Scotland awakes to a ‘political tsunami’ today which may see the SNP win over 50% of the votes in the 2011 election. Independence parties will now form a majority in parliament. The landslide for the SNP means it will be able to form a majority government alone or in coalition with the Green Party or the Lib Dems. Such parliamentary arithmetic means that Scots will now finally have the opportunity to vote in an independence referendum.
It is almost certain that when all the results come in that together with Green MSPs the SNP will have a clear majority to hold a referendum on whether Scots want to remain within the Union or opt for independence.
Neither Scots nor the people of England have ever voted on whether they want Union. In Scotland the Unionist parties have combined to deny Scots their democratic right to vote in such a referendum despite opinion polls showing a very clear majority of Scots desiring such a vote regardless of whether they would vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This historic election victory for the SNP therefore clears the way for Scots to exercise their right to vote in this key constitutional issue.
Throughout the night the SNP swept to victory in constituencies across Scotland to take a majority of seats in Glasgow and win seats from historically Labour constituencies across West-Central Scotland. Where Labour survived their majorities have been scythed down meaning that there is no longer a safe Labour seat in Scotland.
In Edinburgh Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm hung on in Edinburgh North and Leith depriving the SNP of a clean sweep of the Capital. In Aberdeenshire the SNP won all five seats and in Dundee both seats. Shock results in places like Clydebank, Paisley, Glasgow Shettleston and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth set the tone for a night of abject misery for Labour whose leader Iain Gray clung on to his East Lothian seat by around 150 votes.
As key Labour figures, such as Andy Kerr in East Kilbride and Charlie Gordon in Glasgow Cathcart lost their seats, it began to dawn on political commentators that the Scottish political landscape was undergoing a transformation of historic proportions. Key Lib Dem figures such as Mike Rumbles were also toppled in a night of high political drama the significance of which will now be debated by observers none of whom forecast an SNP landslide.
Pressure will now be on the coalition government in Westminster to look again at the Scotland Bill which doesn’t nearly go far enough to satisfy the demands of Scots who, going by last night’s result, clearly desire far more powers to be transferred to their parliament in Edinburgh. Should the Unionist parties continue to stifle this desire they will face the ire of the Scottish electorate and continue to pay a price at the ballot box.
The result is a victory for Alex Salmond who will continue to be Scotland’s First Minister for a further 5 years. The SNP leader fought on his party’s record and vision for Scotland. Labour now face a post-mortem which will no doubt focus on the efficacy of their negative campaigning tactics.
It is no exaggeration that the result is historic. Combined with Green MSPs the SNP now have a majority to move ahead with a referendum on independence. The party promised that it will bring forward legislation to hold the referendum if it won the election. With such an emphatic victory secured the referendum is now certain to be held.
As such last night’s election result will have consequences for the rest of the UK and will draw international attention. The story of Scotland voting on becoming an independent nation will attract interest around the world.