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Friday, 6 May 2011

The SNP Heartlands?

Going to bed early on Holyrood election night (to get up early) was always a controversial strategy but in many ways it was a fitting end to a sleepy campaign in my constituency (Motherwell & Wishaw).

The dominance of Labour in this area is well known. No one thought it could change. No one. They were right, but only just.

Labour had an existing majority of 5,938 with 48.1% of the vote when the former First Minister Jack McConnell won the seat in 2007.

And today that majority has been reduced to only 587 with John Pentland winning the seat with 43.8% of the vote. That’s a massive 10.2% swing from Labour to SNP.

Elsewhere in the heartlands it was a similar yet unexpected story with the Labour vote collapsing. John Mason took the Glasgow Shettleston constituency for the SNP with an extraordinary 12.6% swing from Labour’s front bench stalwart Frank McAveety.

The SNP’s James Dornan took the Glasgow Cathcart constituency, Sandra White took the Glasgow Kelvin constituency from another Labour front bencher Pauline McNeill and Bill Butler secured the Glasgow Anniesland constituency.

The “political tsunami” continued with the loss of East Kilbride, Hamilton and Airdrie and the subsequent departure of heavy hitters such as Andy Kerr and Tom McCabe. In Hamilton the swing to the SNP was 11%, 6.6% in East Kilbride & 5.5% in Airdrie where Alex Neil won 50% of the vote.

This is a new epoch; the tectonic political plates are shifting. We could be looking at an overall SNP majority in an electoral system that was designed to prevent majorities.

One thing we do know is this: these are Labour’s heartlands no more.

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