The Lion Roars North of the Wall

An SNP landslide in Scotland puts Labour to the sword and sets Scotland on a collision course with Westminster

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In perhaps the most remarkable development in modern Scottish political history, the SNP recorded a landslide victory last night, winning 56 of the 59 Scottish seats. The result marked what SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon called an ‘historic watershed’, as her party gained 50% of the vote across Scotland, gaining 50 seats in the process. Not since the days of Herbert Asquith and the Irish Home Rule question will parliament witness so many nationalists in its midst.

The SNP’s success came at the expense of Labour, which lost 40 seats and, incredibly for a party whose history and soul is so inextricably linked with Scotland, now has only 1 MP in the country. Notable casualties for Labour included Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, and former Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran. Labour lost all of their seats in Glasgow, the historic heartland of the party, with huge swings to the SNP (39.3% in Glasgow North East) recorded in the city.

For the Liberal Democrats the results in Scotland were not much better. The Lib Dems lost 10 seats and, like Labour, have one MP north of the border. Danny Alexander, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and former party leader Charles Kennedy, represented two significant losses for the Liberals.

The implications of the results in Scotland are potentially more significant than anything else which came to pass on a truly remarkable night across the UK. It is difficult to argue with Sturgeon’s assertion that the ‘tectonic plates in Scottish politics have shifted’. The UK now appears to be a house divided, with a majority Conservative government effectively lacking a mandate in Scotland. Added to what appears to be an increasing fear of Scottish political developments in England, the political landscape looks explosive.

The SNP’s approach in the next parliament and the Conservative response may prove decisive for the continuation of the UK in its present form. With Scottish Parliament elections due next year, it is clear that further changes will be offered to Scotland in order to stave off the now very real threat to the Union. All options, including Full Fiscal Autonomy, many now be on the table.

At the same time however, the onus will be on the nationalists to work responsibly with other parties in parliament. While this will be the wish of the SNP’s moderate wing, whether they can reign in the party’s more extreme element remains to be seen. Finally the issue of an EU referendum will further complicate the issue, if English voters opt out and Scottish voters choose to stay. Such a scenario would almost certainly result in SNP moves for another independence referendum.

Alex Salmond, former SNP leader and the man most likely to lead the SNP parliamentary group, said today that ‘the Scottish lion has roared across the country this morning.’ Whether Unionists can identify a coherent and attractive response to that that roar will go some way to determining whether the UK can survive.


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