Scottish Election 2021 results: No dramas, no upsets, the Holyrood election that fell flat
Glasgow’s Emirates Arena was built for victories.
Constructed in 2014 for the Commonwealth Games, the same year the SNP hoped they would win independence for Scotland, it has since been the site of as many big political moments as those of a sporting nature.
On Friday it was too early to say if it would be the venue which would witness the SNP triumph with a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections; though there was little doubt that the party would be forming the next Scottish Government, for the fourth consecutive time.
Thanks to the disruption of Covid, only four Glasgow constituency seats were being counted – the others, along with the regional list votes, to be tallied on Saturday. Tellers sat in socially-distanced rows, behind perspex screens, looking ready to either take an exam or bank your cash deposit.
While they sat, so so quietly, counting the lilac and peach votes, their tables appearing to almost float on a sea of royal blue carpeting, results from around Scotland began to trickle in.
Perhaps it was because it was a daytime count rather than the traditional through-the-night caffeined affair, perhaps it was because there were so few people there given Covid rules, but there was little tension and anticipation of the results ahead. More likely it was because they were a foregone conclusion: the SNP retained all four seats.
Those included Pollok, seat of Humza Yousaf who found himself at the centre of a confrontation by the Glasgow Southside Liberal Party candidate, Deek Jackson, who appeared to take exception to the Justice Secretary’s Asian ethnicity, or maybe it was his Muslim religion. Either way he felt Mr Yousaf should answer for the alleged horrors of child rape in Pakistan. After a Nazi-style salute, and even some half-hearted goose-stepping, he and his three supporters, were escorted from the premises and barred from returning. The Emirates is no place for racism in sport or politics.
Neither is Glasgow or indeed Scotland, said Nicola Sturgeon in her victory speech after romping home in Southside with 60 per cent of the vote – though she paid tribute to rival Anas Sarwar who saw Labour’s vote share in the seat rise by almost ten per cent.
Her dismissal of the far-right was a uniting moment for all watching her speech. In trademark heels, red jacket and black skirt, her entry to the Emirates had been somewhat subdued – a handful of party campaigners does not make for the welcoming committee she normally experiences – but on the podium she came to life.
She may have not had to deal with Mr Jackson, but on election day she had faced down the far-right candidate Jayda Fransen. She won even fewer votes than Deek “it’s a love salute honest” Jackson, at just 46. “I am proud that once again Glasgow Southside has shown the racists and the fascists that they are not welcome,” she said.
While the Glasgow count was dealing with the far right, the focus at the Edinburgh count was somewhat more central.
Periodic downpours lashed the metal roof making conversation virtually impossible as people wondered just who would be wearing the winner’s rosettes, with all eyes on Edinburgh Central, the former seat of Ruth Davidson, which the SNP hoped to snatch for Angus Robertson.
Edinburgh Southern and Western were also set to be on a knife-edge, with the SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tories all hoping to make electoral gains. However informal vote sampling by party activists – watching as the papers were put into piles and making their best guesses – showed the Lib Dems holding Western comfortably, Southern would stick with Labour, and the SNP would take Central from the Conservatives.
There was some surprise at the collapse of the Tory vote in Edinburgh Central, but then Scott Douglas is no Ruth Davidson. Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton posted an unassailable lead in Western early on in the day, while by mid-afternoon it was clear Labour’s Daniel Johnson would retain Southern.
In the end, the announcement of the results felt like something of a formality. Cheers from party supporters – in Glasgow or Edinburgh – got lost in the cavernous hall.
In Aberdeen things felt even more forlorn, and not just because of the reduced numbers allowed into the count at the P&J Arena.
Adverts for RuPaul's Drag Race World Tour and a stadium gig by Alfie Boe hinted at the kind of fare that might usually fill the hall, but instead a former colossus of the political stage, Alex Salmond, cut a lonely figure.
Observing the count with clipboard in hand, no count or recount could alter the conclusion that his new political party Alba had performed weakly. Alba took just 743 votes in the regional list for Aberdeen Donside where the SNP firmly held the constituency. In his natural stomping ground of Buchan and Banffshire Coast, Alba did better with 1,135 votes – or 3.43 per cent.
As he padded back and forth between the counting tables to his small band of loyal supporters, including his sister Gail who came with a Marks and Spencers bag of treats, there was little good news to share.
Meanwhile the Western Isles managed to shake off its traditional reputation as being the last constituency to declare. But without the votes being flown by helicopter from the outlying islands, there was little excitement, underlined by the forgone conclusion of another SNP victory.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Outer Hebrides) is one of the smallest constituencies and traditionally returns one of the highest for turnout, and indeed figures suggest it will be over 66 per cent.
If replicated nationally it would seem that Covid has not kept people at home, and most definitely not stopped them voting.
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