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.