Brian Monteith: An election like no other

Ruth was one of those left smiling. Picture: TSPL

Ruth was one of those left smiling. Picture: TSPL

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THE Scottish elections of 2016 will be remembered for turning politics upside down, writes Brian Monteith

The results gave only one party 100 per cent satisfaction – and who would have thought in Scotland that would ever be the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party?

For the SNP, the record achievement of being the largest party for the third time in a row was bittersweet, for it was tempered by losing the overall majority it had won five years ago.

So while it could be happy about retaining power, the setback causes two significant penalties it would have preferred to avoid. To get the SNP’s budget and other controversial policies through will now require the support of other parties.

More significantly, the result means the SNP is not in any position to declare there should be a second independence referendum if the UK votes to leave the EU, but Scotland does not.

While Holyrood does not in any case have the legal authority to instigate a referendum, for the SNP to demand for Westminster to allow one would require support from another party. The Greens are already on record as saying they do not believe Brexit justifies a second independence referendum so the possibility of further divisive campaigning has been delayed for at least four years. The prospect is that such an event has been killed for a generation.

For the Liberal Democrats the joy of winning two mainland constituencies to add to the Orkney and Shetland seats had to be tempered by knowing that they have been relegated from fourth largest party to fifth. For the Greens, the triumph of winning six seats through the second vote regional list system is only one short of their success of 2003 when they won seven.

For Labour, the result could hardly have been worse with the poorest level of public support since 1910 – when women did not yet have a vote – and the departure of many stalwarts such as Sarah Boyack. Falling behind the Conservatives was a severe humiliation to be milked by the Tories at every chance.

Finally, the Tories. No-one appeared to expect Ruth Davidson’s win in Edinburgh Central, a seat that has not been Tory for nearly 30 years. It was the icing on the cake. Just as Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to emulate Alex Salmond’s overall majority was a personal disappointment, so Davidson’s success was a personal triumph. And for her hard work and putting Sturgeon’s gas at a peep in the TV debates, no-one can begrudge her the Cheshire cat smile she had yesterday.