As Massie says, the results of yesterday's Ipsos-MORI poll are remarkable, with Labour polling at a grisly 23% to the SNP's 52% going into the General Election. The Tories languish on 10%, and the Liberals, 6%. Grim tidings for the beleaguered Liberal Democrats, hoping to hold on to some of their eleven Scottish seats. Worse for Ed Miliband, who can ill afford to lose bastions on its northward front.
The poll doubtless has some significance. The next General Election campaign certainly represents an opportunity for the Nationalists to make gains, particularly if we see a differential rise in activism and enthusiasm and turnout amongst the disappointed minority who voted Yes on the 18th of September. But if your attention is fixed on Holyrood, it is easy to forget just how badly the SNP has done in recent Westminster general elections. But here are a few sobering facts we shouldn't allow ourselves to forget in the current ferment.
The SNP hit its high watermark in Westminster support in the October election of 1974, winning 11 seats. Since, it has never exceeded six MPs. In 2005 and 2010, the SNP were the third party in Scotland, in terms of seats won, We pipped the Liberal Democrats in the popular vote in 1997, 2001 and 2010 but lagged behind in seats. God bless first past the post. But that was more than a decade ago. The two most recent UK polls put the Nationalists in the vice, squeezed between Labour, the Liberals and the Tories.
Despite BBC documentaries, asking why Scotland didn't vote for the Tories, in 2010 the SNP polled just 78,500 more votes nationally than David Cameron's party. Labour members were returned to Westminster with thumping majorities, but so were many Liberal Democrats in their enclaves. Take a few big names. Michael Moore won Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk with 45.5% of the vote, some 5,675 ahead of his nearest, Conservative competitor. Wee Danny Alexander took Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey with over 19,000 votes.
But what should disturb the attentive Nationalist more is how we far down the pecking order we fall - even in areas in which we are in contention for, and even win, in Holyrood elections. The Scottish and UK parliamentary orders do not nearly graft onto one another. The constituency boundaries have, in many cases, diverged. But a few examples from the Liberal Democratic periphery should hammer home the point. Take Danny Alexander, up in the Highlands. The Liberal Democrats may have won the day with 40% of the vote - but in 2010, his nearest competitor was not the SNP, but the Labour Party, who won 10,407 votes to the Nationalists' 8,803. The point is made even more brutally by considering the constituency in which I grew up: Argyll and Bute.
A Liberal seat throughout my childhood, represented by the late Ray Michie and now by the near-invisible Alan Reid, after a 1997 surge, the SNP actually came fourth in the constituency in 2001, 2005, and 2010, behind the Liberals, the Tories and Labour. Compare and contrast with the constituency's preferences in recent Holyrood elections. Lib Dem George Lyon was turfed out by the SNP's Jim Mather in 2007. Mike Russell held it in 2011 with over 50% of the vote. The divergence in voting behaviour is striking, and in general elections, not to our advantage.
Are these challenges insuperable? Most certainly not. But they are formidable, and should be treated and understood as formidable. The Labour wipe-out promised by yesterday's poll is unlikely to appear. There are gains to be made, and constituencies to fight -- but matching or narrowly exceeding the party's all-time high of eleven seats in 1974 would be a great result. We shouldn't lose sight of that, and the low base - both in terms of votes and seats - from which we spring.
It is essential that the SNP begins to clamp down on the overrunning expectations of sweeping Labour from its Scottish constituencies and running the map after 2015. Take this morning's bad headlines for Ed Miliband, enjoy a partisan chortle, but don't believe the hype. There's a gathering risk here of mismanaging expectations to the extent that even a good result for the SNP in the general election looks like a failure, or worse, a public reckoning for Nationalist hubris.
That's not a story Nicola will want to foster at this early stage in her leadership. We should learn the lesson of the over-spun local election campaign in Glasgow in 2012. While the leadership was telling the press that Labour's grip on the city looked precarious, on the ground, Labour were working like mad - in the last ditch - and the Nationalist campaign never had the same level of resources, focus, or enthusiasm. The results speak for themselves. Labour retained its majority in the city chambers, and justly gloated about the over-inflated expectations which had been stoked up. "SNP juggernaut grinds to halt." Etcetera, etcetera. We saw similar missteps in managing expectations in the 2008 Glenrothes by-election. It is a temptation which must be resisted going into 2015 too.
Keep the heid. Consider the data. Ca' canny.