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O power of Scotland...

Hello again. Continuing my round-up of the parties before the election, today I'm going to focus on the battle for seats north of the border.


The UK has had so many votes this decade that you could be forgiven for not wanting yet another one in two days' time. With four general elections, the EU Referendum and a plebiscite on the voting system back in 2011 (anyone remember AV?), there have been no less than six national polls since 2010. The Scots, however, have barely had a break from campaigning, with the 2014 vote for independence meaning there have only been three years this decade without them being called to vote in a national poll.

"Another election?! Awww, get tae...!" The Scots have barely been out of the polling booths in the last decade

If it's been a turbulent decade in UK politics generally, it's arguably been even more so north of the border. Back in 2010 Scottish politics was dominated by the then-governing Labour Party, which had won 41 of the 59 Scottish seats at the previous election in 2005. The 2010 election gave no hint of the dramas to follow later in the decade however, returning the exact same results as 2005. The SNP, which was to become the story of the decade in Scottish politics, held only six seats.


All this was to change in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, however. What had begun as a seemingly straightforward win for the "No" campaign (meaning "No to independence") became in the final weeks a tantalisingly close call. Having consistently been behind by double figures in the early days, the Yes campaign's promises of a brave new Scotland ate into the No lead, and when an ICM poll put the Yes camp 49-42 ahead with only a week to go, the No camp was spooked. A joint declaration at the eleventh our by the three main UK Party leaders - David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg - promised further devolved powers to Scotland in the event of a No vote. When the final result showed Scotland rejecting independence by a 55-45 margin, Cameron seemed to many on the Yes side to be immediately reneging on the commitment, stating that any new deal must also involve an end to "Scottish votes on English matters". Far from being disarmed, the independence campaign now found a new lease of life, fuelled by anger from many who perceived a betrayal.


This anger combined with the positive vision of the Yes campaign to light a fire under the SNP's support. The 2015 election in Scotland was a truly seismic event. The SNP won 50% of the vote to take an astonishing 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland and rout the major Parties. The 2017 election saw this number fall back to 35 as their vote share dipped to 35%, with the Conservatives pushing Labour, the traditional main force in Scottish politics, into third.


So what to look for in 2019? Under the confident leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP remain in buoyant mood, pushing for a second vote on independence ("IndyRef2") in the next Parliament; indeed, it was Sturgeon's keenness for a new poll, together with that of the new Liberal Democrat leader and fellow Scot Jo Swinson, that opened the door for Boris Johnson to get the general election he craved. While a repeat of 2015 is unlikely, the SNP will hope to make gains on their 2017 haul, having come second in every seat where they did not win in that election.


Predicting the fortunes for the other Parties in Scotland is tricky indeed. Very few seats can be regarded as "safe", with 46 of the 59 having been won by a margin of less than 10%. The Scottish Tories are without their hugely popular former leader Ruth Davidson, who has taken a break from politics for family reasons, but are still hopeful of finishing second and at least holding on to their MPs. For Labour and the Liberal Democrats, these are tricky times north of the border however, and while both will surely do better than the dark days of 2015, a strong showing for either may not be forthcoming this time around.


On the app front this week is all about design, with the logic flow of the game engine finally getting some attention. Developing a model for replicating voting behaviour is an interesting challenge; we all have different motivations for voting the way we do, and building a structure that caters for all of them is quite an undertaking.


One final pre-election note from me tomorrow, hope you're not all too weary of politics! We certainly could do with a bit of a break from voting after this one.


Take care all


Richard


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