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Night of the long claymores: the SNP are poised for a historic, momentous, victory.

4 March 2015

7:16 PM

4 March 2015

7:16 PM

The latest Scottish polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft is another reminder, should you still need it, that this year’s election looks like being an unmitigated disaster for Unionism.

The noble, if mischievous, Lord’s research reveals that, as matters stand, the SNP are still on course to all but wipe Labour – and everyone else – off the political map. It will be a bloodbath; a night of the long claymores.

Gordon Brown’s Kirkcaldy seat? Gone. Alistair Darling’s Edinburgh constituency? Taken. Charlie Kennedy’s Highland fortress? Sacked. Even Jim Murphy’s East Renfrewshire seat is threatened by the Nationalist insurgency. So too is the last remaining Tory MP in Scotland, David Mundell. Which, in turn, means it is not fanciful to suppose Michael Moore’s neighbouring Borders constituency is also vulnerable to the SNP.

If the SNP can, as these figures suggest, enjoy a 28 percent swing in their favour in Gordon Brown’s former seat – the safest Labour bastion in Scotland – then, with the exception of Orkney and Shetland, they can win anywhere else. Everywhere else.  In 2010, the SNP won just 14 percent of the vote in Kirkcaldy. Now they may win the seat. That’s an insurrection of historic proportions.

And, again, the logic of it is impeccable. If you voted Yes in September why would you vote for a Unionist party in May? It does not compute. Doing so would require some synaptic dissonance. What, set beside the future of the nation, does it matter whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband limps into Downing Street? Either result will leave the SNP leadership happy.


Ashcroft’s polling in these Scottish constituencies suggests 30 percent of Labour voters in 2010 are preparing to vote for the SNP in 2015. Even more startlingly, 37 percent of Liberal Democrat supporters now intend to vote for the Nationalists.

(If you ever needed proof that the Lib Dems are a party for fusionless ninnies remember that most Lib Dem supporters voted No in September. Now many of them will vote for the SNP. This makes no sense at all but there you have it.)

The Nationalists have a cause and, just as importantly, battalions of missionaries prepared to preach the independence gospel. 24 percent of voters surveyed by Ashcroft say they have been contacted by the SNP in recent weeks; just 15 percent have heard from Labour. There is an enthusiasm gap Labour will struggle to breach.

You need a gimlet eye to find any silver lining in all this for Labour. If there is one it lies in the fact that if Labour can somehow haul themselves up to 35 percent of the Scottish vote they will have a better than even chance of still remaining the largest party north of the border. That would still, in more ordinary times, be reckoned a disastrous result for Scottish Labour but, these being extraordinary times, it would now be thought a miraculous victory.

This is the new reality, one in which the terms and nature of the Scottish debate are set by the SNP. Jim Murphy has been busy and energetic and it is hard to imagine any alternative Labour leader doing any better but his message, as they say, is not cutting through.

Can that change before election day? Of course it can. Most people still think Labour will do significantly better than the polling suggests. That’s increasingly a faith-based hunch, however, since the numbers remain stubbornly unchanged. Things can change, for sure, it’s just that, at the moment, there’s little persuasive reason to think they actually will.

We’ve not seen anything like this, you know, since Sinn Fein won a landslide in the Irish portion of the 1918 election. And you will remember what happened after that.


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