It is hard to credit that only a decade ago Labour ruled the roost in Scotland. The Labour Party had won every single election in Caledonia since 1955.Local elections, Westminster elections, European elections and Hollyrood elections -Labour reigned supreme. Scotland had had Prime Ministers in the shape of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as other political leaders like Charles Kennedy, David STeel, Sir Menzies Campbell and some Conservative Cabinet Ministers. But it was the Labour Party which really kept Scotland anchored within the United Kingdom.
Let us not forget that James Keir Hardie who founded Labour and was the party,s first MP was a Scotsman. The first Labour Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald was also a North Briton. Notably Ramsay MacDonald flirted with Scotch nationalism in his youth. Yet in the last few years Labour has been reeling in Scotland. Labour has suffered some calamitous reverses. In 2015 Labour was unseated in some constituencies that it had held since even before it was a proper political party. These were seats in Glasgow that it had controlled for 120 years. Voting Labour was instinctive for much of the Scottish working class. This was especially so for urbanites.
Labour went into decline for various reasons. By the 2000s it was perceived as English just as the Conservatives had been in the 1990s. The liberation of Iraq was deeply unpopular in Scotland. The economic downturn form 2008 hit Scotland harder than the rest of the UK. The existence of the Scottish Parliament seemed to point towards an exclusively Scots party taking the reins. The electoral system for Hollyrood had compelled Labour to bring the Liberal Democrats into a coalition in 1999 when devolution kicked in. Labour,s mastery was broken. However, Labour was still in a fairly strong position. Labour’s role as the largest party did not appear to be in doubt. The Scottish Socialist Party took only a few votes from Labour on the left. This challenge from the far left was credible partly due to Blair being perceived as a Tory in disguise and a warmonger. The SSP imploded in the mid 2000s.
As recently as 2010 things seemed rosy for the Labour Party. Labour’s share of the vote declined in Scotland and Wales but went up by 6 % points in Scotland. This was partly owing to Dr Brown the Prime Minister being a Scotsman. Many people seemed to vote SNP for Hollyrood but Labour for Westminster. That phenomenon has now gone.
Ten years ago the Scottish National Party first won an election and they have never looked back since. Despite losing the referendum on separation the SNP has not lost its grip on power. The SNP went into steep decline in the 1980s after losing the 1979 devolution referendum on a technicality -not getting 40% of registered voters to favour devolution. Since 2015 the SNP has suffered no such travails. The party is thriving. It swept the board at the last Westminster election and at the Hollyrood election. It looks set to do only marginally worse at this Westminster election than the previous one. The party has a young and active membership. It has plenteous generous donations coming in.
The SNP holds all the cards. It has a leader who is young yet experienced. Nicola Sturgeon has no skeletons in her cupboard. The SNP was fairly successful in government though there are no budgetary problems and underperformance in education.
The SNP is the choice of a new generation. Labour is feeble and London centric. Corbyn seems to carry no weight in Scotland despite his far left views. The SNP is radical but also the establishment. It is as though Labour is the natural party of government in Scotland.
Labour does not seem to have a clear position on either Scots separation or Brexit. Labour appears to be feeble and divided. It is perceived as Tory light. The party has no big beasts. In Caledonia Labouràs best days are behind it. Young left wingers now vote for the Scottish Nationalists whereas once they would have cast their ballots for the Scottish Labour Party. An ambitious young politico would be best advised to join the SNP because they are going to win for the foreseeable future.
Many Labour voters switched to the SNP ten years ago. They meant it! They are not coming back any time soon. Time was floating voters plumped for Labour to keep the Tories out. Now they will vote SNP to stop the Conservatives.
Labour was pushed into third place as a party in Scotland last time. Could they come fourth? It is improbable. Labour has a very long way to come back as a governing party in Scotland. Most Westminster seats which the SNP captured from Labour last time are now beyond reach for this election. Do not expect a sudden Labour revival. The SNP,s fortune shall wane as the party is in office for years. This will not necessarily translate into much support returning to Labour. People can vote Lib Dem, Tory or abstain. Labour’s performance is especially abysmal when one considers that the Scottish Socialist Party is no longer a force to be reckoned with.
People are forming a habit of voting SNP. Labour has a very long way to go to regain its pre eminent position in Scots politics. It is hard to be left wing enough in Scotland but right wing enough in England. The Remainers in Scotland are likely to vote SNP or Lib Dem. Labour’s outlook on this question attracts neither Remainers or Leavers.