‘Lion roars’ as Scottish nationalists score historic sweep
The Scottish National Party (SNP) won a landslide in Scotland on Friday, destroying the Labour party north of the border in a historic leap forward which could increase pressure for a fresh referendum on independence.
The nationalists won 56 of 59 parliamentary seats in Scotland in Thursday’s general election, final results showed, up from just six at the last vote in 2010.
“It is an extraordinary statement of intent from the people of Scotland. The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country,” former SNP leader Alex Salmond said.
The extent of the victory was embodied by the success of Mhairi Black, a 20-year-old student who unseated Labour’s campaign chief to become Britain’s youngest MP since 1667.
Labour’s leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, was also defeated by the SNP in a deeply embarrassing loss for the main opposition party in what was once one of its heartlands.
“The SNP has done almost a complete wipeout,” said Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
The final result gave Labour just one seat, down from 41 in 2010, while Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives held their single seat and the smaller centrist Liberal Democrats went down from 11 seats to just one.
“In Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party,” an ashen Labour leader Ed Miliband said.
The SNP’s historic landslide is all the more astonishing as it comes just months after voters rejected by 55 percent the party’s call for independence from the rest of Britain in September’s referendum.
“What a result!” tweeted Nicola Sturgeon, who took over as SNP leader after the referendum.
– ‘Bring country together’ –
With the Conservatives set to become the largest party in the new parliament, the SNP will no longer have a chance to play kingmaker, as it had hoped when opinion polls pointed to an uncertain result.
But the size of their bloc will give them a powerful voice at Westminster, led by Salmond, who was elected to the House of Commons in the northeastern Scottish seat of Gordon.
“You made your voice heard and we will make Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster,” Sturgeon told supporters.
Speaking after his re-election as the member of parliament for Witney, in southern England, Cameron promised to “bring our country together” if as expected he is returned to Downing Street as prime minister.
The independence vote had paradoxically had the effect of invigorating the nationalist campaign, which has accused Cameron’s government of breaking promises on granting Scotland more autonomy.
Since September, the SNP has enjoyed a surge of support that saw its membership quadruple.
Cameron said he would deliver the promises he had made.
“I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised,” he said.
– ‘Change how they see Scotland’ –
“Whatever the outcome, whatever party wins, they are going to need to change how they see Scotland as a political entity,” said John Lyons, a retired civil servant, while voting in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, on Thursday.
Scotland has had a devolved government in Edinburgh since 1998, although major decisions about tax and spending, defence and foreign policy are still taken in London.
The desire for greater powers and influence is a common refrain in Glasgow, a once proud shipping and industrial hub.
John James Swift, a 19-year-old student, said: “The biggest thing I want is independence. As soon as possible.”
Sturgeon has not made clear when she hopes for a new independence referendum but some experts suggest the issue could come to the fore again if there is a referendum on Britain leaving the EU, as Cameron has promised.