When the exit poll came out, just after the polling stations closed at 22:00 last night (Thurs 7th May), the nation was in a state of disbelief. Liberal Democrat peer Paddy Ashdown stated he would “eat my hat” if they turned out to be accurate.
This is because they predicted the biggest political ‘shift’ in a UK election since records began. This term describes the change in support for a party from the previous election. For example, in the 2010 general election, Glasgow North East was firmly Labour, yet there was a 39.3% shift in support towards the SNP and they won the seat by a 25% margin.
From the forecast, Conservatives are to be the largest party, with Labour following behind. The Liberal Democrats were set to lose forty-seven seats and the SNP to gain a staggering fifty-eight. This would mean a overwhelming shift towards the SNP in Scotland. Even SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon herself tweeted that it was “unlikely” that the polls would hold true.
Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the SNP are winning Scottish seats at an incredible rate. It’s only 05:00 and they have 50 seats. Most noticeably, 20 year old student Mhairi Black beat Douglas Alexander (poised to become Labours Foreign Secretary) to represent Paisley and Renfrewshire South. Scottish Labour leader also lost his seat to the SNP, as did countless other influential Labour and Lib Dem MPs.
The reason for this dramatic shift can be attributed to a call for the end of so called ‘political class’ in Scotland. The term political class refers to the relatively small group of activists that is highly successful in politics. After all, why should Labour and Lib Dems, who are national parties only out to do the best for themselves, get all the power? Many would argue that Scotland needs a party who, like the SNP, have Scotland’s interests at heart. In addition to this, there has clearly been an increase in support for grassroots movements, that is, smaller parties such as the Greens or UKIP. Could the end be nigh for career politicians representing large parties? The 2015 election in Scotland certainly seems to suggest so.
Furthermore, this pattern of throwing out the career politicians and bringing in the everyday man/woman can be seen in the rest of the UK. More support than ever before has been gained for the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP, all of which claim to be more in touch with the voting public and can offer a better deal than the two major parties.
This could mean the end of all powerful Conservative or Labour politicians calling all the shots, merely appeasing smaller parties. It could mean that start of Britain as a fairer and more democratic society, as people have more choice of who represents them. Only the following months and years will prove if “The tectonic plates of Scottish [and indeed UK] politics have shifted”, as Nicola Sturgeon claims, but things are certainly going to be very different in Scotland for the next five years.