SNP wins third term in Scotland but loses overall majority

Scottish Tories are surprise winners in election dominated by independence issue

 

Scotland is set for a nationalist minority government after the Scottish National Party recorded a third successive victory in elections to the devolved parliament in Edinburgh.

But on a night of upsets across Scotland, the SNP lost overall its majority in the Holyrood parliament. Labour, long Scotland’s party of government, was pushed into third place by a resurgent Conservative party.

“We have tonight made history,” SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon declared as the nationalists won all nine Glasgow constituencies.

“If you had told me when I was a teenager, starting out in politics, that one day the SNP would win every constituency in the city of Glasgow, not just in one election but in two elections, I would scarcely have been able to believe it,” the Scottish first minister said.

But despite topping one million votes for the first time, the SNP ended the night on 63 seats, just shy of an absolute majority, due to the vagaries of the devolved electoral system. The SNP’s dominance was not reflected in the proportional regional system, under which the party lost 12 seats despite picking up over 40 per cent of the vote.

In an election campaign dominated by questions of independence, the surprise winners on the night were the Scottish Conservatives.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson campaigned strongly against a second referendum on independence and in support of the union with England and was rewarded with her party’s best ever showing in Scottish devolved elections.

Big loser

Often seen as “toxic” in Scotland and holding just a single Scottish Westminster seat, the Tories won 31 of the 129 seats on offer, almost doubling their representation in the Edinburgh parliament. Ms Davidson hailed an “incredible result” after she unexpectedly took Edinburgh Central from the SNP by just 610 votes.

The big loser on the night was undoubtedly Scottish Labour. The party led by Kezia Dugdale polled particularly badly in former industrial heartlands with the SNP carrying on where it left off in the 2015 UK general election. Despite winning several significant constituency battles the party’s poor performance left it with 24 seats, 15 down on its result in 2011.

After a campaign in which Labour tacked to the left in an effort to win back voters lost to the SNP, Ms Dugale is likely to face calls to consider her future – less than a year after her election as leader last summer. “This election was always going to be tough for the Scottish Labour Party, just a year after a painful general election defeat,” she said.

The SNP is set to return to power after nine years in government. The party is most likely to govern as a minority administration, as it did successfully between 2007 and 2011. As then, the nationalists are likely to rely on the support of the Scottish Greens.

The pro-independence Greens had a good night, tripling their representation in parliament to six and pushing the Liberal Democrats, once a major force in Scottish politics, into fifth place. Ukip, which had hoped to poll well in Scotland amid breakthroughs in England and Wales, registered just two per cent and won no seats.