Scottish nationalists on course for landslide, paving way for secession struggle

Scottish nationalists on course for landslide, paving way for secession struggle

Scottish nationalists on course for landslide, paving way for secession struggle

Scottish nationalists on course for landslide, paving way for secession struggle

Scottish nationalists were on course for a landslide win north of the border in Britain's national election, obliterating their opponents and setting the stage for a new battle over independence.

Early wins for the Scottish National Party (SNP) included the ousting of the leader of the Labour party in Scotland, the defeat of a senior Labour figure in Paisley and taking former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's onetime stronghold in Kirkcaldy.

"There's a lion is roaring in Scotland tonight; a Scottish Lion. I don't think any government of any political complexion is going to be able to ignore it," former SNP leader Alex Salmond said as he awaited results in the Gordon constituency he is tipped to win.

But the SNP could still be shut out of any role in the British government, a scenario likely to bring a new confrontation over Scottish aspirations for independence.

An exit poll showed Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives were on course to win the most seats in parliament with 316, just shy of an outright majority, with Ed Miliband's Labour Party trailing on 239.

If confirmed, such an outcome would deny the SNP the kingmaker role it had sought in the House of Commons and kill off the prospect of a leftist alliance with Labour to force Cameron out of office. But it would dramatically highlight the political divide between England and Scotland.

In a stunning victory for the SNP, Labour's Douglas Alexander -- the shadow foreign secretary and campaign co-ordinator -- lost to a 20-year-old politics student, Mhairi Black by nearly 6,000 votes.

Black becomes the youngest British member of parliament since the 19th Century. The leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Jim Murphy, also lost his seat to the SNP.

Other early results from Scotland gave victory to the SNP in 26 seats, heralding a huge sweep of Scottish seats for the SNP, which won just 6 seats in 2010.

"This is history written as we watch and speak. We have never seen swings of this magnitude in any British election," said Murray Stewart Leith, senior lecturer in politics at the University of West Scotland.

"It has serious implications for the United Kingdom as a political union. Whatever government is formed after this election will need to seriously consider its constitutional structure."

'Disunited Kingdom'?

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said in Glasgow the results showed a historic shift in opinion in Scotland.

"We said during the campaign that the SNP MPs would be elected to make Scotland’s voice heard, and that’s exactly what we intend to do," she said.

The results could bolster Scots to push for a new referendum on independence after separatists lost one last September.

Commentator Magnus Linklater said: "You are going to get a bunch of SNP MPs going down to Westminster for whom independence is the ultimate goal, and pressure will build up."

The left-of-centre SNP had offered during the campaign to work with Labour in order to shut out the Conservatives and reverse austerity policies. Labour leader Miliband had ruled out a coalition, insisting he could win an outright majority.

Since the referendum, many Scots have become disillusioned with Labour, which has traditionally been strong in Scotland, seeing it as having moved too far away from the left and closer to Conservative thinking. Some in Scotland deride Labour as "Red Tories".

Sturgeon - described by detractors as "the most dangerous woman in Britain" but whom polls show as the most popular politician in the country - has stressed that this election is not, for the SNP, about independence.

"Even if...the SNP wins every seat in Scotland, that is not a mandate for independence or a second referendum," she said before the vote.

But her opponents said the SNP's aim was undoubtedly to push for a second referendum. Cameron's Conservatives had described the prospect of Labour and the SNP running Britain as a recipe for chaos and the potential break-up of the UK.

Not all SNP voters are automatically pro-independence, however, and polls show that the sentiment on that issue has not changed much since the referendum.

One potential confrontation is over Cameron's promise to hold a vote by the end of 2017 on whether Britain should leave the European Union, something Sturgeon has said would be against Scotland's wishes.

 

"Europe will be the trigger," Linklater said.

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