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Friday, 6 May 2011

The second decade of devolution - majoritarian rule?

We’re still waiting on three regions to declare its results but it’s official. The SNP have secured an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament with 65 votes. The inconceivable has happened. It is truly significant, a unique moment in post-devolution Scotland.

The nature of Scottish politics, not to mention how our Parliamentary processes will function, will irrevocably change.

No one expected this, not even the most optimistic of Nationalists. The AMS electoral system was deliberately chosen to prevent the occurrence of majority Government and yet the second decade of devolution has delivered that very outcome.

As things stand Labour have 29 seats, the Tories 9, the Lib Dems 4 and the Greens 1. Remember, only a few months ago the SNP had only one more seat than Labour.

The SNP success, and its ability to attract anti-coalition sentiment, is rightly the main talking point. They ran an ambitious and positive campaign with consistent core messages, for e.g. the reindustrialisation of Scotland, free education etc. And, of course, the Presidential nature of the campaign utilised their biggest asset - Alex Salmond.

Equally important, however, is the catastrophic demise of the Lib Dems and Labour (see previous blog). We all expected the Lib Dems to suffer in this election due to the on-going unpopularity of the UK coalition Government.

Yet, no one could have possibly predicted that the election would result in the Lib Dems having only two directly elected constituent MSPs, both of which are Island based. That’s right, the Lib Dems have no directly elected constituent MSP from the mainland.

It is an astonishing turnaround but more than it clearly demonstrates the depth of animosity still felt towards the Conservatives in Scotland. And yet paradoxically, the Thatcherite scaremongering by the Labour party was entirely ineffective.

Scottish elections, it appears, are strange beasts.

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