FOR most of last year the Scottish Parliament elections coming up in May looked like a foregone conclusion. 

Poll after poll showed the SNP heading for an outright majority, either on their own or with the support of the Greens. Polling on the constitutional question was similarly buoyant for those of a nationalist bent.

This, of course, was in a political environment where it was almost impossible for any issue other than the Covid pandemic to gain any traction or any serious discussion in the media. Rightly or wrongly, the Scottish Government was perceived to have had a ‘good pandemic’; at least in comparison to Westminster if not our European neighbours.

Glasgow Times: Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar

My own party, Labour, was finding it extremely difficult to be heard. To be fair, even when we were heard we too often appeared to be facing both ways simultaneously on all the major issues. This has been meat and drink to the Conservatives who, even here in Glasgow, have felt emboldened to portray themselves as the only serious opposition to the SNP.

In the last few weeks, however, real uncertainty has begun to develop and the result of May’s election is no longer taken for granted by politicians or pundits. There are a number of overlapping reasons for this.

Firstly, people are starting to think beyond Covid. The economy, education, the state of our city, employment and other bread and butter issues are firmly back on the agenda.

Secondly, the once seemingly permanent gloss which cloaked the SNP is starting to tarnish and crack. An endless litany of scandals and questionable behaviour is finally taking its toll.

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The Scottish Labour Party, under the new leadership of Anas Sarwar, is also delivering a clear and consistent message in a way that we have failed to do effectively for far too long. There is an old saying in politics that oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them. But for governments to lose, there must at least be a credible alternative.

Recent polling and local government by-election results suggest that Labour is beginning to be seen once again as that credible alternative.

The result in Partick East/Kelvindale was stunning and not predicted by anyone. 

I was confident our vote would increase, and we could come a close second. The fact that we won and won by some margin was remarkable. An analysis of the results shows that our core support rose significantly while the SNP dropped. We were also the preferred second choice of most voters, including 40% of Green voters. In Baillieston, core support for the three main parties hardly changed but, again, Labour was the second choice for most.

Glasgow Times: Cllr Jill Brown Cllr Jill Brown

The election of Cllr Jill Brown brings real hope to Labour in Glasgow. In the Scottish Parliament election, we now know that voters are once again listening to the Labour message and are persuadable. We can enter the campaign genuinely aiming to win back seats. For next May, Glasgow Labour can be confident that replacing the faltering SNP administration after a single term is very much on the cards.

So, here’s my prediction for what will happen on May 6: not what people thought would happen back in January.