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.

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Leader: Mourning in Manchester

Yet another attack shows we are going to have to get to used to the idea that our liberalism and our freedoms can only be preserved by a strong state.

Children are murdered and maimed by a suicide bomber as they are leaving a pop concert in Manchester. As a consequence, the government raises the terror threat to “critical”, which implies that another attack is imminent, and the army is sent out on to the streets of our cities in an attempt to reassure and encourage all good citizens to carry on as normal. The general election campaign is suspended. Islamic State gleefully denounces the murdered and wounded as “crusaders” and “polytheists”.

Meanwhile, the usual questions are asked, as they are after each new Islamist terrorist atrocity. Why do they hate us so much? Have they no conscience or pity or sense of fellow feeling? We hear, too, the same platitudes: there is more that unites us than divides us, and so on. And so we wait for the next attack on innocent civilians, the next assault on the free and open society, the next demonstration that Islamism is the world’s most malignant and dangerous ideology.

The truth of the matter is that the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Ramadan Abedi, was born and educated in Britain. He was 22 when he chose to end his own life. He had grown up among us: indeed, like the London bombers of 7 July 2005, you could call him, however reluctantly, one of us. The son of Libyan refugees, he supported Manchester United, studied business management at Salford University and worshipped at Didsbury Mosque. Yet he hated this country and its people so viscerally that he was prepared to blow himself up in an attempt to murder and wound as many of his fellow citizens as possible.

The Manchester massacre was an act of nihilism by a wicked man. It was also sadly inevitable. “The bomb was,” writes the Mancunian cultural commentator Stuart Maconie on page 26, “as far as we can guess, an attack on the fans of a young American woman and entertainer, on the frivolousness and foolishness and fun of young girlhood, on lipstick and dressing up and dancing, on ‘boyfs’ and ‘bezzies’ and all the other freedoms that so enrage the fanatics and contradict their idiot dogmas. Hatred of women is a smouldering core of their wider, deeper loathing for us. But to single out children feels like a new low of wickedness.”

We understand the geopolitical context for the atrocity. IS is under assault and in retreat in its former strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Instead of urging recruits to migrate to the “caliphate”, IS has been urging its sympathisers and operatives in Europe to carry out attacks in their countries of residence. As our contributing writer and terrorism expert, Shiraz Maher, explains on page 22, these attacks are considered to be acts of revenge by the foot soldiers and fellow-travellers of the caliphate. There have been Western interventions in Muslim lands and so, in their view, all civilians in Western countries are legitimate targets for retaliatory violence.

An ever-present threat of terrorism is the new reality of our lives in Europe. If these zealots can murder children at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, there is no action that they would not consider unconscionable. And in this country there are many thousands – perhaps even tens of thousands – who are in thrall to Islamist ideology. “Terror makes the new future possible,” the American Don DeLillo wrote in his novel Mao II, long before the al-Qaeda attacks of 11 September 2001. The main work of terrorists “involves mid-air explosions and crumbled buildings. This is the new tragic narrative.”

Immediately after the Paris attacks in November 2015, John Gray reminded us in these pages of how “peaceful coexistence is not the default condition of modern humankind”. We are going to have to get used to the idea that our liberalism and our freedoms can only be preserved by a strong state. “The progressive narrative in which freedom is advancing throughout the world has left liberal societies unaware of their fragility,” John Gray wrote. Liberals may not like it, but a strong state is the precondition of any civilised social order. Certain cherished freedoms may have to be compromised. This is the new tragic narrative.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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