take the seat, but to take it back, for Margaret.

A day like this belongs more than anyone else, to her, to all the others – Alan Todd, Allan McCartney, Neil McCormick, Billy Wolfe, Danny Coffey, and so many more.  Who worked, and dreamed, and who never stopped believing.  That a day like this was possible.  That Scotland would shift.  That the Labour heartlands would fall.  That Scotland would vote for hope over fear.

Our politics have changed forever.  Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment for Scotland.

21 thoughts on “Scotland awakens to a watershed political and historical moment

  1. I knew Salmond was going to win early in January 2011 when Labour arrogantly (based on their sense of priviege, entitlement and taking the Scottish voters for granted) began boasting about an absolutely necessary council tax hike; raising prescription charges; making students (middle class families in fact) pay tuition fees; take away bus passes from seniors

    ALL this

    to basically give their council worker voters a wage increase every year.

    Why did I work out Salmond would win, because I’m a genius. No.

    Just simply as I said to my friend in early January, ‘turkeys don’t vote for Xmas’.

    People don’t vote for taxes.

    My great (extremely great ) disappointment is that the Scottish Labour mob didn’t just continue with this policy even though it was proving a tiny bit unpopular. Their ‘smarter’ (not by much) English collegues told them to ditch the electoral suicide policies and adopt the SNP policies.

    Had they not done that then we were looking at the utter decimation of Labour.

    Now, that was just to win, to acheive what Salmond did requires his political genius (and his team are no dummies either, they all played their part) and they don’t call him ‘smart Amlec’ for nothing.

    He borrowed the Yes we can from Obama and will do with it what Obama has so far failed to do, use it to ‘reindustrialise’ Scotland.

    Salmond is the smartest most able politician in the world today.

    Those who don’t believe that are the Brit nats, and God bless them for it too.

    • I think that part of the Labour calculation was that talking up the problems and the “we can’t afford what this extravagant govt have bought” is an election-winning formula as demonstrated by the Tories a year before.

      Trouble is, anyone convinced of that position (and I’m keeping clear of whether it’s empirically true or not) also believes that Labour (via Westminster) were ultimately responsible. Plus, of course, the Lady Annabel does the routine with a straighter face.

  2. I was glad to see Sandra White elected in Glasgow Kelvin. What now though? The SNP have a LOT of expectation on them – they better deliver. They can’t get away with blaming others for not backing their policies and running into legislative gridlock now. Also liked the footage of a stony faced David Cameron bullishly saying he would do everything to block independence. Think it should be held in 2015.

    • So was I, very very glad. She deserved that victory, as did so many others who have toiled away at the SNP coalface for years, when it was unpopular to do so and didn’t stop believing. The SNP will deliver. We have to believe that. And yep – game on as they say. Date of the referendum… ah there is a blogpost coming on that one

    • You always campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose, so I have realistic expectations.

      But I’m expecting it to be positive, hopeful prose nevertheless.

      (Tonight’s watching: S1e19 of The West Wing: Let Bartlet be Bartlet)

  3. I’ve not heard yet Kate, what was the result in Dumbarton? Were you right? and what about the georgeous one? 8)

    Och! not a day to be nitpicking. Fantastic result for the SNP and no more than they deserve

  4. Agree totally with Laughing Spam Fritter – I think this is the first time in my adult life I’ve voted for a winning constituency candidate in the face of “donkey with the right coloured rosette” voting traditions.

  5. Like many been up all night, bar a two hour nap, words cannot encapsulate the wonderful SNP results, so far, and to think NE Fife may fall too.
    GG failed to get a job, super. And like you LSF I am in Glasgow Cathcart, I had hope for this result but to think Glasgow overall has given the LP a kicking….. As a Dundonian who has witnessed their incremental demise in Dundee, Glasgow Council could be next…..
    BUT the downside has to be the miserable turn out, what can be done? This has to change.
    Oh dear Susan Deacon on BBC 2, thought she’d left the political stage but I suppose with Mr B still at the heart of BBC Scotland I shouldn’t be surprised. Hey ho.

    • yes sorry I wasn’t around yesterday – 2 hours sleep before results kickd off and then was working – yes! – all day yesterday and then went to the big celebration party for a couple of hours last night. I was allowed in!! And only got a ribbing from oh, about half of them. I deserved it…

      The sea change is almost too enormous to take in. So let’s just let it sink in slowly and savour the moment!

      Agree turn out awful, not sure what we can do… more thought required

  6. Burdzs eye, it wasn’t about last night, last night was only the result, one or two people in a party are not responsible for the result, that’s just the media showing how out of touch and detached it is from the intelligence of the voters, labour have paid the price of, arrogance of a “divine right” to govern as ”the working mans party“.
    In reality eg school teachers are put in short term contracts, in “labour heart lands” to avoid the protection of employment law after a year in a post.
    There is no “labour heart land” as the original definition would clearly be attached to an area of working class people in work, point, that out to me on a map.
    One Fundamental of SNP never denied is aspersions for independence, yet media and labour insult voters with claims, this is something new.
    Even last night labour candidates were blaming lib dems and Tories for the circumstances’ they found themselves in.
    Labour have relied on the benefit of doubt vote, of those who remember the glory days labour and unions evolved through fighting for the honest working man, they cant claim that today with honesty.

    Salmond and SNP with a majority will run the country, I will look at how they run it as if Scotland is independent then, if a referendum takes place I can make an informed choice because I have been promised a choice.

    As we are a region of Europe managing a successful independent economy, education system, health system with employment opportunities, is what I want, let actions speak louder than words.

    I think the vote last night says people are not worried about independence, and they are not going to be fooled by its importance being made a distraction.

    You can fool some of the people some of the time, but to many times and they bite you on the Ass.

  7. A generous and moving tribute. Who’d have thunk it?

    • Dave, you mistake this blog for what I truly believe. I am not, and refuse to become, a Nat cyber cheerleader, there are plenty of others who do it very much better than I could do. I attempt to critique all without fear or favour and I think there is a space for that. And no, I don’t expect folk to agree with what I write and happy to take criticism on the chin!

  8. Can hardly type this for the tears. Beautiful.

  9. I think congratulations should mostly go to the electorate who responded positively to being treated as sentient adults rather than fear-driven voting fodder.

    I am 48 and, for the first time in my voting life, I have an elected representative in Cathcart who is not from the Labour Party. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever voted for a candidate that’s actually been elected!

    • I agree Willie, wholeheartedly. The Scottish people delivered this – that is what all those don’t knows were about, right up to the wire. They knew what they were about to do but didn’t want folk to know. Well done the Scots I say! And isn’t it a great feeling?!

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