What really happened last month
The Scottish Election Study helps explode some of the myths surrounding Labour’s defeat, PAUL DEVLIN points out
Although May 5 is just over seven weeks ago, the Scottish Election Study 2011 does help us to gain some perspective on the results.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of things we need to be concerned about, not least the fact that amongst voters defined as working class (both by psephologists and by themselves) the SNP were comfortably ahead. Other groups that are (were?) seen as traditionally Labour such as the Catholic vote also voted for the SNP in greater numbers than for Labour.
The reasons for this? The SNP were seen as a competent government and a united party who ran a positive campaign, as well as one which keeps its promises (no laughing about class sizes from you teachers at the back), perhaps demonstrating how their declaration of 84 out of 94 election pledges from 2007 having been met played with voters, especially when they could blame opposition parties (ie, mainly Labour) for the failures of the other ten, including minimum pricing.
One canard that was dismissed by the survey was the notion that our vote held-up, with Liberal Democrat voters defecting en masse to the SNP. In fact, less than half of the former LibDem vote went to the SNP, while we actually gained 22 per cent of Lib-Dem voters from 2007. Moreover, fewer than a third of our voters from the 2010 general election switched to the SNP. Nevertheless, it is this last group of voters we need to persuade to vote Labour in 2016. I am sure I am not alone in sensing in the last few days of the campaign people switching from us to the SNP (up to 80,000 voters according to YouGov Polling; just over a 1000 voters in each constituency, enough to explain the SNP winning seats such as Shettleston and Cathcart).
The final set of statistics comes down to the constitution: only 24 per cent favour independence with 38 per cent in favour of the status quo. Interestingly, 38 per cent are also in favour of more powers for the Scottish Parliament. My fear has long been that despite the new powers proposed by the Calman Commission and which largely make up the Scotland Bill, we are no longer seen as the party that supports and initiates a process of devolving powers to the Scottish Parliament. As Jim Murphy recently pointed out, to a large extent, voters appear to see both ourselves and the SNP as social democratic parties, with one wrapped in the patriotic flag (this perceived closeness in terms of policy is also borne out by the Scottish Election Study).
The party that delivered a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers (a power the SNP let slide without bothering to tell anyone) should be at the forefront of the debate about how we increase the powers of the Parliament in order to improve the lives of the people in Scotland. We need to rid ourselves of the appearance of somehow appearing less Scottish or less patriotic; in fact events of the last few weeks seem to suggest that it is a political imperative.
Paul Devlin is a Labour Party activist in Glasgow South CLP.