Could SNP’s best poll also be its worst? (Hint: Probably not)

I for one welcome our new Nationalist overlords.

The final STV poll of the general election campaign puts the SNP on 54% to Scottish Labour’s 20%.

According to one projection, these results, should they play out on May 7, would see the Nationalists win every Scottish seat.

Every last one. 59-0.

No single party has taken all of Scotland’s constituencies in an election since the Great Reform Act of 1832. I doubt it happened before then either.

On its face, the Ipsos MORI research is good news for Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and the gulag-construction industry.

Sturgeon was already bound for the history books for becoming Scotland’s first female First Minister. Now, she is set to be the woman who ends the half-century Scottish Labour hegemony and ushers in Nationalist Scotland. The leader who achieved what MacEwen, McIntyre, and Halliday could only dream of; who succeeded where Donaldson, Wolfe, and Wilson failed. Alex Salmond, hitherto the most consequential figure in the Scottish national movement, would be swiftly deposed.

All hail Queen Nicola the Conqueror.

But is there potential for a backlash amongst undecided voters and soft Labour switchers uneasy about Scotland joining the ranks of North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba as a one-party state? (Yes, I know we wouldn’t actually be a single-party regime, de jure or de facto, for all the reasons you’re shouting at your computer screen right now. Please assume I am aware of this newfangled literary device called “hyperbole” and am consciously employing it.)

Some voters might recoil from the idea of the SNP controlling a majority Scottish Government, a plurality of local government seats, and all of Scotland’s seats in the House of Commons. They might deem it unseemly to have one party dominate a country so comprehensively, more comprehensively even than Labour at its zenith.

And they would be right. Democracy is about more than the brute force of numbers; it requires pluralism, balance, and dissenting voices. A country that votes itself out of the multi-party model and opts for the rule of a single party is technically democratic, but substantively something less.

“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority,” Mark Twain cautioned, “it is time to pause and reflect.”

Before the Nationalists pause to reflect, the voters might do a bit of that themselves. In Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters might throw their weight behind David Mundell, an impeccably liberal Tory. In East Renfrewshire, Tories might come to the conclusion that Jim Murphy is the lesser of two evils after all. In nearby East Dunbartonshire, Labour and Conservative supporters could stop and look again at Jo Swinson. Would they rather have a Nationalist representing them than the young, whip-smart equalities minister?

Tactical voting cannot turn the tide in this election but it could prevent the wholesale wipeout of non-Nationalist parties.

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. It is unlikely the SNP will claim every seat in the land. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael’s Orkney and Shetland constituency, for instance, has voted Liberal or Liberal Democrat in every election since 1950. Are the people of Ross, Skye and Lochaber really going to toss out Charles Kennedy, one of the most liked and respected politicians in the UK?

Tactical voting will fail to stem the yellow tide for the same reason that this poll will send some but not legions of cautious centre-ground voters flocking back into the arms of Labour or the Lib Dems. The Rubicon has been crossed and there is no going back. Scotland has already marked the cross on its ballot.

The SNP’s all-but-certain victory on May 7 is much-deserved, in political terms at least. The party has assembled a coalition of rich and poor, young and old, urban and rural, Yes and No. Fault its economic prospectus all you want but it has found a voice with which to speak to and for people across the country. No other party can compete and no other leader is a match for Nicola Sturgeon. If defeat is Scottish Labour’s just deserts, the SNP has this victory coming.

But the party’s seemingly unassailable position of strength makes a light touch all the more important. The wages of hubris is political death and years of unmeetable expectations unmet will make that demise painful. It would be bitterly ironic for the Nationalists to replace Labour only to repeat its mistakes.

And what of Scottish Labour, that rough beast that slouches towards Golgotha? It stands on 20% in our poll, which would represent the party’s worst result in a general election since December 1910. Led by Jim Murphy, the party’s most talented leader of the devolution era, Labour is within the margin of error of being tied with the Scottish Conservatives.

Dungeons don’t come darker or gallows grimmer than this, at least not in democratic politics. Welcome to the last seven days of Labour Scotland.

Originally published on STV News.

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