2007 - 2021

#SP16 Final Reports: Kohli, Purcell, McIlvanney and more

bonfirebFinal round of Bella lettrists, and their comments on the outcome of #SP16: Hardeep Kohli, Steven Purcell, Rachel McCormack, Matthew Fitt, Roch Winds Collective, Liam McIlvanney, Alistair Davidson, Justin Kenrick

Hardeep Kohli (@misterhsk), cook, restauranteur, broadcaster, writer, comedian: Bonfire of The Vanities/Business As Usual 

You couldnae make it up…

Labour’s bonfire of the vanities and the resurgence of the Right is the axis upon which the story of this election spins. (The democratic dominance of the SNP was palpably predictable heralding the continued maturation of our governing party.)

Scotland’s new dichotomy is a reversion to the traditional Left and the Right.

In our political history, has there ever been a more farcical fall from grace than the ignominious implosion of the once commanding cohort that was Scottish Labour?

Political nature abhors a vacuum and as Labour attempted to distinguish it’s arse from its elbow, Scotland’s Tories marched in.

The Right rejoice, the Left lament. And for the SNP, although in a ruling minority mode this time, business as usual.


Steven Purcell (@purcellstevenj), ex-head of Glasgow City Council, Labour member and Yes voter: A Sharp-Toothed, Hungry Party

The summary of the night is an historic third term for the Nationalists and voters apparently deserting Labour for the Conservatives.

What an astounding journey Scotland has been on since Devolution’s 1999 elections created our first elected Scottish Government in centuries, a new cross-party politics, coalition Government, a minority Nationalist Government (re-elected with a majority), a referendum on Independence and the sweeping away of Labour’s decades of dominance and the usurping of Labour as the “establishment” party of Scotland.

Why has the established party – the worker’s party of equality and solidarity, one that created the NHS and championed devolution and had the trust of generations of families – fallen so spectacularly from grace?

Quite bluntly, it is because from day one, the Scottish Labour Party was unable (and in many cases unwilling) to reconcile itself to, or understand, the implications of the journey of Home Rule. That it would enliven a sense of identity and distinctiveness in this ambitious, patriotic and (some would have it) social democratic country.

Labour’s almost immediate conversion from a sharp-toothed hungry party of radical home rule, to a virulent defender of the Union, was as breath-taking to many of us inside the party as it was to swathes of our traditional voter. The stranglehold by a small number of elite within the party over the party’s direction, structures and machinery became strikingly apparent and deeply depressing.

It is worth noting that in the three Constituencies Labour won yesterday that they all had one thing in common – a very strong local campaign fought on local issues.  For Labour to rebuild and aspire to be national representatives again, it must once again be a party of local, effective and well-grounded campaigners.

It truly saddens me that the once proud People’s Party is currently homeless, roofless and toothless.  In the face of this new Scottish Parliament, where a majority of its representatives campaigned on centre-right manifestos, Scotland desperately needs a party of radical home rule which will fight locally and nationally for those seemingly long-lost social democratic principles of equality and solidarity.

As half of my Scottish pals sat on Twitter with their whisky and their snacks we all thought that this was going to be a rather dry election. In the end professional pundits and the rest of us were rather shocked as the Conservative and Unionist party rose up and pushed away a boulder bigger than the one in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, and is back in the game.


Rachel McCormack (@r_mccormack) is a food writer and broadcaster

Their voters could vote for nice cuddly Ruth a politician whose entire strategy seems to be a copy of London media Farage’s “man of the people” schtick of pulling pints and riding bulls and that must have brought them some comfort.

They were sold a one policy party that dared not mention its name in the hope of getting the Unionist vote. Nice lawyer Adam and working class Annie, the new Tory list MSPs for Glasgow make it easy to forget that this is the party of Osborne, IDS, inherited privilege and food banks.

How the new Scottish Tories will react when London seeks to exert unionist control remains to be seen, but buy your popcorn, it’ll be a good show.


Matthew Fitt – writer (http://www.mfitt.co.uk) 

I ken Scots isnae even a flech on the winscreen o Scottish politics but interestin tae note the new official opposition’s contempt for the Scots leid. The Tories dinnae even awn its existence.

Seems tae me the SNP’s approach in government has aye been tae caw canny wi winnlestrae meisures for Scots for fear o frichtin aff middle cless voters wi promotin ‘wacko’ things like the miscawed  ‘language of the gutter.’

Weel, looks like a guid hantle o thae voters votit Tory this time roond. Efter daein verra little for the Scots leid, the cuddies were fleggit onywey.

Hope the pairty o Scotland in its historic third term will stap bein blate and get on wi the joab o pittin in place the much-needit life-chyngin Scots language provision for oor Scots speakin bairns and weans in Scotland’s puirest communities.


Roch Winds (@rochwinds), a socialist, ScotLab-oriented collective: Social democracy is on its last legs

During the referendum, people thought Scotland was on a path to something more exciting and radical than the stale right-wing politics of Westminster. Now we’ve seen a reversal: Labour at Westminster is led by a socialist with deep roots in extra-parliamentary politics, while Scotland’s government and opposition have little interest in redistributing wealth and plenty of time for capital.

Labour’s fate, and the SNP’s lost majority, fits with what we’ve been saying for ages: social democracy is on its last legs. We’re on a very different path now: it could end with a Tory-led Scottish government in our lifetimes. It’s been happening in Scandinavia, and now it’s happening here.

We’ve been afraid of rocking Scotland’s social-democratic boat for too long. It’s time for Scotland’s socialists to pull down the white flag of retreat, burn the saltire, and fly the red and black flags of mutiny outside a parliament that holds little hope for radicalism.


Liam McIlvanney (@LiamMcIlvanney), academic and crime author: Maybe Our Future Is Not Norway, But Northern Ireland 

From this distance [Liam is at present an academic in New Zealand] the Scottish election campaign seemed weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.

Lacking the high stakes of the indyref and the revenge narrative of GE15, this election offered little beyond the familiar Scottish prospect of a hegemonic party managing small ambitions in a country where hope of real change can be endlessly deferred.

I understand the SNP’s circumspection, but a strategy of ‘independence by stealth’ (copyright Iain Macwhirter) risks running out of steam. Oppositions become governments. Is a fourth Holyrood term for the SNP assured? I suspect that indyref2 has to happen in this coming parliament or not at all.

Maybe our future is not Norway but Northern Ireland, with the SNP as a milder Scottish version of Sinn Fein, stalemated by a revamped Scottish Unionist Party. Hard to see a way back for Scottish Labour except as a party of independence: they might rescue not just themselves, but the indy movement too…


Alistair Davidson (@mohkohn) is a writer and SNP activist 

The tectonic plates of Scottish politics have shifted and the electorate is rapidly re-aligning. The right wing of Labour’s vote finds the Tories to be the more convincing defenders of the Union.

By the next election, much of what is left of Labour’s vote will feel the pressure to pick a side. The Tories also did well against the SNP in traditional Tory areas – that vote is deserting the SNP, whose centre of gravity is steaming West with each election.

The big story for the Yes movement is that there is a pro-independence majority for the second parliament running. That is historic. The voters have voted, and pro-independence voters want to try out a Green-SNP pact, with the SNP list vote slipping and the Greens up.

We also saw Yes campaigners and trade unionists elected for the SNP. A shift is underway as the right aligns with unionism, and the left with independence.


Justin Kenrick (@justkenrick)

Excellent result for the Greens and for the Independence movement as a whole.

That the SNP secured a 3rd term with almost half the seats was a fantastic result. The SNP needing pro-Indy Green support will strengthen their grassroots to push for more radical change, giving the Yes movement a much stronger hand at IndyRef2.

We’ve just missed out on bringing some fantastic SGP women into Holyrood (including Maggie Chapman and Sarah Beattie-Smith), but will have some great and experienced former MSPs, plus the powerhouse that is Andy Wightman on land reform, taxation, etc., and the youngest ever MSP in Ross Greer.

The lesson in all this is not to go for short term Party gains at the movement’s expense. In reality, unless the grassroots can persuade party leaders to make a formal electoral ‘Yes Alliance’ then being clever can’t work, and there’s no point Greens complaining about ‘Both Votes SNP’, and SNP folk complaining that Alison Johnstone stood in Edinburgh Central (great results Alison and Patrick by the way). Bernie Sanders is forever prioritising movement building over his bid for the Presidency, we need to do the same. Progressive Labour voters have fled to the SNP or Greens, their No rump is fast fleeing to the Tories.

A very clear choice will be permanently on show in the new Holyrood:

Tories or Independence, our choice.

Comments (11)

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  1. florian albert says:

    One name worth recording in the aftermath of the vote is that of Jack Caldwell.
    He stood as an Independent in Edinburgh Northern and Leith.
    He won over 1,300 votes – not bad for a young man in his early ’20s with no party behind him.

  2. The Sair Fecht says:

    Seein that Matthew Fitt is, richtly, cawin the pairties oot for their want o care for Scots, it micht interest him an readers tae ken that The Sair Fecht is back wi a review o the election i Scots: https://thesairfecht.com/2016/05/06/weill-weill-weill/

  3. Edward Andrews says:

    I wouldn’t want to build too much on the Northern Ireland model – and I don’t think thatLiam McIlvanney really understands it. In Irish terms the SNP is the SDLP. The SDLP is a reincarnation of the old Irish Nationalist Party which came out of a complicated situation c1969. We simply don’t want to go there. Sinn Fein was remember the political wing of the IRA. If anyone wants I will put on my Anorak and discuss the wonders of the First and Second Dail. All I’m saying is that while I can see a perpetual standoff between the Unionists and the Nationalists in Scotland, it is misleading to use any analogy with Ireland. All we really have in common with the Irish is that there was once an Act of Union with the UK. I know that people not wanting to think occasionally try and draw parallels, but it can’t work, because the conditions of 1912-14 in Ireland don’t exist in Scotland

    1. Liam McIlvanney says:

      Thanks for your comment Edward. My intention (possibly not made clear in the 150 words at my disposal) wasn’t to advocate building on a ‘NI model’ or to posit a direct one-to-one correspondence between the SNP and SF. I’m suggesting, rather, that we are – for better or worse – moving in the direction of NI in the sense that the constitutional question is becoming the central organising principle of party politics, with the Tories emerging as a de facto Scottish Unionist Party in opposition to a party of independence. We might draw the further comparison that the parties of the constitutional middle ground in both jurisdictions have been eclipsed by parties of the ‘extremes’. It has long seemed to me that Unionism in Scotland cannot afford the luxury of three separate branch offices, and this election seems to confirm that the Tories are best placed to present themselves as the Unionist Party of Scotland.

      1. Edward Andrews says:

        As an Irishman with the schizophrenia of being an Ulster Prod, Educated in Dublin, carrying a passport with a harp on it and voting in one of the lists for the Irish Senate, who would have no great attachment to the continued existence of the Northern Ireland statelet, but who understands the psychological barriers, but who also in an anorak for Irish History I am having an interesting time
        I think that your point about having one unionism is well made. However even that doesn’t have an exact historical parallel. The Liberals split over Home Rule and there was a Liberal Unionist party which was separate from the Tories until 1912.

        The model might be replicated by a split in the Labour party over Unionism/Independence. I have also been thinking of similarities Post fall of Parnell in the development of the aspirations of sections in Ireland as to Ireland’s ultimate relationship with the UK. Historically SF only came into existence to argue for a dual monarchy. It merely came out as the opposition to to the Irish Parliamentary Party after 1916 in which as an organisation it had no part. I might string a few words together on the topic after we have got the posters down.

  4. Peter Arnott says:

    Outstanding. This collection of responses is both provocative and encouraging in a weird week…

  5. ED says:

    For all that Ruth Davidson can do, she might as well be on the dark side of the moon !

  6. Bert Logan says:

    Lest we forget. Labour.

    But we remember. This is hard to ‘game’, AMS is effectively broken to strangle parties from getting too big. The ‘others’ sure ain’t getting big though, eating one another – its the old guard, its the voters who do not think – Red and Blue are the same to them.

    The SNP got big. Its on.

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    Not N Ireland, Catalonia, Liam:

    “la construcció i la llibertat nacional és inseparable de la construcció i la llibertat social”…
    Xavier Domenech

  8. John Mooney says:

    “Why has the established party fallen so spectacularly from grace?” I would suggest it did so due to the disgraceful abuse of power by the likes of you Mr.Purcell and fellow “Labour” apparatchiks,so spare me the utter claptrap from you! Anent “Ex head of Glasgow City Council” Should that not read DISGRACED Ex head of Glasgow City Council!

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