The saltires were flying yesterday at the Glasgow Fort Shopping centre in the east end of the city as Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, was greeted with a hero's welcome. Mr Salmond walked and talked with the confidence of a man who knows that he is now dictating the agenda – not just in Scottish politics, but in Westminster as well.
The SNP leader was able to boast that, with a 22 per cent swing under his belt in Glasgow East, no Labour MP north of the border could now feel entirely safe – not even the Prime Minister, who has an 18,000 majority in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. Mr Salmond paid tribute to his victorious candidate, John Mason, a local councillor, but he also used his 13th visit to the constituency in the past three weeks to crank up the nationalist rhetoric, saying his party would now "march to the sound of the priorities of the people of Scotland".
For Labour, defeat was as devastating as it was elating for the Nationalists and Mr Salmond's immediate talk of independence will – as intended – have sent an aftershock felt as surely in Downing Street as it was here in Labour's hitherto heartland, where the party had exerted almost total political control for nearly a century.
Yesterday it fell to Des Browne, the Secretary of State for Scotland, to soak up Labour's pain. It had already been an uncomfortable day for Mr Browne, who had been tipped in the morning papers to lose his position as Defence Secretary in an imminent reshuffle. "The people of Glasgow East sent us a clear message. We will examine what that message means and we will respond to it," he said. But it was clear that Scottish Labour voters have lost much of their fear of voting SNP. They also appear to like what they have seen so far from the Nationalists' year in power in Edinburgh.
Labour has been without a leader in Scotland since the resignation of Wendy Alexander four weeks ago. She had infuriated many within her party by urging Mr Salmond to "bring on" an independence referendum. The result of Glasgow East strengthens Mr Salmond's hand and increases the likelihood that such a referendum will take place some time in late 2010.
*John Mason (SNP)
11,277 (43.1%, +26.1%)
*Margaret Curran (Lab) 10,912 (41.7%, -19%)
*Davena Rankin (C)
1,639 (6.3%, -0.6%)
*Ian Robertson (LD)
915 (3.5%, -8.4%)
SNP maj 365 (1.39%); 22.53% swing Lab to SNP; Electorate 62,051; Turnout 26,174 (42.2%, -6.1%)