For the Scottish National Party, the results of the General Election for Holyrood last Thursday, 05 April 2016, were "Oh so close" to that magic 65 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) needed for an overall majority. Writing in a 12-page Election pull-out in Saturday's Scotsman, Martyn McLaughlin quotes from SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon's acceptance speech made early on Friday morning:
"If you had told me when I was a teenager, starting out in politics, that one day the SNP would win every constituency in the city of Glasgow, not just in one election (for Westminster) but in two elections, I would scarcely have been able to believe it."
Ms Sturgeon could have used with much justification "stark raving bonkers" and although she can thank her predecessor Alex Salmond, for wrenching the party to the left when she was still young and slowly eating away at Labour's heartland, there is no taking away from her very significant victory in a campaign stamped very much with her authority. Securing 63 MSPs (59 of 73 constituency seats plus four from the Regional Lists) in a multi-party contest is no mean feat and Ms Sturgeon felt confident enough to rule out any explicit alliance with another party:
"With such a large number of MSPs elected I do not intend to seek any formal arrangement with any other party," and encouraged by the "personal mandate" she had received, she promised to make her Government's case with "passion...patience...and respect".
One of the first to congratulate her was British Prime Minister David Cameron and the two have agreed to work "constructively" together with the steel industry being a main priority for early discussion.
With the SNP's 63 Members, that left just 66 spread over the other parties. And in second place and now the main Opposition - the Conservatives!
Thirty-one seats in the new Holyrood Parliament with 22 per cent of the vote and more than double their representation in the previous parliament, Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson never ceased to emphasise during a very good campaign, that hers was the party of the Union and against any suggestion that there could or should be another Independence Referendum. Ms Davidson, beating the SNP candidate in Edinburgh Central, knew that her support had come from many who supported Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, acknowledging:
"I know very well that many thousands of people who backed me and my team last night (Thursday) are not dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives.
"They simply wanted somebody - anybody - to do a job for them in holding the SNP to account."
Only five years an MSP and becoming Conservative leader largely because nobody else wanted the job after a dispiriting 2011 Election, Ms Davidson will no doubt be eager to push through as much of her party's manifesto that the Parliament will allow but one point that is noteworthy and which she made very clear:
"Majority government has not worked well - too often over the last five years the SNP pushed through its agenda not on the strength of its case, but simply on strength of numbers.
"As a minority administration, I believe the SNP will be forced to listen, to learn and to improve.
"I am very proud that our performance last night has helped to bring this about."
Certainly, government with the absolute majority the SNP had was not very good for democracy and as I believe Ms Sturgeon is sincere when she speaks about "passion...patience...and respect", there ought to be more chance in this parliament for the merits of any case to win through.
With five seats (four constituency wins), Willie Rennie's Liberal Democrats, though with still the same number of MSPs as in the previous parliament, were seen to be on the mend once more having taken two scalps from the SNP. There was some regret that they had been beaten into fifth spot by the Greens, now a party of the far-left and uncomfortable for everybody's liking. The Greens got six.
Last to mention and widely seen as the losers of the 2016 Election is Labour, the party which came third and was reduced from 37 MSPs to 24; yes, that's the same Labour which dominated Scottish politics for half a century which took its votes for granted and formerly sent a large bloc to Westminster.
A wishy-washy, uninspiring campaign, put them behind the Conservatives for the first time since 1955 and worst showing since 1918.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said that she took "full responsibility" for the fiasco. Ms Dugdale is a new leader and relatively young but leading figures within Labour think that the Party was not firm enough in its commitment to Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom allowing the Tories to play that hand to the full.
Ms Dugdale tried to explain:
"What appears to have happened in Scotland is that we have returned to those constitutional arguments of the past. The final days of the election campaign have focussed very much on those issues of independence and remaining part of the United Kingdom. The Tories have benefited hugely from being the party to say very clearly and strongly that they oppose a second referendum on independence. There are lots of people in Scotland who are very fearful of that..."
I think Ms Dugdale expressed the problem in a nutshell but on more than one occasion she appeared to be somewhat nonchalant on the importance of the constitutional issue. Did she, or does she still, seriously believe that Ms Sturgeon and the SNP did not want a clear, absolute majority, especially as when polling day drew near, some were predicting that the SNP would get 72 seats in the new parliament? Does she not think that with such a mandate, the leadership of the SNP (who are probably not quite ready yet) would be under severe pressure from their grass roots support to go for another independence referendum, irrespective of the result of the EU Referendum?
No doubt Ms Dugdale is all too aware that large numbers of Labour supporters voted to leave the UK and tried not to alienate them or to bring them back once more to the fold but it looks to have backfired and meantime, Labour of all the parties in Scotland, will have to take a long, hard look to determine just where in the political spectrum it wishes to be.