Scottish Election 2021 results: Unionism seems to be the hardest word

If you’re reading this, it’s too late. The election is over, a good amount of the votes have been counted and, as expected, it’s looking great for the SNP.

But what about the other parties? We were told so often how this election was about stopping/having another referendum, but Scotland appears to have missed that message – or decided it doesn’t like it.

Watching the results come in yesterday, it was striking how many seats the SNP gained or held that could have been taken away from them if the unionist vote had simply united.

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Scottish election 2021 results: This is how the constituency map of Scotland loo...
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross's efforts to rally unionist voters to support his party appears to have failed.

Consider Banffshire and Buchan Coast, held by Karen Adam on 14,920 votes, defeating the Tory candidate Mark Findlater by 772 votes. Labour and Lib Dems combined were on more than 3,000.

In Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, the SNP held on despite a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrat's Molly Nolan, with a majority of 2,591.

Votes from the Tory candidate alone would have been enough for an upset.

While it’s not necessarily surprising to see Labour and Lib Dems not wanting to vote with the Tories, it seems fairly clear that doing so is the clearest way to have defeated the SNP.

Having far more in common domestically with the SNP than they do the Tories, this election suggests independence remains far less of a red line for supporters of progressive parties than endorsing the Conservatives.

Scotland has a voting system almost designed to prevent majorities, but it’s still first-past-the-post for the constituency seats. To paraphrase a Lib Dem bar chart leaflet, only a vote for one party can stop the SNP here.

But Scotland continues to go against that. Voters may dislike the SNP, but not enough to set their principles aside and vote tactically.

They have faced an SNP government that has failed on drugs, made costly errors on care homes and has a record on education that would make even Gavin Williamson cringe.

Despite this, opposition parties have failed to land a glove on them. In my own conversations with party leaders during my video series On the HolyRoad, none of them could really explain why the SNP were polling high in the face of such fierce criticism.

If they can’t win the argument, it might be time to start winning with arithmetic.

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