A disaster. A total disaster. A swing like this would see them knocked off the top spot in Scotland, coming second in a Westminster election or even third at Holyrood. You expect governments to lose mid-term By-Elections, but not such a safe seat, and not when the PM-in-waiting lives in the constituency. This fiasco is going to haunt Gordon Brown, but not before it damages Jack McConnell next year.
Alex Salmond and co must surely be embarrassed after continually talking up Douglas Chapman's chances: listening to Nicola Sturgeon back-pedalling was excruciating. However, for the most part, she was right (and would have sounded credible had the SNP not spent the campaign telling the Press that they were going to win): it's still a good swing against Labour, and where they're the main challengers to Jack McConnell and friends, they'll do well.
The jury is still out on the Tories: the new Leadership team clearly hasn't had an impact on the Scottish electorate, but it'll be more interesting to see how they do in traditional Tory areas, particularly as Labour appear to be going to pieces.
Their Leader is hounded out over a drink problem, one candidate to replace him is forced to quit over a rent boy scandal, another is dragged out of the closet kicking and screaming by The Sun, and still they win. You can't help but be impressed. But 2007 is a different animal: they have a record of governance to fight on, which will be harder to involve. Even though the big issues in Dunfermline and West Fife are to be handled by LibDem ministers.
Yes, it was a Westminster election, but the SSP now appear irrelevant to Scottish politics: a candidate like John McAllion should have done far better and it's a mark of how far downhill the Party have gone that the SSP couldn't even prevent one of the other candidates from winning. Frankly, there was no point in them turning up to this one and you can see why they're thinking twice about standing in the constituencies next year.
10 February 2006