There is no shortage of people expressing opinions regarding why Labour lost the general election in Scotland. These range from those on the left indulging in self-flagellation to those in the nationalist camp who want to rub salt in the wound.
Most overlook one key thing – the SNP won as they ran a good campaign and should be congratulated for it. It had 3 key strengths which must be recognised.
Firstly, the SNP message relentlessly focussed on Nicola Sturgeon – her face was on every SNP billboard, leaflet and, unbelievably, even her executive helicopter. This was so overwhelming that there are stories abound of voters across Scotland believing she was standing in their constituency. This was powerful as most SNP candidates had no local standing.
Secondly, the SNP successfully portrayed Labour as a party who backed “£30 billion of Tory cuts”. This was complete bunkum, but it was repeated so often it stuck. Labour used the IFS to debunk this and the claim that the SNP could end austerity. Tellingly it failed because during the referendum debate Scots learned that for every expert opinion there is a counter opinion – and the SNP learned how to present both as having equal standing. This is a worrying development.
Similarly, despite Brown lifting 200,000 Scots pensioners out of poverty, the SNP portrayed Labour as a party that had done nothing for Scotland. Labour completely failed to refute this.
Thirdly, the SNP won because they kept their message simple. There were no complex arguments or IFS reports to contend with, just simple positive statements and phrases. I heard about one hustings where the candidates were asked to name their three top policies. The Labour candidate talked about tackling youth unemployment, ending foodbanks and implementing the living wage. The SNP candidate offered only three words: Stronger for Scotland.
So yes, Labour must reflect on this defeat. However, we all must also congratulate the SNP for a stunning victory.