It’s a rare thing that a party in power for 14 years can increase its majority, but such is the situation in Scotland that the euphemistically named “constitutional question” continues to dominate. Even parties that complain about nationalists constantly banging on about independence seem to do extremely well when they also constantly bang on about independence – as the Tories have once again shown as they maintain their second place position at Holyrood.
The fact of the matter is that, just as the parliamentary numbers haven’t shifted all that much, neither has the political reality (something that’s been covered here on this blog). At least half of Scotland still wants a second indyref, and almost all of Westminster doesn’t want to grant us one. This is extremely problematic, and it doesn’t matter what the SNP or the Tories say: this election hasn’t been a political resolution to what is ultimately a sticky legal problem.
As important as the question of independence is to everyone in Scotland, beyond it I think it’s regrettable that so much political energy gets sucked into it at the expense of so much else. I’m not necessarily upset at the SNP winning a landslide but I don’t think it’s totally healthy for our politics that a party that has a questionable record on education, drug deaths and Covid not be held in some way accountable on these issues.
This is why I think it’s a positive development that alternative voices within the wider independence movement are beginning to make some meaningful headway. The Scottish Greens can rightfully claim to be the biggest winners of the election proportionally speaking, taking their MPs from 5 up to 8 as they broaden their appeal beyond their urban base. For all the talk of Salmond’s Alba Party prompting SNP supporters to consider another choice on their list vote, it appears that when they did they opted for a party with a proven track record of progressive politics that wasn’t fronted up by creeps and transphobes. Sadly, I don’t think this will be the last we see of Alex despite his embarrassing defeat at the ballot box.
The Green’s gains were slightly blunted by the SNP’s assertive messaging around its #BothVotesSNP campaign, which in the end only ended up helping the Tories scoop up more regional seats. The Mid-Scotland and Fife region was a prime example of this in action: 136,825 votes for the SNP and not an extra MSP to show for it.
Scotland’s Additional Member System (AMS) can be a bit confusing, but all you need to know here is that by design it is supposed to prevent a majority in parliament in order to foster collaboration among different parties. This was lost on SNP voters who chose to vote for the party twice, but nowhere has a total ignorance of our electoral system been more openly displayed than among English journalists who have fixated so much on the SNP missing out on a majority as if that’s at all relevant.
We’ll see a lot of rancour over the coming weeks surrounding the result and what it means for independence especially, but away from all the stagnant bar graphs and political chess exists a refreshing story of a parliament renewed. With the election of Scotland’s first MSP women of colour in Pam Gosal and Kaukab Stewart, as well as the parliament’s first permanent wheelchair user, Pam Duncan-Glancy, our parliament is looking more representative of our nation than ever before, with 45% of MSPs now women. That’s reason enough for any of us, regardless of our politics, to be immensely proud.
Words by Charlie Forbes
Cover photo by Scottish Parliament / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)