It's a funny old business, politics. The SNP's number one target in the Holyrood election was Scotland's most marginal seat, Dumbarton. Held by Labour in 2016 by just 109 votes, the Nationalists put everything into unseating the incumbent Jackie Baillie.
It is no exaggeration to say Baillie is a hate-figure for Scottish nationalism. She is moderate Labour, staunchly pro-Union, pro-Trident (the Clyde Naval Base is in her constituency), and was a member of the Holyrood inquiry, during which she distinguished herself with fierce, forensic questioning of both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. For all the damage they have inflicted on Labour in its one-time heartlands of west-central Scotland, the Nationalists have never been able to beat Baillie.
That tradition was continued on Friday evening, when the Dumbarton returning officer announced that Baillie had won — increasing her majority in the process. Baillie was not shy about courting Conservative voters in the campaign and she has evidently benefited from their tactical votes. Her vote went up 6.1 per cent while the Tories’ dropped by 6.2 per cent. Her majority now stands at just under 1,500. This marks six times the SNP has tried to take Dumbarton and six times Baillie has sent them packing. There's a reason this meme exists:
Baillie's victory would be a kick in the shins for the SNP on its own but, thanks to Holyrood's proportional electoral system, it may end up denying Sturgeon an outright majority thanks to the allocation of seats on the regional list. Psephologist Professor Sir John Curtice notes on the BBC Scotland liveblog:
“Jackie Baillie's successful defence of her Dumbarton constituency means it is now unlikely that the SNP will achieve an overall majority in the new Holyrood parliament.
The woman the SNP put its all into beating may have just dashed its hopes of winning a majority. Like I say, a funny old business.
Listen to Stephen Daisley, Katy Balls and James Forsyth discuss what comes next for Scottish independence: