Live Blog: Scottish and Welsh election results. The SNP fails to win its majority. And Ross holds the Conservative position steady.

7 May

9am Sunday May 9

Paul Goodman reporting

And there we have it:

  • The SNP have failed by one seat in their quest for a majority.
  • The Conservatives are still second; they lost a single seat; their vote share is fractionally down (21.9 per cent to 22 per cent – so small a change as to make no difference.  That will help Ross fight back against Davidson’s criticisms of his campaign.  It also suggests that, as Henry Hill has repeatedly argued on this site, Tory progress in Scotland is as much about the Party’s unionist position as about who leads it.
  • Labour is down two seats, the Greens up two seats.



  • Douglas Ross has been returned to the Scottish Parliament, where he currently plans to serve concurrently as MP for Moray until the next general election.
  • Whilst it will take a while for the full list results to come in, projections are that the SNP will fall two seats short of an overall majority.
  • They also suggest the Conservatives will return the same number of MSPs as in 2016, whilst Labour and the Lib Dems lose a few to the Greens.


  • If these results are borne out, it means that Sturgeon has failed to advance the SNP over a five year period which has witnessed Brexit, a Tory landslide at Westminster, and Boris Johnson – allegedly Scotland’s bête noire – become Prime Minister, whilst she received huge credit for the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • The Conservatives have held the vital seat of Aberdeenshire West, with Alexander Burnett increasing their majority from 900 to 3,390.
  • Sky News says this makes an SNP majority “all but impossible”, although as mentioned previously there are reports of a knife-fight for a list seat.
  • There was a big swing from the Lib Dems, whose vote fell by 12.6 per cent, to the Tories, whose rose by 9.1%. A relatively rare case of major tactical voting by unionists in what used to be a Lib Dem heartland.



  • We have the final result in Wales: Labour 30, Conservatives 16, Plaid Cymru 13, and the Liberal Democrats one.
  • This is a great result for Labour, who will be able to govern alone and have defied dramatic polling over the past few weeks.
  • It is also a solid result for the Tories, who have basically picked up five of the seven seats which UKIP won in 2016.
  • Plaid’s slow decline continues, capped by the loss of Leanne Wood in the Rhondda. This was the one area where the Nationalists had managed to break out of their traditional heartlands.
  • The Lib Dems have lost their last constituency seat to the Conservatives, and now cling on in Wales’ three-party system on the lists.
  • Abolish are licking their wounds: there are suggestions that there first step will be to try and mop up what remains of UKIP and Reform UK’s Welsh operations before next year’s local elections.


  • Media reports that the Conservatives are very narrowly ahead in West Aberdeenshire, a race which could determine whether or not the SNP can win an overall majority.
  • Suggestions that the Tories are also in a knife-edge fight with the SNP for at least one seat on the lists. Will Alliance for Unity, who were pitching for main-party voters to lend them their list votes ‘risk free’, end up putting Sturgeon over the top?
  • However one senior Scottish Conservative suggested to me the party’s grim messaging about the lists was a ‘double bluff’.


  • Bad news from Scotland, where the Conservatives are suggesting that the SNP may yet win an overall majority on the list vote – probably despite a rise in support for the Greens. They’re blaming ‘All for Unity’, George Galloway’s fringe party, for splitting the vote – as we warned they would.
  • On the upside, Alex Salmond’s Alba Party has conceded that it isn’t going to enter the Scottish Parliament at all.
  • There haven’t been elections in Northern Ireland this year, but there is still some excitement. Steve Aiken has announced that he will resign as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. This means that both they and the Democratic Unionists have concurrent contests – all change in Ulster.


  • It’s all a bit quiet on the northern front results-wise, although Matt Singh as kindly taken the time to tweet a health warning about reading too much from the Aberdeenshire results.
  • A ballot paper has also been seized over an incident of suspected voter impersonation in Edinburgh.
  • Talk is already turning to what happens next, with two strands of the SNP strategy emerging. First, Sturgeon says she will press ahead with a referendum bill and challenge the Government to see her in court.
  • Second, Nationalist ministers will reportedly be touring the world to try and drum up international support, in order to ‘shame’ the Prime Minister into granting a referendum. (It is not obvious that the Prime Minister would weigh a stern word from Joe Biden more heavily than derailing his entire agenda for the next few years and risking becoming the next Lord North.)


  • In Wales, Tory activists are highlighting the challenge I have previously written about on this site: voters who back the party at general (and even local) elections scorning the Senedd. One organiser said: “Tory target was 75 per cent of 2019 vote – my my calculations we only achieved 52 per cent”.
  • Nonetheless the consensus seems to be that the Conservatives will end up with 16 seats, comfortably above their previous best of 14 in 2011.
  • There is already debate about the best way forward, with some suggesting the party should focus less on middle-class constituencies such as Cardiff North in favour of trying to reach out to Valleys voters who previously backed UKIP.


Henry Hill reporting.

Good morning. Here’s a quick round-up of what came in overnight. Then we’ll resume the live blogging as results come in over the afternoon.


  • Two results last night put an SNP majority back in doubt. First, Jackson Carlaw held Eastwood for the Conservatives with an increased majority.
  • Second, Labour’s Jackie Baillie pulled off a spectacular win in Dumbarton, previously Scotland’s most marginal seat. The change in vote shares suggests a relatively rare instance of decisive tactical voting by unionists.
  • As a result, all eyes must now be on Aberdeenshire West, where the Tories are defending a majority of 900 over the Nationalists. That the Conservatives slashed the SNP majority in neighbouring Aberdeenshire East seems a good omen.


  • The overnight result confirmed a remarkable stasis, with only three constituencies changing hands overall. The Conservatives took one apiece from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, whilst Labour took one from Plaid.
  • Overall, Welsh Labour are apparently on track for 30 seats, which matches their previous best-ever performance. They could once again govern in coalition with the lone Lib Dem.
  • The Conservatives are on track to be comfortably the largest opposition party, overtaking Plaid Cymru. But activists are disappointed after the party missed out on several key targets whose Westminster analogues fell during the 2017 election.
  • Likewise, Abolish the Welsh Assembly are facing a painful post-mortem after getting “massacred”, in the words of one senior member. Their initial feeling is that “the support all ran back to the Tories”, but almost every poll showed them on track for seats.


  • The party has held two seats in Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire and Dumfriesshire.
  • But as expected, the SNP have won Edinburgh Central, which was a surprise personal victory for Ruth Davidson in 2016.
  • Speaking of Davidson: if you want an idea of how the Scottish Conservative campaign is going, she is disowning it. She joins those Tories already furious at the decision to deliberately amplify the SNP’s claims about a second referendum.


  • As far as the election goes, the SNP still have a path to an overall majority through seats such as Dumbarton, Eastwood (although see below), and West Aberdeenshire.
  • There are suggestions that Labour have asked for a recount in Dumbarton, where the margin is reportedly around 25 votes.
  • One senior Scottish Tory has suggested to me that the party ought to seriously consider not standing candidates in parts of Scotland. Presumably the hope is that these voters will back other pro-UK parties, but time and again Tory voters have proven unwilling to do this.
  • Another said that the result should prompt a re-examination of the level of autonomy granted to SCHQ.
  • This seems to be a good place to re-post my original piece warning the Tories not to over-state the importance of Davidson’s personal impact, as opposed to deeper structural factors, underlying the party’s strong performances in 2016 and 2017.

That’s all from this thread this evening. See you tomorrow for the list results and the overall shape of the next Scottish and Welsh parliaments.


  • Gower. Wrexham. Delyn. The list of Conservative constituency targets missed just keeps growing. Seats whose Westminster counterparts went Tory in 2019 but where the party has once again failed to break through in the Senedd. Wrexham, in particular, was described by one activist as a “disaster”.
  • Sources are also pessimistic about both Cardiff North and Vale of Glamorgan, with some suggesting that the party erred by focusing resources on the latter race. There is more optimism about Brecon & Radnorshire, where the Conservatives are gunning for the Lib Dems’ last constituency seat.


  • There is still an expectation that the Conservatives will advance overall thanks to making some gains in the list. Some also seek a silver lining in the fact that Labour’s resilience may reduce their reliance on Plaid Cymru in the next parliament.
  • But overall, this is shaping up to be a big disappointment for Tory activists in Wales, especially when contrasted by the big advances the party is making in parts of England.


  • John Scott, the Conservative MSP for Ayr, has lost by 170 votes. He is too far down the list to be re-elected and will leave the Scottish Parliament. His majority last time was 750.
  • The SNP have taken a seat off Labour in East Lothian.
  • This might end up being a wash overall because both seats are in the South of Scotland region, the only one where the Nationalists return list MSPs.
  • Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have missed out on a top target in Caithness – suggestions that their leader, Willie Rennie, may be on ‘resignation watch‘.


  • A gain for the Conservatives in Vale of Clwyd, a seat whose Westminster counterpart is held by James Davies MP. But activists are maudlin, saying that the “result is not a good indication at all, even with a win”.
  • Leanne Wood, the former leader of Plaid Cymru, has lost Rhondda back to Labour. Twitter suggests she “stormed out of the count“.


  • There are reports that the party could lose Aberconwy to the Welsh nationalists, and fall short in a number of targets where they were hoping to oust Labour. If this comes to pass, their performance will contrast badly both with the 2019 general election result and the astonishing Tory results being posted in England.
  • Key question: why are they failing to consolidate UKIP’s substantial 2016 vote? That election suggested there is space for a right-wing ‘bloc’ of around 20 seats, with marginal Conservative progress. If voter patterns settle down again, have the Conservatives missed the boat on realignment?


  • The Conservatives have fallen short in Banffshire and Buchan Coast, an area where they have managed to retain MPs at Westminster. There was a substantial swing to them from the Nationalists, but not enough. This is also the area of Scotland that almost voted Leave.
  • If the SNP didn’t lose this, the odds of their losing any seats are minimal. However, John Curtice says that they are not currently doing well enough for a majority.
  • Some on Twitter are blaming Labour and the Lib Dems for denying a pro-UK MSP, but the problem has always been that a chunk of their voters simply will not vote Tory.


  • But there are rumours that there could be good news for the Conservatives elsewhere, as per the above tweet. Could be a product of a concerted effort by pro-UK sources – especially the Scottish Daily Mail – to get pro-UK voters to give their regional vote to the Tories.


  • The Conservatives have doubled their majority in Montgomeryshire, benefiting from the absence of UKIP. Most parties vote share is up a bit save for the Lib Dems’, which as fallen by almost 11 points.


  • Despite the above, the chatter seems to be of an overall disappointing election for the Conservatives relative to expectations. One local source said: “Well at the beginning we thought we were doing well across Wales. But now it’s sliding – seats which should have been a shoe in are tight.”
  • Why might this be? Two suggested reasons: first, that Plaid Cymru’s poor performance means the left/nationalist vote isn’t splitting.
  • Second, that the Conservatives have once again failed to mobilised the hundreds and thousands of their voters who usually sit out devolved elections. “The party think they’ve killed the Abolish vote, but that could be at the expense of keeping it at home.”
  • Does the Montgomeryshire result auger ill for the Lib Dems in neighbouring Brecon and Radnorshire? They had a big majority last time but it was competitive in 2011, the corresponding Westminster seat is safely Tory, and popular incumbent Kirsty Williams is standing down.


  • We’re starting to get some results in. Aberdeen Donside is an SNP hold but with a swing to the Conservatives.
  • The Liberal Democrats have also held their safe seat of Orkney, albeit with the Nationalists up.


  • Tory sources suggest that there is evidence of unionist tactical voting in constituencies that already have a pro-UK MSP. If this holds, they think it will be very difficult for the SNP to secure an overall majority.
  • However they do expect the Nationalists to take Edinburgh Central, which was a surprise gain for Ruth Davidson in 2016. They say this was a fluke and a personal vote, and the party did not expect to retain it. This will put Angus Robertson, formerly the SNP’s Westminster leader, in Holyrood.
  • Word is that Alba have ‘bombed’, although they may pick up one or two seats. Their main impact may have been persuading SNP voters to split their tickets… for the Greens, who may take two or three list seats apiece off the Conservatives and Labour as a consequence.


Henry Hill reporting.

  • Results will soon start to come in from counts across Scotland and Wales. These elections could cast a long shadow over the rest of this Parliament if Boris Johnson is forced into a pitched battle for the future of the Union.
  • In Scotland, there has been a huge surge in turnout. Unionists were initially extremely gloomy about this, but there are reports that it is also up in areas pro-UK parties were targeting.
  • In Wales, sources last night suggested that the Conservatives were feeling bullish, with a sense that the wind had come out of Abolish the Assembly’s sails over the past week or so.

Results to watch out for in Scotland:

  • Will the Scottish National Party secure an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, or will they be forced once again to come to an arrangement with the Greens?
  • Will the Scottish Tories hold on to second place, and defend marginal constituencies such as Eastwood?
  • Conversely will Anas Sarwar’s Labour claw back second place, and hold ultra-marginal seats such as Dunbarton?
  • Will either Alex Salmond (Alba Party) or George Galloway (All for Unity) manage to secure a seat?

Results to watch out for in Wales:

  • Can the Conservatives build on the success of the 2019 general election and exceed the 14 seats they won in 2011?
  • Will Abolish manage to consolidate enough of the old UKIP vote (which took seven seats in 2016) to win a place in the Senedd?
  • Can the Tories build on the ‘red wall’ dynamic to start eating into traditional Labour seats (such as Torfaen). Can they take Gower?
  • Can the Liberal Democrats hold their last seat in Brecon and Radnor, and if not will they get wiped out in Wales?
  • Will Labour end up depending on a deal with Plaid Cymru to govern? Can they take Rhondda back from Leanne Wood?

Our Cabinet League Table. Truss is still top, Johnson is up again – and Kwarteng comes straight in at fourth.

4 Feb
  • Our final Cabinet League Table of last year saw a Brexit deal bounce.  The ratings of every member of the Cabinet was up.  So there’s not much room this month for a vaccine bounce.
  • Nonetheless, nearly every Minister’s rating has risen, though not by enough to matter much if at all.  For example, Liz Truss, who tops the table for a third month running, sees her score rise by a single point – margin of  error country.
  • Priti Patel drifts down from sixth to ninth (from 58 per cent to 51 per cent), and Grant Shapps falls into the bottom third (from 43 per cent to 36 per cent).  That looks like a border control and airport quarantine effect.
  • Boris Johnson and Michael Gove continue to work their way back upwards.  The Prime Minister was ninth on 47 per cent.  Now he is seventh on 55 per cent.  Gove was seventh on 47 per cent and is now fifth on 61  per cent.  And Kwasi Kwarteng comes straight in at number four on 61 per cent.  Watch that man!

Henry Hill: Sturgeon imposes a sweeping new lockdown as the Salmond scandal deepens

8 Oct

One of the most striking features of the age of existential political divisions is that a party or government can now endure quantities of political pain which would, in the old normal, have been a death sentence.

We saw this during the last Parliament when Theresa May managed to see her personal authority in Cabinet and Parliament disintegrate without the Conservatives falling below 40 per cent in the polls. We may now be seeing it again in Scotland.

Last week, I outlined the sheer volume of woes which currently beset Nicola Sturgeon’s administration. It’s long-time track record of poor outcomes in key areas such as education and health are now being compounded by the deepening scandal over the Alex Salmond inquiry.

Yet there is not much evidence, at least as yet, that any of this is making much of a dent in the SNP’s re-election prospects. In an electoral system designed to prevent majorities, they remain odds-on to at least secure a pro-independence majority with some combination of their traditional Green allies and Action for Independence.

However a week remains a long time in politics – especially at the moment – and there are still quite a lot left between now and Scottish voters going to the polls in may. Nationalists must be praying there aren’t too many more like this one.

On the Salmond front, Peter Murrell – the SNP’s chief executive and the First Minister’s husband – admitted to sending ‘bombshell’ texts which appeared to suggest an attempt to pressure the police into action. At the same time, Sturgeon herself has maintained an increasingly implausible line about having forgotten a meeting with a senior Salmond aide in which the latter claims to have first informed her of the complaints against her predecessor. Alex Massie has a good summary here.

Meanwhile on Covid-19 the Scottish Government has just unveiled a sweeping new set of lockdown restrictions. Whilst not technically imposed on a national basis, the new measures span the heavily-populated ‘Central Belt’ and encompass some two thirds of the Scottish population. Pubs, bars and licensed restaurants will be closed across Scotland’s Central Belt for 16 days from 6pm on Friday, according to the Herald.

The Nationalists have also taken this opportunity to vent their puritanical streak: hospitality venues in other parts of the country will be forced to close indoor areas by 6pm and not serve alcohol indoors at all. Representatives of the hospitality sector are describing the moves as a ‘death sentence’.

Worse still, after spending the summer telling the world about what it could learn from Scotland about combating the pandemic, Scotland “may now have the highest coronavirus R number and shortest doubling time of any UK nation”.

The SNP have never been shy about being authoritarian, and during the pandemic the First Minister has made an art of appearing to be ahead of the game when it comes to taking action and imposing restrictions. But just as Boris Johnson is facing a growing mutiny from local government figures in Northern England, so too is Sturgeon.

As we noted last week, the leadership of Aberdeen Council are incensed that she locked down their city but then refused to do the same to Glasgow (where her own constituency is), even when the latter appeared to have a much higher incidence of Covid-19. As this second lockdown starts to bite, such charges could take on more potency. Uneven treatment might anger Aberdonians, but if the First Minister’s reluctance to act on Glasgow comes to be blamed for the need for the Central Belt lockdown the political damage could be much broader.

None of this is automatically good news for the SNP’s opponents. The bedrock of its support remains a solid bloc of the electorate which is currently committed to independence and thus not going anywhere, and the Government’s own woeful handling of the pandemic limits the scope for attacking the SNP. But it ought to be an antidote to the counsels of despair attacked by Douglas Ross in his conference speech.