UK election: Sturgeon declares fresh mandate for Scottish independence

Scottish National Party secures 47 MPs, up from 35 they won two years ago

Scotland must be allowed to hold another referendum on its place inside the UK following the crushing victory of the Scottish Conservatives in the election, says first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Video: Reuters

 

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the election success of the Scottish National Party (SNP) gives her a “renewed, refreshed and strengthened” mandate for a second vote on Scottish independence.

The First Minister’s SNP made a series of gains north of the border, including ousting Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson.

Ms Sturgeon said it had been an “exceptionally good night” for her party, with the results leaving Scotland and the rest of the UK on “divergent paths”.

The SNP secured 47 MPs, up from the 35 they won two years ago, making it the party’s second best Westminster result ever.

While the Tories made gains south of the border — with Mr Johnson winning the majority he was seeking to push ahead with Brexit — in Scotland it was a different story.

There are now six Tory MPs in Scotland, down from 13 in 2017, though Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was one of those who held on.

Labour had another disastrous election, with the party again left with just one MP in Scotland.

As in 2015, Ian Murray was left as a sole Scottish Labour representative in the House of Commons — using his speech after winning Edinburgh South to insist the party must now change or it will “die”.

The SNP polled 45 per cent of the vote in Scotland, an increase of just over eight points, while both the Tories and Labour saw their vote decline, to 25.1 per cent and 18.6 per cent, respectively.

‘Pretty grim’

But Ms Sturgeon said results across the UK were “pretty grim”, after Mr Johnson was returned to Downing Street with a majority.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I accept that Boris Johnson after this election has a mandate to take England out of the European Union, but he does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union.

“And I have a mandate, a renewed, refreshed, strengthened mandate, to offer people in Scotland the choice of a different future. It is then up to people in Scotland what choice they make.

“I don’t pretend everybody who voted SNP yesterday will necessarily support independence, but there is a clear endorsement Scotland should get to decide our future and not have it decided for us,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon will write to the prime minister before Christmas to formally demand Holyrood be given the power to hold a second vote on independence.

While Boris Johnson has previously made clear he will block such a ballot, Ms Sturgeon said the Tories must “reflect very carefully” on the result of the election.

The SNP’s first gain came with victory over Labour in Rutherglen and Hamilton West with a 5,230 votes. That was soon followed by a series of significant wins, taking Angus and Stirling from the Tories, with the SNP then unseating Ms Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader in East Dunbartonshire by 149 votes.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said after Ms Swinson’s defeat: “Jo has been a principled, brave, political leader at a time when we needed brave political leaders. The strategy has not worked but you cannot fault her for standing up and being counted at the right time.”

On a night of results which suggest significant amounts of tactical voting took place across Scotland amid very high turnouts in many seats, the SNP also lost in places it had expected to win. The most notable defeat came at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in North East Fife, the UK’s most marginal constituency.

Anti-independence vote

The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, Stephen Gethins, who won by two votes in 2017, lost after significant numbers of Tories swung behind the Liberal Democrats in an anti-independence protest vote. The Tories also held Moray, the seat with the highest leave vote in Scotland.

Even so, the SNP enjoyed an unexpectedly large number of gains after Ms Sturgeon built a coalition of pro-EU and anti-Tory voters in other parts of Scotland. Senior Tories acknowledged Mr Johnson was an unpopular leader for many Scottish Conservative voters, while moderate Labour and Liberal Democrat voters swung behind Ms Sturgeon’s potent anti-Brexit and anti-Johnson message.

In Fife, Labour suffered further humiliation in Gordon Brown’s former constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after the shadow Scottish secretary, Lesley Laird, was beaten by Neale Hanvey, who had been sacked as the SNP’s candidate for two anti-Semitic social posts but had fought on as an independent, by 1,243 votes. – PA