Among the shockwaves and Labour anguish comes the prospect of an independent Scotland. There will be a referendum ‘within the next five years’ to ask the Scots what they think. Six weeks ago the thought of an outright majority for the SNP was beyond incredible. Labour held a significant lead in the polls and the best the SNP could hope for was to remain as the largest party. So what happened?
Labour ran a pathetic campaign with several own goals. The image of Iain Grey, cowering from anti-cuts protesters in a sandwich shop, surrounded by spinners and party hacks, cost untold thousands of votes. Alex Salmond is a rare ‘big beast’ in Scotland and ran a pragmatic campaign. Independence was rarely mentioned and did not figure as an issue. The transformation in the central belt was astonishing. This territory has been a Labour stronghold for nearly a century. The SNP gains shook Labour to their boots.
The LibDem vote collapsed in most parts. It was down by 20% in Argyll but held up in their ancient strongholds in the northern isles. Many disaffected LibDems switched to the SNP. The Greens did not benefit. Their policies are as yet too austere for many to stomach involving higher taxes and dearer fuel. This in a country where fuel prices in rural areas are already very high.
However in all the astonishment and kerfuffle one salient fact has been ignored by the media. This ‘earthquake’ was produced by a turnout of 53%.
So yet again the largest ‘party’ in a major election was the non-voting party.