She did it! Securing second place in this election seals Ruth Davidson’s reputation in the Conservative Party – it’s a victory for which the term historic is entirely appropriate. Her ratings in the ConHome party members’ survey were already better than anyone in the Cabinet and will presumably now improve further. As well as boosting her standing, the result will be a long overdue boost to Scottish Tory morale – they did well, and they did well by being true to their beliefs. This is a vindication of Davidson’s strategy, and a huge opportunity for the Scottish Conservatives.
Disaster for Labour. When Blair and Brown arranged the fudged devolution to Holyrood, they did so in the full expectation that it would be permanently governed by Labour – and what a dreadful mistake that turned out to be. Last year’s near-extinction event in the General Election has been followed by a humiliating outcome last night. They disproved the speculation about losing every constituency seat, but it was still awful – to put the result in context, this is Labour’s lowest vote share in Scotland since 1910. I’ll repeat that: 1910. Might they ditch Kezia Dugdale and seek yet another leader, in the search for a solution?
Quite good for the SNP, but not good enough for a second referendum. Elections are often about expectation management, and expectations could not have been higher for Sturgeon’s party after last year’s surge. This year, they drove Labour to disaster, but didn’t see much benefit from doing so – the SNP group in Holyrood lost six seats and its majority in the Parliament. That’s an undoubted blow to Sturgeon’s attempts to flannel her way to a second referendum, which is good news for the UK (and precisely what Davidson promised).
Pick a side – any side, but pick one. The tough lesson for Labour in particular is that there’s nothing worse than failing to pick a side. They may not like that Scottish politics is currently divided between nationalists and unionists, but it is. Dugdale attempted to appeal to unionists and nationalists at the same time, but in doing so she managed to lose both. The SNP offer something to lefties and to nationalists (and to lefty nationalists), while Davidson’s Conservatives offer something to unionists and the centre right (and to centre right unionists), and each looked preferable to Labour. The consequences of that positioning error are there for all to see.
What do you have to do to get rid of the Liberal Democrats? They held their seats in Orkney and Shetland, and also won two constituencies on the mainland. Will wonders never cease.