The SNP has won an historic third term in the Scottish Parliamentary election, but has fallen two seats short of winning an overall majority, meaning that it will have to do deals with opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament.
However, the real story of the night was the meteoric rise in Tory fortunes, pushing Kezia Dugdale’s Labour Party, whose vote collapsed, into third place.
The Conservatives secured 31 seats, more than double those it previously held (15), with leader Ruth Davidson winning the constituency of Edinburgh Central (formerly SNP) and Jackson Carlaw winning the formerly Labour seat of Eastwood.
The Conservatives took two of the three seats covering Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. Finlay Carson held Galloway and West Dumfries, while Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire was held by John Lamont.
The Tories also won Aberdeenshire West from the SNP after a major swing in the vote. Alexander Burnett was elected after the party’s share surged 17% to leave Dennis Robertson in second place.
It was a night of woe for the Labour Party, with its number of seats collapsing from 37 to 24 (a drop of 13).
There were however some rare successes for Labour, with Daniel Johnson winning the seat of Edinburgh Southern; Iain Gray holding onto his seat in East Lothian and Jackie Baillie narrowly holding the seat of Dumbarton.
The results will however leave Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader who had hoped her call for a new 50p income tax rate would boost the party’s popularity, facing calls to consider her future.
With six seats (an increase from two) the Scottish Greens pushed the Lib Dems into fifth place, who despite some notable exceptions in North East Fife and Edinburgh Western, held the same number of seats as in 2011 (five).
The legacy of the independence referendum is still alive and well in Scotland and voting allegiances should be seen through the prism of that vote, split between Unionist and Nationalist.
It has been estimated that c. 90% of those who voted Yes to independence backed the SNP, and for those opposing it the clear and coherent Conservative message of no second referendum, delivered by a charismatic leader in the shape of Ruth Davidson, was highly successful. She was also seen by the electorate as a more credible alternative to Kezia Dugdale in holding the SNP to account.
This strategy, galvanizing the Unionist vote, saw the Conservative share of the vote increase by over 8% in constituency seats and 10% in regional seats. It therefore proved highly successful in seats which had previously voted No in the independence referendum. Hence its achievement in winning seats in the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and in Aberdeenshire.
In North East Fife and Edinburgh West strong local campaigns by the Liberal Democrats helped to unseat SNP incumbents, as well as Unionist voters galvanized in seeing that party as the best means to overturn the SNP.
Scotland is indeed a divided nation, not between right and left, but between those supporting independence and those backing the Union. It was something the Conservatives strongly exploited and it has proven highly successful.
With an SNP Government in power facing a Conservative opposition, the next five years will prove highly interesting.