Scottish Election: Campaign successes and stinkers

By Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland

image captionThe SNP say they fought a positive campaign throughout

An election campaign which may not go down as the most thrilling of all time, has produced what may be a once-in-a-generation event.

One by one, supposed safe Labour seats fell to the SNP, while the Nationalists in turn consolidated their votes in their own areas.

It has been a colossal result for the SNP, the party which won its first election in 2007 and now, for the first time, holds an overall majority at Holyrood.

The Scottish Parliament's PR voting system was never supposed to allow a party to achieve such a foothold - but, after clocking up its 65th win out of 129, that is exactly what has happened.

That means, with the SNP on course to form Scotland's first majority government, there will be a referendum on Scottish independence in the next five years.

Rewind to the start of this mammoth, six-week campaign, and the outlook was very different.

Wrong angle

Polls put Labour in the lead and, as the weeks progressed, that became level-pegging, until, towards the end, the SNP began to pull ahead.

What's the reason for this?

Some put it down to claims that Labour had come at the campaign from the wrong angle, that it was a re-run of last year's UK election campaign, in which they sought to press home the dangers of a Tory government, hungry to cut spending.

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband came north to tell Scots that voting Labour in on 5 May was a stepping stone to getting his party back into power at Westminster - he just didn't get that his comments might have been seen as patronising to Scots.

And if Labour thinks it's had a bad campaign, the Lib Dems have had a total stinker.

Voters took out their wrath on the perceived unpopularity of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, for decisions made by the coalition, such as spending cuts and the introduction of student tuition fees in England of up to £9,000 a year, and gave their backing to the SNP.

So what about the success story of this campaign?

The SNP say they fought a positive campaign throughout, putting forward the kind of policies they said Scots wanted - a five-year council tax freeze and protecting the NHS budget and police officer numbers, for example.

They say the negative campaigning-style of Labour, in which the party sought to tell voters during tough economic times that Alex Salmond cared only for his own job, has gone a log way to scuppering them.

And what of the SNP's dream of an independence referendum?

It hasn't exactly been at the top of the SNP's manifesto priority list - top slot there was economic recovery and job creation - and Labour say the Nationalists have played such a move down, so as not to scare the horses.

Nevertheless, the SNP - now set to move on from minority to majority government - will see through a Referendum Bill in the second half of the next, five-year parliament.

And it can do it without having to win support from other parties.

The former Scottish Labour MP George, now Lord, Robertson once remarked that devolution would "kill Nationalism stone dead".

The party which paved the way for the Scottish Parliament in 1999 now has to sit up and take note.

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