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.”
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.