Once again, Scotland did things differently—with worrying results for the SNPby John Curtice / June 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Scotland did things differently again. While England and Wales witnessed a return to two-party politics, in Scotland the election was won by the SNP. Equally whereas in England and Wales there was a swing from Conservative to Labour, in Scotland the Conservatives overtook Labour for the first time since 1959. Politics in Scotland retained the distinctiveness it has increasingly acquired in recent years.
That distinctiveness has largely been a product of the intense debate about how Scotland should be governed. And it seems clear that it was that debate that had more influence on the electoral outcome north of the border than the one about Brexit that was meant to be the focus of the election.
The first clue lies in the evidence of the final opinion polls, which broadly anticipated the eventual outcome. They found that those who voted Yes in 2014 and those who backed No differed much more in the way they were going to vote than did those who supported Remain and those who backed Leave.
On average, these polls found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who voted Yes were intending to vote SNP, whereas just one in eight (12%) of No voters were doing so. This gap is much bigger than the equivalent one between Remain and Leave supporters. Less than half (44%) of Remain voters intended to vote SNP, while just over a quarter (27%) of Leave supporters anticipated doing so.
The second indication lies in the existence of the Conservative revival. In England and Wales, the Conservatives performed best where Leave voters (and thus former UKIP voters) were most numerous. Yet despite the strength of the Remain vote north of the border, this did not stop the party increasing its vote by 14 points in Scotland, a much bigger increase than was recorded in any region of England or in Wales.
Thirdly, it seems that Labour and Liberal Democrat voters were willing to switch to the Conservatives where the party had established itself locally as best placed to defeat the Conservatives. In no less than nine of the dozen seats that the Conservatives gained, there were sharp falls in either the Labour or the Liberal Democrat vote. This suggests the motivation to inflict defeat on the pro-independence SNP mattered more to unionist voters than the…