Blog Wall Monday
There are several fine poems and literary quotations inscribed on the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament: droll, emotive, sensitive, serious.
Myself, I like the extract from Scott's Heart of Midlothian, I love the lines from the Jute Mill Song and I warm to the exhortation by Burns to see ourselves as ithers see us, is highly apposite.
But how about this one, from Hugh MacDiarmid. In customary contentious fashion, he demands of the world: "Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?"
In that challenge, I think, lies at least part of the explanation for the SNP's success and Labour's failure.
The SNP contrived to sound aspirational throughout the campaign, whether it was Alex Salmond's eager passion for renewable energy or the stress upon the value of the arts and science in revitalising Scotland.
By contrast, Labour had something of a tendency to sound slightly thrawn. By no means all of the time. By no means every candidate.
But, on occasion, they could end up sounding a little like soor-faced Roundheads - while Scotland seemed to be yearning for cavalier enthusiasm to dispel the pervasive gloom.
Labour sounded sometimes as if they sought to contain and constrain, as if they sought, unwittingly, to return to centralised control, to council housing and the Co-op divvy.
A simplistic caricature, I know. But Labour simply did not sound uniformly aspirational. The SNP, predominantly, did.
Labour will dispute this, probably sharply. But look at their two key messages in the campaign: "now that the Tories are back" and anti-independence.
Both, Labour would argue, had positive aspects: Labour's offer to counter cuts, Labour's alternative to the SNP agenda. But both were founded, at core, upon engendering a sense of fear.
As I noted throughout the campaign, the opening shot re the Tories posited the existence of an external evil, with Labour offering themselves as the exorcist.
Even if voters bought that concept, they opted in huge numbers for the SNP as their defenders of choice.
Then the anti-independence campaign. Nationalists insist its potency has long since declined but, just to be sure, they neutralised it by stressing that the choice would be made at a subsequent referendum.
They now intend to keep to their campaign promise that this issue will not be addressed until the latter half of the Parliament. Again, that was part of the strategy - to focus primarily upon the voters' concerns, rather than those of the party.
There was, of course, much more to the SNP victory. A better campaign. Sophisticated canvassing, directed by the SNP's hugely esteemed Peter Murrell. Alex Salmond v Iain Gray. And, yes, the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote to the SNP.
No great surprise that the LibDem vote slipped in Scotland, post UK coalition.
But it did not have to go to the SNP. That took endeavour, calculation and strategy. Nationalists took care not to excoriate the LibDems over much - or, more precisely, their voters.
The SNP endorsed AV - partly because they calculated that would win LibDem favours. Still, though, I believe the difference in tone, the SNP emphasis upon aspirational Scotland had an impact.
And, be clear, that aspirational approach did not attach itself solely to independence although that is, of course, the mid term vision. It resonated through SNP policies from jobs to education.
Let me close with another poem. It was read magnificently by Liz Lochhead at the opening of the Holyrood building. But it is the work of the late, great Edwin Morgan.
Speculating on the wishes of the people of Scotland, he declared: "A nest of fearties is what they do not want." Astute, as ever, astute.