The SNP won’t be wanting another General Election any time soon. Sturgeon’s speech the day after polling day reflected the reality that the SNP had lost not just some big guns from Westminster, but a good deal of other MPs. It was time to think and reflect, she said. In a relatively tight-knit party, such losses feel like personal blows, but the election result could actually have been much worse for the SNP and they’ll be mindful of the number of narrow escapes they had in the General Election.
The SNP’s victories in the 2015 General Election were truly seismic – winning 56 of the 59 seats. It was an unprecedented win in unusual times. The scale of the swings in many constituencies was also eye-watering. Labour MPs with majorities over some 15,000 found themselves unable to stand the onslaught. How things have changed – not only have the SNP lost over 20 seats, their remaining seats are also precariously marginal.
Two MPs in particular must be thanking their lucky stars – Pete Wishart and Stephen Gethins. Gethins only managed to retain his constituency after the fourth recount confirmed his two votes margin over the resurgent Lib Dems – the tightest margin in the UK. His situation was not much bettered by Wishart, who only just held on to Perth and Perthshire North from the Tories with a margin of 21 votes. Wishart’s fortunes matter not just to him but to the wider party – John Swinney’s constituency overlaps Wishart’s and a Tory resurgence puts him high on the risk register.
It is not just one or two isolated constituencies though that will be worrying the SNP strategists. A total of 15 SNP MPs will be returning to Westminster with margins of under 2,000. There is not a single Glasgow seat that could be considered safe. Some of these 14 seats have much tighter margins. The Conservatives came perilously close to unseating the SNP in Argyll and Bute and Ayrshire Central. Lanark and Hamilton East is now a three-way marginal. Labour only needed 844 votes to take Dunfermline and Fife West; 318 in Motherwell and Wishaw; 384 in Inverclyde; and a mere 60 votes separated the two parties in Glasgow South West.
It is not, however, all bad news for the SNP. A win is a win, regardless of the margin and they still won 35 seats. Moreover, the Party still has some seats that enjoy considerable margins – notably in Dundee, Falkirk and Kilmarnock. Yet it will be hard for the Party to regain any of its lost ground. The Conservatives took the Banff and Buchan seat and the Gordon constituency on a swing of over 20% from the SNP.
The resurgence of the unionist parties has demonstrated that the SNP have their work cut out now to save the party from what could be a severe bout of losses at the next General Election – or indeed at the next Scottish Parliament elections. The Party may have only recently taken over Glasgow City Council, but it is struggling to make deals in other areas to run coalitions. Last week’s elections have demonstrated how soft the SNP vote is and how quickly their rise could be overshadowed by a fall if they don’t move quickly to shore up support.