Introduction: An Historic Event?
Held on May 7th 2015, the UK General Election has been variously described as path- breaking; as an historic moment; as a watershed in British political history – as bringing closer the end of the United Kingdom as we know it. It was certainly an election that gave us a number of surprises, surprises that were largely unexpected by the vast majority of people commenting during the pre-election campaigns and debates and surely also a surprise for many of those voting on May 7.
That the Conservatives won an outright majority came as something of a shock, and not only to the many Labour Party supporters and Labour voters who were banking on, if not a Labour majority government, then at least a share of power in a new coalition government. The success of the Tories probably surprised many of its own supporters – not least that the general view presented by the media in the run-in to the election was that an outright victory for any one party seemed highly unlikely. Repeated pre-election polls pointed to a hung parliament, with Labour and the Conservatives running almost neck and neck in public opinion.
At the same time, however, another election was taking place. While of course the UK General Election encompassed Scotland, arguably a very different election was playing out there, reflecting the sharply divergent political landscape that characterises Scotland today when compared with the rest of the UK and, especially, with England.
What were the key features of the 2015 General Election in Scotland and how do we explain the outcomes and consequences of the popular vote in a Scottish context? Why did the Scottish National Party emerge with the overwhelming majority of seats in Scotland and 50% of the vote?