SNP’s onward march suffers huge check

“The SNP were unable to explain how an independent Scotland would be better able to combat recession going it alone.” This was the high road interpretation of Labour’s huge psychological victory at Glenrothes from Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy. It was the first time ever that a government was able to fight another government as an opposition and that opposition/government to general amazement lost the game when the music stopped. The London-based unionist press led by the Times and the Telegraph rolled the drums for Gordon Brown’s moment of huge relief, although in truth the stakes for him had already lowered. The equally unionist but staider local press picked at very sore local issues indeed.

(SNP –controlled) Fife Council, where home-care charges had risen from to £11 an hour while £51 was being charged for home alarms which had previously been free to those needing them and shopping deliveries, previously free, now cost £7.

A big plus for Gordon Brown and a rare minus for Alex Salmond, not a decider for either of them. But faced with the prospects of see-sawing results over the next couple of years, Salmond’s timetable for a 2010 referendum on independence now looks badly out of kilter.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London