Before last year’s independence referendum, there was a broad consensus among unionists. A defeat for the Yes campaign would rob nationalism of its momentum. With the SNP humbled, Scottish politics could return to a more stable dynamic: Labour dominant at Westminster and—at the very least—competitive at Holyrood.
Jim Murphy’s election as Scottish Labour leader in December was meant to be the first sign of normalcy reasserting itself. In contrast to Johann Lamont—his underwhelming (and overwhelmed) predecessor—the East Renfrewshire MP was a “substantial” politician. As a member of the shadow cabinet and former minister in both the Blair and Brown governments, he had the “experience” to match Nicola Sturgeon.