ELECTIONS are supposed to solve problems. Thursday’s poll, in particular, was custom-built to extract certainty from the chaos of Brexit. However, when we scratch the surface it seems perfectly obvious that we are not nearing the end of the division. Indeed, far from being a destination, Friday morning is likely to be simply another waypoint on the journey to wherever it is we are going.

For Scots, this is a grim truth. Our constitutional chaos, and the social and economic uncertainty which has emanated from it, is becoming old news. It started in 2011, with the SNP majority, leading to the 2014 independence referendum. Those days seem almost calm compared to where we are now. We are on our third General Election since that referendum, one of which led to the EU Referendum, with a Scottish Parliament election sandwiched in between. What will we be served after Friday morning?

Predictions are risky at this stage. However, I think we can have near-universal agreement that the only two possible outcomes are a Conservative majority and a hung parliament. And, in an ironic twist for a nation which has long agitated for more recognition from Westminster, Scotland will almost inevitably be at the centre of both of these potential results and the outcomes which flow from them.

Let us examine the Conservative majority option. It is worth saying that, credit where it is due, the Conservatives have run the most disciplined campaign of all the parties, both in the UK and in Scotland where, contrary to many previous elections, they appear to have out-thought the SNP.

The UK campaign has been very strictly focused on the #GetBrexitDone message which, much as it becomes tiresome for those of us who follow politics closely, is an excellent, simple, retail message right out of the Dominic Cummings #TakeBackControl playbook. It has been backed up by the simplistic spending promises on the NHS and policing, by the so-called points-based immigration system to control the border post-Brexit, and by the “threat” of Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon’s “two referendums in 2020”. These key messages are the electoral equivalent of going all-in at poker. They are aimed simply and squarely at voters in left-leaning pro-Leave areas in the north of England, the Midlands and north Wales, with the bet being that the seats they gain from Labour in those places will outnumber those they presumed that message would lose in the south of England (to the Lib Dems) and Scotland (to the SNP).

That is not to say that the campaign has been a paragon of electoral virtue; it emphatically has not. It has become rather a trait of the Boris Johnson Government to do just enough to pass the test of truthfulness, but no more. Australian-style, points-based immigration system? True, but the Australian system is designed to get more people in, not to keep them out. More money for the NHS? Yes, and the 40 hospitals and 50,000 nurses pledge are not dishonest, but they do require a lot of small print to be read before they can be properly understood.

Remain-voting Scotland was, back at the start of the campaign, the presumed sacrificial lamb of this strategy. But a combination of a disciplined Tory strategy, which has doubled-down on 2017 by saying “Vote Tory to stop indyref2”, an SNP strategy which has played into the Tories’ hands by enthusiastically participating in that narrative, and finally another failure by the Scottish political establishment to accept and understand the power of Scotland’s Eurosceptic community, appears to have the Scottish Tories on the brink of a significantly more positive result than had been expected when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister, and even six weeks ago, at the outset of the campaign.

It is quite likely that on Friday morning, The Herald and its media peers will be reporting that PM Johnson has won a majority on the back of seats won in Scotland.

Or they might not. And, if we are looking at the other option – another hung parliament – it may very well be because the Tories have not clung on to enough seats in Scotland. In that case, the focus will shift to Nicola Sturgeon every bit as much as it will shift to Jeremy Corbyn. If there is a certainty about Friday morning, it is that Mr Corbyn cannot enter Downing Street without Ms Sturgeon’s backing. And this is where an analysis of Ms Sturgeon’s strategy and the short-, medium- and long-term risks which are associated with it, has been oddly absent.

First, there is a tactical problem. Much as Mr Corbyn cannot enter Downing Street without Ms Sturgeon, she cannot keep Mr Johnson out of office unless she puts Mr Corbyn in, and she has been crystal clear that she will take any steps necessary to avoid Mr Johnson being PM. Labour appears to be presuming, with some justification, that with Ms Sturgeon as kingmaker, there is only one person she will crown. They are probably right, and it gives Ms Sturgeon a headache if Mr Corbyn plays hardball on the timing of an independence referendum, which is Ms Sturgeon’s key ask (to place on this another layer of head-scratching intrigue, SNP strategists don’t actually want a referendum in 2020, when they say they do).

There is risk, more fundamentally, in choosing Mr Corbyn over Mr Johnson, which is effectively what Ms Sturgeon has done. Allegations of anti-Semitism, Marxism, a sympathy for terrorist organisations and a penchant for a variety of dictators does not find any more favour in Scotland than it does in the rest of the UK; indeed Mr Johnson regularly outpolls Mr Corbyn on head-to-head ratings in Scotland. Ms Sturgeon won’t be able to hide; if Mr Corbyn crashes and burns, she will be in the wreckage. I have much sympathy with many of the people who run the SNP and the Scottish Government – I find them decent, pragmatic, competent individuals. But, I must concede, I struggle to get on board with the narrative that, in a head-to-head choice between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn, Mr Johnson is the risk and Mr Corbyn the better outcome for Scotland.

Whatever Friday morning brings, Scotland will have played its part, and will play its part in what comes next. For us, here, that will involve a winner-takes-all Holyrood election in 2021, whereby 65 or more seats for Unionist parties may well break the SNP, and 65 or more seats for nationalist parties will, despite the rhetoric from Mr Johnson and Jackson Carlaw, lead to indyref2.

Sunday’s Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times showed in black and white the effect that this election and its resultant Brexit route will have on the Scottish election and the proposed second independence referendum.

Sorry, people of Scotland. Thursday is not the end. We’re not even close.

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