IN THE aftermath of the Dunfermline by-election (your report, 26 0ctober), there are a few words that can be said in defence of the disgraced former MSP Bill Walker.
I heard him say on radio long before his trial that he never expected to win that seat in the 2011 Holyrood election. He did so not simply because he managed to hide his woeful, personal past, but also because many disillusioned Liberal Democrat voters switched to the SNP in the last few days of the campaign.
Ironically, last Thursday they seemed to use their votes tactically to help elect Labour candidate Cara Hilton. Why else did the Lib Dem’s excellent candidate get less than 3,000 votes and Labour’s vote hold up so well on a reduced poll?
On the question of independence, the unionist candidates beat the SNP and the Greens by almost two to one. But there is also some evidence that some middle-class voters are turning away from the SNP. These are the very people who in 2011 gave it the benefit of the doubt because of the record of the 2007-11 minority government. They are crucial not just for the outcome of the referendum, but also the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, if the case for autonomy is defeated.
A narrow class focus is the wrong way for Holyrood’s governing party to proceed. The lesson of Dunfermline is that it needs to keep relatively affluent voters on its side.