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.