Good result for the SNP in the Moray by-election last night. True, it was in a heartland area for the party, but it did well to increase its majority when it could have been expected to lose some of the personal vote of the later Margaret Ewing.
Alex Salmond hailed the result as a stepping stone towards next year’s Holyrood elections:
“As we build to the 2007 elections, the message is clear for the people of Scotland. It is now a straight choice between the SNP and Labour to lead the next Scottish government. This result shows that the SNP are firmly on course for victory next year.” (SNP press release)
Brian Monteith saw the vote’s significance slightly differently:
Labour members should be getting rather worried that not only is their vote falling, but that the Liberal Democrats are improving. Such a switch nationally would leave the Lib Dems in a very strong bargaining position if Labour wanted to remain in power, even if it still manages to stay the largest party in the Scottish Parliament. (Scotsman.com)
For those south of the border the main interest is in the performance of the Britain-wide parties, which saw Labour slip into fourth place, the Tories still stubbornly flatlining, and the Lib Dems capitalising instead. This pretty much reflects the picture emerging from recent polls, even if Scotland is something of a Tory-free zone anyway.