Obviously I’m still scraping the clouds with my head after the 8th of May revelations. In particular, I feel tremendous vindication that Ronnie Cowan, Mhairi Black, Anne McLaughlin, Richard Arkless, Patricia Gibson, Natalie McGarry, Chris Stephens, Philippa Whitford, and Gavin Newlands, toppled the Big Beasts of New Labour with comfortable majorities in their thousands. I’m also thrilled that Roger Mullin, Alex Salmond, Stephen Gethins, Joanna Cherry, Kirsty Blackman, Owen Thompson, John McNally, Steven Paterson, and Peter Grant succeeded in filling the vacuum left by the New Labour and Neoliberal MPs who chose not to contest the election. I suppose it should’ve been completely unsurprising that Stewart Hosie, Mike Weir, Pete Wishart, Angus Robertson, Eilidh Whiteford and Angus MacNeil retained their seats with even larger majorities – all but one with overall majorities of the vote in their constituencies, and Angus Robertson only .5% away from 50%. I’m so happy for them and their teams, who I do not doubt worked their absolute hearts out, and if the Devo Files even helped just one person in their constituencies change their mind, then I consider it one of the proudest achievements I’ve ever made.
It is impossible for the Unionist parties to spin the Scottish results as anything other than catastrophic. New Labour lost 40 of their 41 seats; the Neoliberals 10 of their 11; the Conservative vote share is the lowest it’s ever been. They cannot even take solace in the “more voted Unionist than Separatist” angle, for even if you exclude the Greens’ 1.5%, the SNP had 50% of all Scottish votes. Hilariously, I’ve seen some claim the “separatist” vote has fallen, as “only” 1.4 million voted SNP compared to 1.6 million Yes – though that would, logically, mean the “unionist” vote has collapsed, since 1.4 million voted unionist compared to 2 million No. What’s a bigger loss: 200,000, or 600,000? Perhaps the most mindblowing spin is that the Conservative majority keeping the SNP out of government is claimed as a victory by the SNPout gang… even though they lost 56 of the 59 battles:
— Effie Deans (@Effiedeans) May 9, 2015
Yet for all the doom and gloom the Unionist parties are undoubtedly experiencing, they are not finished. The Tories weren’t finished in 1997, and even clawed themselves back from the abyss the following year. The Neoliberal vote has disintegrated to 1970 levels, but they’ve experienced worse in the past half-century. New Labour are still, at present, the second party of Scotland at Holyrood, and governing many councils throughout the land.
This is all tempered with the bittersweet knowledge that we were so close to a clean sweep. For now, Alistair Carmichael, Ian Murray, and David Mundell all retain their seats – with vastly reduced majorities, none even approaching overall majorities, and having utterly disgraced themselves in the process. Danus Skene, Neil Hay, Emma Harper and their teams have nothing to be ashamed of: just 5,000 votes kept the SNP from turning all of Scotland gold, and even if they didn’t succeed this time, it is impossible to see how the Three Stooges could retain their seats in 2020. Would the Devo Files have made a difference? I doubt it: the SNP teams in the Northern Isles, Morningside, and the Borders worked just as hard as anyone, and their achievements are incredible as it is. All the Devo Files I did publish ended up with SNP majorities in the multiples of thousands: I doubt my wee blogs made that much of a difference! Yet I’ll always feel a small pang of guilt: even if it wouldn’t have ended up making any difference – I’m under no illusions that the battle was won on the doorstep, not the internet – I could at least have known “I did what I could.”
Yet if there’s anything I’ve learned from New Labour, it’s that they love little more than fighting old battles. Expect to see them try to spin the result as “proving them right” – Scotland voted SNP, the Tories were the largest party, ergo (to them) SNP let the Tories in. I had this exact conversation with a local councillor at the Inverclyde count, and I’m not too proud to say I absolutely lost my head with him.* So while the Devo Files no longer have relevance in ensuring the replacement of SNP candidates with New Labour, Neoliberal or Tory MPs for 2015, I do think it is important to consider reasons why those candidates may have been unseated above and beyond the nationwide SNP surge. And first on the list will be the Three Stooges, naturally. Likewise, we must never forget the times New Labour MPs from Scotland could have made a difference – the Bedroom Tax, the Welfare Cap, and so forth – if only they bothered to turn up.
Yet the war for Scotland’s future still rages. I hope Wings Over Scotland continues with Project Red for the Holyrood elections (Rev: you know my email!), but I think I might take a wee bit of a break. Maybe a day or two before I start leafleting for the Holyrood elections.
*I will likely do an “Agony and the Ecstasy” report relating my experiences of what I’m positive history will record as a pivotal day in the history of Scotland.