In the end, it was not quite a flawless victory but it was the greatest earthquake in recent Scottish (or indeed, UK) political history.
The SNP enjoyed swings of upwards for 30% to wrest seats which had seemed like Labour and Liberal sinecures only five years ago and win more MPs than in the whole duration of their long history, combined.
However, with Labour practically losing ground to the Conservatives south of the border (going tit for tat in direct contests and gaining less from the Liberal demise) all prospect of the SNP holding influence over a minority Labour government faded away and for all the bluster, the SNP are left on the sidelines as the second largest opposition party, rather than the power behind the throne?
What can they achieve?
In truth, not much in Parliament other than to heckle the hell out of the Conservatives while pointing at the disarray on the Labour & Liberal benches and laughing.
That said, 56 SNP MPs actually have a lot of fun in Westminster. Freed from the responsibilities of actual government, they can spend their time making life difficult for the Conservatives which is something Labour largely failed to do over the previous five years – invariably improving their stock at home in the process.
However, the repainting of the Scottish political map and effective removal of a Conservative mandate to govern North of the border (made semi-plausible by 12 coalition MPs in Scotland from 2010) has pushed forward the case for increased devolution, with senior Conservative figures throwing round phrases like Federalisation and Full-Fiscal Autonomy – phrases that were anathema on Wednesday last week…
The real challenge for the SNP is winning the argument at home, retaining their majority at Holyrood (where, assuming the SNP repeat their constituency whitewash it’s worth thinking that tactical use of their voters regional vote could see more hurt piled on Labour to the benefit of other Yes-supporting parties) and laying the groundwork for further devolution and eventual independence.
The long-term campaigns to keep the UK (and Scotland) in the EU and to set up a victorious second independence referendum will be based on vocally opposing neoliberals in Westminster, ruling Scotland well (whiel campaigning for and using increased powers) and most importantly, actively representing all of their constituents – something which Labour & the Liuberals latterly failed to do and were punished for.
The SNP have become the natural party of government in Scotland – a position that Labour held from 1960 until 2007. Labour became complacent over that period and therein lies a lesson for the SNP.
Stay close to your roots, listen to your voters and members and don’t ever seek to dictate from the centre because that will erode your now considerable base of support faster than any Unionist scheme or scare-story ever could.