When Scotland Spoke With A Confident Voice We Decided To Vote For The Credible Choice

Hey Readers. As I readied myself to watch the Election coverage I had a feeling it was going to be a good night for the SNP but for a party seeking a historic third term in government this night surpassed even my expectations. You see I had never believed the polls that when they claimed my party were going to win a second consecutive majority. This to me was a tactic by a predominantly unionist thinking press and media designed with the twin aims of lulling our voters in to a false sense of security whereby SNP voters may consider splitting the ticket and giving their second vote to another pro independence party such as the Green Party or RISE whilst mobilising the unionist vote behind whatever candidates were best placed to defeat the SNP.

Looking at these tactics one could argue that the first of those tactics failed completely and the second had only a limited degree of success and was far less effective than they had hoped.  On a bright sunny day the SNP vote was out in force as happy confident voters made their way to the polling station to make their voices heard and make Scotland matter

Make no mistake I was nervous as I waited for the results to come in
you see as someone who has always been a keen observer of electoral behaviour in Scotland and elsewhere I more was convinced than many of our activists that there would be at least some degree of tactical voting which would in all likelihood cost us our majority though only the most embittered unionist would believe they could stop us from winning the election overall.

For an election which was if you believed the pundits supposedly in the bag months ago the declarations were painfully slow to come through. At first I wondered why this could possibly be and the Celtic supporter in me came racing to the surface and all sorts of conspiracy theories leapt in to action. The fact that Orkney was the first seat to declare did nothing to ease my suspensions and the seat as expected was held by The Liberal Democrats Liam McArthur 

It wasn’t long till the next declaration and this one was a
more accurate sign of how the night would pan out as Rutherglen , Cambuslang And Blantyre resulted in a gain for the SNP as Claire Haughey unseated the sitting Labour MP James Kelly with a  majority of more than 3,000. This was an excellent result for the party and the successful candidate who has worked in the NHS as a mental health nurse and is a strong trade unionist will be a very useful addition to the SNP team at Holyrood  

Next up it was Hamilton Larkhall And Stonehouse where Christina McKelvie held the seat she won in 2011 with an increased majority over Labour This is a result which will not only go down well with the voters who re-elected a hard working and talented constituency MSP  but also amongst the members of Shettleston branch where Christina’s son Jack is a member and our spokesperson on youth issues.   

This was followed by Shetland which was held by the maverick MSP Tavish Scott who gave what has to be one of the most crass acceptance speeches I have ever heard in my life. Scott has I think it’s safe to say always been a bit of a loose cannon and a bit too full of himself for my liking. This Liberal Democrat who was neither liberal nor democratic used what should have been a moment to celebrate his and his party’s achievement to launch of a vicious and vitriolic attack on both Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Personally I found this to be rather sad but he was given a lesson in class by his own party leader Willie Rennie who on gaining North East Fife from the SNP paid his successor, defeated SNP MSP Rod Campbell a warm and generous tribute. Now that, Tavish is how acceptance speeches should be made.

Before Willie’s victory the SNP had successfully held on to Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley where Willie Coffey had been returned for the third successive election and gained Greenock And Inverclyde from Labour as Stewart MacMillan cruised to victory with a majority of 8,000 from the new Labour candidate Siobhan McCready.

It was also around this time that the Conservative Party gained their first seat of what transpired to be their most successful Scottish election to date, with Oliver Mundell the 26 year old son of Scottish Secretary David Mundell gaining the Dumfrieshire seat from The Labour Party’s Elaine Murray who finished third behind the newly elected Mundell, and the SNP’s Joan McAlpine There would be further Conservative success in southern Scotland later in the with Finlay Carson holding Galloway and West Dumfrieshire and John Scott holding Ayr despite a fierce challenge from the SNP who in Jennifer Dunn had an outstanding candidate who would have been a great asset to both her party and the parliament had she been successful.

The main story of this election was of SNP success and there were early victories for the party with Linda Fabianni holding East Kilbride with an increased majority, Keith Brown doing likewise in Clackmannanshire And Dumblane and Dundee Scotland’s most emphatic Yes City in the 2014 independence referendum returning two SNP MSP’s as Joe Fitzpatrick held Dundee City West and Shona Robison was re-elected for the fourth consecutive election in Dundee City East. I have to say however though I was delighted with the results in Dundee, it did provide the one personal let down of the evening as some of my party booed Labour’s Jenny Marra as she made her defeat speech after losing to the sitting MSP Joe Fitzpatrick in the western half of the city.

This disappointed and angered me as Jenny is one of her party’s most talented MSP’s and also by quite a distance one of the most likable. Believe me when I say she is the kind of opponent I respect which is why I found this behaviour so difficult to take. This isn’t the way I do politics nor is the way of my friends within the SNP family. I may not agree with Jenny Marra on certain issues with regards to the constitutional future of our country but I recognise someone who will fight for my rights as a trans woman and I prefer to build bridges rather than walls. So having given Tavish Scott his character for being crass and undignified in victory I am equally capable and ready to hand out a political yellow card to my own side if I think some of us may have played an unfair game as I believe was the case in this instance. To those who indulged in this type of politics I say only this by word of caution. Whilst it is true that politics arouses deep seated passions let us remember that we are ambassadors of our party and our cause and therefore to try our best to conduct ourselves with dignity and treat others the way we would want them to treat us.

This was however was my only disappointment of what was turning out to be a great night for my party In the hour or so which followed there were victories for Justice Secretary Michael Mathieson in Falkirk West, and Finance Secretary John Swinney in North Perthshire where he faced a tough challenge from the champion of right wing conservativism and top Tory tweeter Murdo Fraser. It was also around this time that Environment minister Fergus Ewing held Inverness And Nairn, Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead
retained Moray, and SNP business manager Derek Mackay was re-elected in Renfrewshire North And West. There were also comfortable victories for returning MSP’s Aileen Campbell in Clydesdale, Jamie Hepburn in Cumberland And Kilsyth and Alistair Allen in Eilean Siar

Though it was great to see familiar faces given a fresh mandates from the voters it is true to say that every team needs new blood to refresh it and amongst the well known names there were a number of new faces elected to the SNP team in parliament many of whom were women. Having already mentioned the success of Claire Haughey earlier in this post it is appropriate to highlight the success of Gillian Martin who retained East Aberdeenshire and Jenny Gilrurth who held on to the Central Fife seat previously held by the outgoing Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick. There were also other notable successes for strong talented women candidates with Jeane Freeman who succeeded Adam Ingram as the party standard bearer retain Cumnock , Carrick, And Doon Valley and Annabelle Ewing gain Cowdenbeath from Labour’s Scottish deputy leader Alex Rowley.

By this time a pattern was beginning to emerge and that pattern was in the main one of the SNP holding on to the seats gained in their two previous election victories in 2007 and 2011 and making inroads to the remaining Labour seats and gaining all but three of them.

The most prominent of the causalities were former party leader Johann Lamont who was convincingly beaten by Humza Yousaf in Pollok as the SNP turned Glasgow a bright shade of yellow winning every constituency in the city, and the man she defeated in the 2011Labour leadership contest Ken McIntosh who lost his Eastwood seat to Conservative Jackson Carlaw. It isn’t often I’ll praise a Conservative opponent but I will make an exception for Jackson Carlaw who on the occasion of his victory took time out to pay tribute to his two main rivals Stewart Maxwell of the SNP and of course Ken McIntosh. In what was arguably the best and most gracious acceptance speech I have ever heard, Jackson Carlaw complimented the skills, talents and the commitment of his opponents and wished them well in their future endeavors.

After the Eastwood result there were more gains in Glasgow for the SNP at the expense of Labour. In Maryhill/ Springburn Bob Doris defeated sitting MSP Patricia Ferguson and in Provan where Ivan McKee unseated Paul Martin. The loss of these seats was a devastating blow to Labour particularly as they had stayed true to the party cause in 2011 on a night when Labour seats were being hoovered up by the SNP all over Scotland.

In other results First Minister Nicola Sturgeon easily retained her Glasgow Southside /Central more than doubling her majority in the process. Glasgow also saw Bill Kidd increase his majority from 7 in 2011 to 6,198 as Glasgow Anniesland once the political home of one Donald Dewar became an even brighter shade of yellow. So I think I can safely say that the man who needed five recounts at the last election may not have needed one on this occasion. Cathcart saw the hard work of local MSP James Dornan rewarded by an almost five fold increase in his majority and in the seat which in my early years on earth was the deepest shade of Tory blue when in the pre devolution years of the 1960’s and 70’s it sent maverick MP Teddy Taylor to Westminster this SNP victory was all the more significant as it proved, that the much heralded or perhaps should I say manufactured Conservative revival did not extend to the seat which was once its Glasgow heartland.

The Tory revival such as it was had little impact outside the south of Scotland and the border constituencies as they failed to make inroads into former strongholds such as Stirling which was once the seat of Scotland’s most hard-line Thatcherite Michael Forsyth or Strathkelvin and Bearsden which was certainly in my politically formative years of the 1980’s always regarded as
traditional Tory territory. The fact that both these seats were held by the SNP with comfortable majorities shows how much Scotland has changed in the intervening decades. We are a very different country from the Scotland I grew up in.

Proof of how much Scotland has changed can be illustrated by looking at my own constituency of Shettleston. This former Labour heartland was held by the SNP and popular local MSP John Mason dramatically increased his majority from just over 700 to just over 7,000. This was a brilliant result not only John but also for the hard working team of activists who worked tirelessly for his re-election. Though I did as much as I was able to do I feel that special mentions must be made for branch organiser Jennifer Layden, branch secretary Laura Doherty, Alex Kerr, Bob Bothwell, May Findlay, and Linda Pike who made the best the jam I’ve ever tasted and sold it to raise funds for John’s re-election.

Still on Shettleston but on a more a personal note, I would like to wish defeated candidates Labour’s Thomas Rannachen, and the Conservative Party’s Thomas Kerr, both of whom I had the pleasure of meeting whilst on polling duty at Swinton Primary best wishes for the future. Both guys are excellent young candidates who served their parties well and will I am sure enjoy better nights in years to come. Indeed such was his accuracy in predicting how his party may fare, I can see young Mr Kerr becoming the new Bernard Ponsonby and though he may not be thinking along those lines just yet it is certainty true to say that stranger things have happened.

By the time of the Glasgow declarations The Labour Party had finally won two seats with former leader Iain Gray holding on in East Lothian which ironically enough was the SNP’s top target seat and Daniel Johnston gain Edinburgh Southern from the SNP. This result was undoubtedly Labour’s best on what was otherwise a disastrous night for the party. This is a fact which only the churlish and petty minded hard-line unionist could even attempt to deny. Indeed to bury their heads in sand on this will only accelerate their decline even further as you get nowhere by living in denial. It should perhaps be remembered, that Edinburgh Southern is not your typical Scottish constituency and is amongst the most affluent areas
in the country.

Looking at this seat in a bit more detail this result though going against the national trend wasn’t entirely unexpected as there were a couple of significant factors which played well for Labour in this constituency. One was the popularity of us the local MP Ian Murray and the other was that there was a degree of tactical voting in Edinburgh that benefitted Labour in this seat. There is also no doubt there was a significantly higher instance of tactical voting in our capital city than anywhere else in Scotland even staunchly unionist Aberdeen yielded three out of three MSP’s for the SNP and speaking on a personal level as someone who has worked in equalities Mark McDonald’s result in Aberdeen Donside was particularly satisfying.

This tactical voting in Edinburgh certainly helped all unionist parties make capital gains. I just hope that those involved didn’t find voting for someone whose party they don’t actually like wasn’t too taxing for them. Taxing or not it brought all pro union parties a union dividend as it helped the Conservative leader in the Scottish parliament Ruth Davidson win Edinburgh Central in a very close contest with the SNP’s Alison Dickie, and the Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh Western where Alex Cole-Hamilton gained the party’s former stronghold by defeating the SNP candidate Tony Gulliano. However it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the SNP in our capital city as Ben MacPherson gained the Edinburgh North and Leith seat which had previously been held by Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm with a majority of 6,000. The party also held the Pentlands seat so long a stronghold of Conservative grandees such as Malcolm Rifkind and the late David McLetchie, and successfully defended Edinburgh Eastern as Ash Denholm held the seat of the former Justice minister Kenny McAskill and defeated Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale in doing so.

As the rest of the results started to show the picture of the night It was great to see Fiona Hyslop hold Linlithgow and the excellent Angela Constance retain Amber Valley with an increased majority. Amongst other highlights were the victories of Gail Ross in Caithness, Sutherland, and Ross and Kate Forbes in Skye, Baddenoch , and Lochabar both of whom replaced colleagues who had decided to stand down at this election and their successes will build on the legacies of Rob Gibson, and Dave Thompson. The election of Gail and Kate will I’m sure be very good news not only for a party who have gained two powerful articulate voices, but also for their constituents for whom they will fight with passion, power, and purpose.

By the time the final constituency was declared it was easy to see despite what may happen on the list who had really won the Scottish Election of 2016 and who would govern in our devolved parliament for the next five years and despite what a pro unionist press and media would like to have you believe it wasn’t Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Conservative And Unionist Party.
Despite the Tories having their best results in Scotland for more than 30 years the clear winners were the Scottish National Party and their leader Nicola Sturgeon.

As for some of those elected on the list let’s just say that parliament is about to become a more entertaining for all of us. With the election of colourful Conservative characters such as Glasgow’s Annie Wells and Professor Adam Tompkins Labour’s Anas Sarwar and the Green’s co convenor Patrick Harvie it is safe to say that lively debate will not be in short supply. Indeed Harvie who has been joined by five colleagues rather than just one has as a result has seen his party overtake the Liberal Democrats as fourth largest political party at Hollyrood. Amongst his new colleagues are land reform expert Andy Weightman and our youngest ever elected member of the Scottish Parliament in 21_year old Ross Greer who gained a place on the West of Scotland list. For both Ross and the parliament in general I think I can say with a degree of certainty that exciting times lie ahead as Scotland’s newly elected representatives take us on the next stage of our democratic journey.

However when all the results were declared and all the numbers crunched there could be no disputing that the belonged to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
For the woman who took over as First Minister at the mid way point of the last parliament, this result has not only been a victory for the SNP it has also been a huge personal success for her both nationally and in her constituency of Glasgow Southside/Central where she more than doubled her majority over the Labour Party. It was if you like a vindication of her tenure and a personal endorsement from the voters of Scotland that she was indeed their choice to lead our country

This parliamentary diet more than any of its predecessors will I think be instrumental in shaping the future of our country and will tell us a lot about the society we wish to create. How that will pan out is something of which only time and history will be the judges but believe me when I say this election was more important than many people realise for some highly significant reasons which can and will alter the destiny for years and possibly decades to come. The main factors at play in this scenario are as follows

(1) This election proved once and for all the SNP could win without Alex Salmond. This therefore destroys forever unionist claims that the SNP were a one man band only electable under Salmond’s leadership.

(2) Nicola Sturgeon asked for a personal mandate from the people of Scotland she has now been given that mandate. With her request now granted she must and I believe will use it prudently and wisely for the benefit of all who live here.

(3) The SNP won 59 out of 73 constituency seats and secured over a million votes in doing so. By gaining such an unprecedented mandate it is the SNP and only the SNP who won this election. Only the list saved unionist parties from complete and total oblivion.

You see the pro British unionists can talk up the Tories all they like and I’m sure more than a few of them had a glass of stale beer or flat champagne to celebrate the fact that the list system which was devised to deny any party a majority was triumphant in its aim this time. They forget however that the SNP with 63 seats (it is my view ridiculous that they were allocated only four on the list) were only two short of achieving what in this system was considered to be almost impossible and doing it for the second election in a row. This by any standards is bordering on miraculous, but for a party going for a third term government to actually increase its number of directly elected members and increase its share of the vote is a result of extraordinary proportions. So just in case the Tories and their unionist allies try to spin a result for Britain, Let these statistics tell the story they don’t want you to believe

Constituency Seats
SNP 59
Conservatives 7
Liberal Democrats 4
Labour 3

List Seats
Conservatives 24
Labour 21
Greens 6
SNP 4
Liberal Democrats 1

Final Total
SNP 63
Conservatives 31
Labour 24
Greens 6
Liberal Democrats 5

So to bring this post to an end I have to address a couple of issues that the unionist press are too scared to ask of any party but particularly of the Labour party who on the evidence of recent events are who need to address these issues more than most . This will make the narrow minded amongst their number angry that I even dare to question them but for the genuine members of pro UK parties and especially those in the Labour party who actually believe in the union rather than how it can serve their careers my line of questioning will I think be aa welcome one.

My first concern is very straightforward and in dire need of an answer so please tell me and the voters of Scotland when are you going stop persisting with this ludicrous tactic of opposing the SNP just for the sake of it even on issues where there is quite clearly common ground. This kind of behaviour is not only unproductive it is also unprincipled and gives voters the impression you are both arrogant and stupid and are therefore unfit to govern.

Also I hate to inform you but this talk of Scotland being one party state is complete and utter drivel, our opponents know it and so more importantly do the voters. Personally I find it funny in the peculiar sense of the word that there was no talk of this kind when Labour were running Scotland with more than 50 MP’s at Westminster but the minute the tide turns there is this of carefully manufactured hysteria against the SNP and our supporters. So let me set the record straight just to avoid any doubt. This is a democracy and there was more than choice on the ballot papers on this election day just as there has been on all other election days when I have exercised my right to vote. The fact that only one of those choices was credible is however a very different matter.

Talking of credibility I feel that I must ask the unionist parties yet another question namely when are you going to stop this obsessive SNP bad mantra which seems have been your default position for the last god knows how long.
You see on the evidence of this result the public are not only bored by it they are beginning to get seriously hostile to it and if you are ever to be remotely credible again you have to start thinking bigger than you are doing at the moment and stop acting like petulant children who have grounded and banned from playing with their favourite toy until they have done their homework. It seems to me at least in the case of the Labour Party that you still haven’t moved on from the shock of your first defeat to the SNP in 2007 and still believe that you have some sense of entitlement to rule over what you see as poor little Scotland till all seas or at least the oil wells run dry. What you don’t seem to realise is that the Scotland of 2016 is a far more confident land than the Scotland you led in the early years of devolution and at this election we spoke with a confident voice.

It is my view that until the unionist parties embrace that confidence rather than trying suppress it, then they have no chance of ever returning to power. This means, they will make our job of winning for Scotland so much easier than it should be and the race for second place will continue to be the only real contest in Scottish parliamentary elections not only in 2021 but also for the foreseeable future. You see the reason we won this election was a very simple one, with the other parties in either in meltdown or actively campaigning to be in opposition rather than in government we really were the only credible choice and somehow I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

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