This post is my personal take on the Scottish local elections and now that the dust is at last beginning to settle on them it is I think time to give my slant on the results and explain why despite the fawning schophancy of a very compliant press and media deluding Ruth Davidson in to believing she had won these elections the results may not be as good as she thinks for herself or her party.
I make this point because Tory expectations have been raised to what I think are unrealistic levels and this came through loud and clear as I followed the results on Twitter all through Friday from morning till late afternoon.
As a political campaigner it is fair to say that my twitter feed was buzzing during this period as bit by bit we or at least of us who are actually interested discovered the composition of Scotland’s councils. There was I am sure some mixed feelings for activists of all hues as the picture from the results became clearer. Well as party members (whatever our party of choice) we will have friends standing for our parties and whisper it maybe even for some of our opponents.
Yes it’s true, elections are emotional times for all in party colours. I make this point because those who are not involved in politics seem very quick to forget this and often tar everyone involved with the sane heartless brush by commenting that they are all in it for themselves. This is not only untrue it is very unfair and if people knew how many hours potential candidates put in, in the run up to any election often after working in a full time or part time job they would be less inclined to parrot this nonsense.
As a member of the SNP it is fair to say that I had friends standing for election on Thursday many of whom were elected and some of whom were not and it broke my heart that due to injury I was unable to help out with the final push in the last week of the campaign or do my duty at a polling place on the day itself. Trust me with a badly sprained ankle it was hard enough to get to the polling station to cast my vote let alone do my usual shift for the party so being at home for most of the day meant I was unable to guage how the wards were going and catch up with the chat that is a feature of these occasions.
As the first results came in it was evident that the SNP had done well and held our ground in terms of vote share from the last council elections in 2012 though the electoral geography of our vote had shifted westward with gains in the Labour heartlands of Lanarkshire Renfrewshire and Glasgow and modest losses to the Conservatives in what some would call the more traditional party strongholds in the north east of Scotland such as Angus where along with Dundee the party lost its overall majority’s Perthshire, and Aberdeenshire.
To be fair these results weren’t entirely unexpected especially since the Tories have been given a free ride by a unionist press desperate to dent the fortunes of the SNP in any way they can. It must really upset the powers that be that most of the conservative gains at least in terms of voters came not from the SNP but their fellow unionists in the Labour Party as those of a unionist mindset played musical chairs with the council seats in towns and cities from the Highlands to the Borders Yet despite the large number of conservative gains and downright lies on certain television channels that Tories had won Scotland it was the SNP who energed victorious from these elections and winning 431 seats to the Conservatives 276. This means that the SNP 155 more councillors than the Conservatives.
This is by any stretch of the imagination a significant victory for the party as when you compare like for like elections this represents a five fold increase in the SNP majority over the second placed party from 2012 when they had only a 31 seat majority over The Labour Party. So this is not quite the fairytale comeback the Conservatives would have you believe. That however will not stop the press and media both in Scotland and in the UK from trying to peddle this non story as the greatest comeback since Lazarus. Make no mistake there are agenda’s play here as a predominantly right wing establishment tries to rebrand Britishness to Scotland after what it sees as our disastrous flirtation with independence. They badly need the voters to believe the story that the Tories are as popular in Scotland as they are in England and Wales. The results however give a slightly different narrative, and whilst it is true to say that they did make gains including some in places one would never have thought of it is I think important to stress one key fact which may have come in to play which may not be so beneficial to them in a General Election
Younger Voters Often Ignore Local Elections But Older People Always Vote
A simple statement but nonetheless a true one, many younger voters don’t vote in local elections. This may be due to a combination of reasons including the following
- Younger voters have busy lives and some of them may be busy with important college or university exams.
- Many younger voters will have a heavy workload and will be trying to climb the career ladder or out searching for employment
- local government elections are seen as less relevant than national elections
- you can’t get as excited over bin collections as you would over independence, Fracking, or The NHS.
- Some younger voters may feel disenfranchised and feel that no party speaks for them
Any or all of these reasons can be applied to an individual’s circumstances as to why as a younger person may not have voted on Thursday and there may be half a million others I haven’t began to contemplate but whereas our younger voters may not have went to the polling booths our older voters did and they did so in great numbers. Since the majority of older voters are pro union, this when combined with the voting system used at this election disproportionately assisted The Conservative Party and indeed to a significant extent The Labour Party which I believe it saved from electoral oblivion. This I think can only benefit the SNP at the forthcoming general election as I believe it will have shaken many of the SNP voters out of any complacency which may have been creeping in after 10 years as the dominant party in Scotland.
There is no doubt that in my opinion even as an SNP member our party needed to be challenged to prevent it becoming stale. However few if any of us would have expected that the challenge to come from the right especially the hard right Conservative Party. The fact that this council election saw the return of working class conservatism and saw Conservative councillors elected in Shettleston , and The Calton should be a worry. for all of us on the socially Liberal left and that this at least to some extent was due to the hard-line orange vote should be of significant concern to those voters on both sides of the constitutional debate who value the kind of inclusive society the Conservative Party stand opposed to.
It is my opinion that those involved in politics can clearly see, that the incendiary language the unionist parties and in particular the Conservatives have been using to describe the prospect of a second independence referendum has been framed to target this demographic by a party who due to their toxic stand on the independence issue need all the unionist votes they can get
Whilst it’s true to say the SNP will be disappointed not to have gained overall control of the city the fact they have become the largest party in the city chambers cannot overlooked and is in itself a magnificent achievement of which the party can be justifiably proud. This result and many others throughout Scotland is I believe all the greater when one considers the toxic campaigns of both the Labour and Conservative parties who refused point blank to conduct debate which actually mentioned local issues. Instead both main Westminster parties showed what in my opinion amounts to a hysterical obsession with independence.
Now whilst the almost constant reinforcement of this message through the press and media may have benefited the Conservatives to some extent it worked against Labour in pretty spectacular style and succeeded only in diminishing both their influence and profile in many of their staunchest heartlands. With a snap general election called for June I would suggest that this tactic has backfired in the sense that a Labour Party who are sitting in second place in most of the constituencies held by the SNP have now been upstaged by the Conservatives who despite both their Scottish and UK leaders boasts are nowhere near to winning the majority of votes or seats in Scotland and Ruth Davidson and Theresa May might be about to find out that they are nowhere near as popular as the press has led them to believe.Indeed the Conservative party are only the majority party in four council areas in the whole of Scotland whereas the SNP occupy that position in 16 councils and tied for control in another three, now pardon me for shining a light on the Tory spin machine but I think 16 is more than 4 just as I think 431 is more than 276. My reason for that is simple, when I went to school I actually learned to count. I also learned how to distinguish fantasy from reality. I don’t think the Scottish Conservatives can say the same.
Yes it’s true to say they made the greatest number of gains but we start allow their supporters to eulogise on the virtues of Saint Ruth I should point out two important facts that the media are ignoring. I have already mentioned one of them but both need to be put out there so the public know the truth of this so-called Tory revival
These Are The Facts The Media Ignored
(1) The vast majority of the Conservative vote increased were gained at the expense of The Labour Party whose more hard-line unionist voters voted to endorse Ruth Davidson’s message to send a message to the SNP that they didn’t want a second independence referendum. This is despite the fact that local council authorities are powerless to stop such a referendum taking place
(2) The Conservatives were starting from such a low start base having only polled 13% in 2012 they could have a made as few as 50 gains and still promoted it as a revival. Indeed if we are honest about it all parties can find something to smile about and some causes for concern as they analyse the numbers from the vote.
As for me, I have already said that this was an emotional election and that was due to the fact I knew so many good candidates who were primarily though not exclusively from the SNP. Due to the results particularly in Glasgow, I now have a number of friends who have been elected to serve their local communities and yes there were tears both of joy and sorrow as the results were declared.
The Joy came for Christina Cannon and Graham Campbell in Springburn/Robroyston, Stephen Dornan in Govan, David McDonald in Pollok, Greg Hepburn, and Jennifer Layden in Calton, Laura Doherty and Michelle Ferns in Shettleston where the SNP got more councillors than The Conservatives despite what the media would have you believe, and Elaine Ballantyne in my local ward of Baillieston. There were also personal reasons to cheerful outside Glasgow with great results for Katy Loudoun in Cambuslang East, and Lorraine Cameron in Paisley South West.
There were however even on a good night, some disappointments for me and my party. In my local ward we lost a fantastic and hard working councillor in David Turner who had served his community well since first being elected at a by-election in 2008. There were also tears of sadness for two excellent first time candidates, Alex Kerr who lost out in Shettleston, and Linda Pike who suffered a similar fate in the Calton. As members of my branch I know that both Alex and Linda would have been hard working and committed councillors who would have made a real impact in their communities but on this occasion at least it wasn’t to be. However I am sure both of them will continue to be great assets to the SNP in general and in the East End of Glasgow in particular.
Those defeats aside these elections were good for the SNP especially when you consider they are now a third term government in the Scottish Parliament so I think claims by unionist politicians and their supporters that we have reached peak SNP are at best propaganda and at worst competely deluded. Had this been true I think the SNP would almost certainly have incurred at least the same scale of losses as the Labour Party and probably much worse. After all, we are told every day how bad the SNP actually are by a fanatical pro UK press.
There is however only one problem with this narrative and that is that at least 45% are becoming incessantly bored by what they see as unionist whining in which they paint a very bleak future of Scotland under the SNP but offer precisely nothing in the way of alternative solutions and that is where the would be empress Ruth is found not to be wearing any new clothes but the second hand rags of the most hated UK Prime Minister in the history of the union.
The name of that Prime Minister in case Ruth needs reminding was Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Now Ruth may like to delude herself that the Tories have moved on from those days but she is fooling only herself. You see no matter how badly the opinion formers try to shape our thoughts through the press ,wee Ruth and the Tory truth and deliberate miscalculations . The statistics of these elections show the Conservatives whilst doing well when compared with 2012 have at best improved only marginally since last year’s Scottish Election and may not be as loved by the voters of Scotland as they are by the chattering classes in the unionist press and media.
Till next time