SNP makes huge gains in Scotland

Scottish National Party triumphs in Scotland as Labour and Liberal Democrat votes collapse.

The Scottish National Party is on the brink of victory in Scotland after making huge gains in last night's Holyrood election. With 61 of 73 seats declared, the SNP has gained 21 seats in total and increased its share of the vote by approximately 10 per cent.

The election proved painful for Labour, which has so far lost 12 seats, including five seats in its stronghold of Glasgow. Early reports also show that the Liberal Democrats have lost seven seats. The party's share of the vote has shrunk by up to 15 per cent in parts of Scotland.

As Alan Cochrane writes in the Telegraph, the result is very bad news for Labour:

Only 12 months after winning one million votes and more than holding their own in Scotland – what they regard as the safest of their own backyards – Labour have been routed.

In 2010, Labour's relatively strong showing in Scotland papered over the cracks of its comprehensive defeat in England. A year on, however, the picture looks altogether more grim.

The Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, scraped to victory with a majority of 151 in what used to be one of the safest Labour seats in the country. Labour also lost four former ministers, with Tom McCabe, Andy Kerr and Frank McAveety all losing their seats; so did Pauline McNeill, shadow cabinet secretary for Europe, external affairs and culture.

Five of the party's seats in its Glasgow heartland fell to the SNP.

With the SNP dominant – though unlikely to gain a total majority – a referendum within the next five years looks increasingly likely. As Ben Brogan, with a hefty dollop of hyperbole, puts it:

Labour may have just destroyed the Union.

Brogan blames the Labour Party's increasingly England-centred leadership.

Labour at Westminster has lost interest in Scotland. Since last summer there has been a palpable sense of relief that the party no longer has its top echelons skewed by preoccupations with what happens north of the border.

Though talk of the destruction of the Union is overblown (even if there is a referendum, support for independence is far from overwhelming), it does seem true that Labour has shot itself in the foot with its lazy attitude to Scottish affairs.

The apparent dominance of the party's Scotland contingent was off-putting to many English voters. But in attempting to distance itself from its northern bias, Labour has weakened what was, until today, a useful base.

Getty
Show Hide image

The most terrifying thing about Donald Trump's speech? What he didn't say

No politician uses official speeches to put across their most controversial ideas. But Donald Trump's are not hard to find. 

As Donald Trump took the podium on a cold Washington day to deliver his inauguration speech, the world held its breath. Viewers hunched over televisions or internet streaming services watched Trump mouth “thank you” to the camera, no doubt wondering how he could possibly live up to his deranged late-night Twitter persona. In newsrooms across America, reporters unsure when they might next get access to a president who seems to delight in denying them the right to ask questions got ready to parse his words for any clue as to what was to come. Some, deciding they couldn’t bear to watch, studiously busied themselves with other things.

But when the moment came, Trump’s speech was uncharacteristically professional – at least compared to his previous performances. The fractured, repetitive grammar that marks many of his off-the-cuff statements was missing, and so, too, were most of his most controversial policy ideas.

Trump told the crowd that his presidency would “determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come” before expressing his gratefulness to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for their “gracious aid” during the transition. “They have been magnificent," Trump said, before leading applause of thanks from the crowd.

If this opening was innocent enough, however, it all changed in the next breath. The new president moved quickly to the “historic movement”, “the likes of which the world has never seen before”, that elected him President. Following the small-state rhetoric of his campaign, Trump promised to take power from the “establishment” and restore it to the American people. “This moment," he told them, “Is your moment. It belongs to you.”

A good deal of the speech was given over to re-iterating his nationalist positions while also making repeated references to the key issues – “Islamic terrorism” and families – that remain points of commonality within the fractured Republican GOP.

The loss of business to overseas producers was blamed for “destroying our jobs”. “Protection," Trump said, “Will lead to great strength." He promised to end what he called the “American carnage” caused by drugs and crime.

“From this day forward," Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first."

There was plenty in the speech, then, that should worry viewers, particularly if you read Trump’s promises to make America “unstoppable” so it can “win” again in light of his recent tweets about China

But it was the things Trump didn't mention that should worry us most. Trump, we know, doesn’t use official channels to communicate his most troubling ideas. From bizarre television interviews to his upsetting and offensive rallies and, of course, the infamous tweets, the new President is inclined to fling his thoughts into the world as and when he sees fit, not on the occasions when he’s required to address the nation (see, also, his anodyne acceptance speech).

It’s important to remember that Trump’s administration wins when it makes itself seem as innocent as possible. During the speech, I was reminded of my colleague Helen Lewis’ recent thoughts on the “gaslighter-in-chief”, reflecting on Trump’s lying claim that he never mocked a disabled reporter. “Now we can see," she wrote, “A false narrative being built in real time, tweet by tweet."

Saying things that are untrue isn’t the only way of lying – it is also possible to lie by omission.

There has been much discussion as to whether Trump will soften after he becomes president. All the things this speech did not mention were designed to keep us guessing about many of the President’s most controversial promises.

Trump did not mention his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, nor the wall he insists he will erect between America and Mexico (which he maintains the latter will pay for). He maintained a polite coolness towards the former President and avoiding any discussion of alleged cuts to anti-domestic violence programs and abortion regulations. Why? Trump wanted to leave viewers unsure as to whether he actually intends to carry through on his election rhetoric.

To understand what Trump is capable of, therefore, it is best not to look to his speeches on a global stage, but to the promises he makes to his allies. So when the President’s personal website still insists he will build a wall, end catch-and-release, suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” “where adequate screening cannot occur”; when, despite saying he understands only 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood services relate to abortion and that “millions” of women are helped by their cancer screening, he plans to defund Planned Parenthood; when the president says he will remove gun-free zones around schools “on his first day” - believe him.  

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland