After the stratospheric results the SNP achieved in 2015 it was likely, if not even inevitable, that political gravity would kick in. Last night they came back to earth with a bump.
Defeats for Angus Robertson, their well-regarded Westminster leader and depute leader, Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, and a third of their group of MPs would have been unthinkable even a month or so ago. For sure this election has been a chastening experience for the First Minister and the SNP.
The real winner in Scotland last night was Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives. The Scottish Tory leader who has, again, been enhanced by an election campaign led the charge against a second independence referendum and reaped the benefit taking 13 seats. In fact this Scottish Tory revival has given Theresa May the edge in seats by which she is looking to hold onto the keys to No 10.
With spectre of a second referendum dominating the voters’ minds in Scotland, the pro-union parties focussed their campaigns relentlessly on that and the voters responded.
After a bit of confusion over messaging it seems like the word from the SNP is indyref2 is off the table, for now. This may satisfy the majority of the population but will store up problems for Nicola Sturgeon as she seeks to manage the fervent pro indyref2 wing of her party.
The first sign of how this will play out will be in the race to be the SNP’s new depute leader. They will also need a new Westminster leader. The smart money is on Tommy Shepherd for one or both of those roles. He’s close to the grassroots and not as tight with Nicola Sturgeon as Angus Robertson, although none of the current Westminster group is as close to the all-powerful party hierarchy as the man they will replace.
The SNP and First Minister still dominate Scottish politics. But a second independence referendum looks further away than it has done since September 2014 and – whisper it – after 10 years of an SNP Scottish Government, we may have reached peak Nat.
Measurement and evaluation