The Tory Party has been humiliated. They’ve gone from having an overall majority to having to lean on the DUP. Corbyn is the hero of the hour having lead a campaign that inspired millions to vote and lead tens of thousands into political activity. The SNP still dominate Scotland by far but have taken a major kick. Key figures such as Alec Salmond and Angus Robertson have lost their seats. They’ve lost all their borders seats and much of the Highlands to Tories. In the central belt they’ve also lost seats to 6 seats to Labour who now have 7. They’ve even lost 2 seats to the Lib Dems.
Although it happened more dramatically than many predicted, the loss of seats in traditional SNP areas is not a big surprise. Areas such as Aberdeenshire and Moray who heavily voted NO in the 2014 referendum have strengthened their Tory base and the “Tartan Tory” elements of the SNP have been overwhelmingly undermined by the mass membership influx and left leaning rank and file and support over the last 3 years. The party has become much more a party of the central belt than the rural areas.
However the results have also shown that the honeymoon period for the SNP is over. Their huge success in 2015, on the back of the referendum campaign has lead them to an attitude of complacency. The 2016 Holyrood election saw a de-politicising of their campaign, focusing it more around party loyalty and Sturgeon’s personality than progressive policies that could engage the membership. Although the 2017 campaign saw a bit of an improvement it still wasn’t enough.
The Labour Party was able to win some support back from the SNP. Scottish Labour’s collapse in recent years and its efforts to make itself and unionist as possible will have got votes purely on the basis of being anti-independence, but despite this it was able to win the votes on the left including many YES voters. This was partly due to the SNP’s failures but also to do with the huge inspiring movement seen south of the border. The effect of Corbyn’s campaign is evident by the improvement Labour made in the General election compared to the Council elections which happened before Corbyn’s campaign took really took off.
With the SNP honeymoon period now over, questions amongst members and supporters will be getting asked about its political positions, tactics and internal organization. The SNP showed a big disparity in their campaigning. For example in Edinburgh East, Tommy Sheppard’s campaign mobilised several ward branches worth of activists into four or five groups each night to campaign for him. Along with Mhairi Black he made quite left wing appeals about backing Corbyn. However campaigns in other constituencies were far less organized and inspiring.
Loss of seats, particularly to Labour to the left, give more weight to the ideas that Tommy Sheppard put forward in his depute leader campaign. Also, with established figures such as Angus Robertson and Alec Salmond gone it opens up the question of who will be the parliamentary group leader. Pete Wishart is a likely candidate but more openly left wing figures such as Mhairi Black and Tommy Sheppard may well become more dominant.
The SNP are still dominating and continue to have a very advantageous position but it won’t last forever without serious changes. The choice for them is go left or go under and they don’t have long to make the choice. There are forces which could push it to the left but this is far from certain. If the SNP continue along their failed strategy then this could open up space for Labour.
However this would also be dependent on whether Corbyn’s success continues to grow. This election has given Corbyn and his ideas a huge morale boost and has even won Corbyn more allies within the party. However the civil war within the party is far from over. If the new Scottish Labour MPs back Corbyn against his enemies within and outside the party then it would help win some trust back among the Scottish working classes.
A new Tory minority government will be very unstable. Divisions over issues such as the EU have never been resolved and are likely to open up again. A new General election in the near future is very possible and this could well see Cobryn coming to power on the back of a huge campaign, further transforming the political landscape in Scotland.
The question of a second referendum will be on the back burner for now. The unionist parties will use the SNP’s losses to attack the idea and their arguments will carry a certain amount of weight. Also if the Corbyn led Labour Party continues to inspire and mobilise masses of workers and youth and wins a new election this could eat into the desire for independence.
However this isn’t a given. A Tory government, particularly with the extremely reactionary unionist DUP behind them, may well make the question of independence very popular again for progressive reasons.
Some say that the gain for Tories means there has been a turn to the right in Scotland. This is a very shallow view and disregards the lower turnout and the fact that two big parties competed for left votes. The issues which inspired millions of people to campaign for Corbyn are just like the issues which inspired the 2014 YES campaig are stil there. The ensuing political shift in Scotland is still very much there and has not been solved. It’s only a matter of time before the working classes move back into action in Scotland. The task of socialists remains to build a revolutionary organization to lead the masses to victory.