You know those elections where some cold comfort can be harvested by the losing side in gains made here and there? The Holyrood vote isn’t one of them. The full results won’t be in until tomorrow but based on what we’ve seen so far, the SNP is home clear and dry. An outright majority seems probable. Labour has already lost East Lothian to the Nationalists and in Dumbarton, Scotland’s most marginal seat, its majority is just 109. Tory-held Ayr has fallen to Nicola Sturgeon’s party while the Conservatives have failed to make gains elsewhere. (They did, however, come within 800 votes of winning Banffshire and Buchan Coast.) There was an eye-popping swing to the SNP in Shetland but the Lib Dems managed to hang on.
Turnout is up, including in Labour-held Edinburgh Southern, where 71 per cent of registered voters filled out a ballot paper. That seems, partially at least, to be down to SNP voters who stayed home last time coming out for the chance to shift the dial forward on independence. On the other side of the constitutional divide, there was the usual problem with tactical voting. As a Tory source tells me, Conservatives have lent their votes to Labour and Lib Dem candidates but the favour has not been reciprocated. In North East Fife, held by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, the party’s vote went up by roughly the same percent the Tory vote fell by. Contrast that with Ayr, where less than a quarter of the Lib Dem vote could have saved John Scott, but remained static.
Saturday will bring the remainder of the results and tell us how big the SNP’s victory has been. Of course, with Sturgeon claiming a majority at Holyrood would be a mandate for another referendum on breaking up the UK, Downing Street will have to turn its attention once more to staving off separatism. There are no bright spots for the losers in this election, just the ice-cold bucket of democracy dumped on their heads.