Saturday 21 April 2018

'Horsewoman of the Ajockalypse' savours her party's Highland fling

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Chris Green in Edinburgh

The SNP was celebrating the most important moment in its history after an "electoral tsunami" swept Scotland, wiping out the Labour Party's previously dominant presence there at a single stroke.

Nicola Sturgeon's party, which yesterday had secured 56 of Scotland's 59 Westminster seats, exceeded all expectations as its candidates recorded huge victories over its Labour rivals throughout the night.

Commenting on the spectacular results she said: "They haven't listened, and what they're suffering down to them, and to the fact they have failed to listen and to heed the messages the people of Scotland have been giving them over a long period," she said.

Earlier, the First Minister had said she still hoped to form an alliance with Labour to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street.

But she added that if this was not possible, SNP MPs at Westminster would instead attempt to "protect Scotland against a Tory government".

Ms Sturgeon was not standing for election on Thursday - but you would not have known it from the profile she has received both in Scotland and across the UK.

Regarded as the most popular politician in Britain or "the most dangerous woman in politics", depending on your political hue, the MSP has been presented as either a paragon of progressive politics or a disruptive horsewoman of the "Ajockalypse".

The SNP leader shone in the televised leaders' debates, prompting an ever more hardline backlash from her potential Labour suitors trying to reverse Scotland's SNP tsunami and quell pockets of anti-nationalist sentiment across the UK.

For a party on the losing side of the independence referendum, the SNP surge has been remarkable and was largely unheralded by its opponents hoping for a return to business-as-usual Labour dominance in Scotland.

But with 55pc of Scots against independence, Ms Sturgeon has been at pains to point out that an SNP full house in the Commons is not a mandate for another referendum.

Alex Salmond, the party's former leader who failed to win independence for Scotland at last year's referendum, said the country would now have a "resounding" and "united" voice at the House of Commons. "There's going to be a lion roaring tonight, a Scottish lion," he added.

Among the more remarkable results on a historic night for the SNP was its defeat of Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, who lost his East Renfrewshire seat to Kirsten Oswald after serving the constituency for 18 years.

In Gordon Brown's former seat of Kirkcaldy, Labour's safest in Scotland, the nationalist party easily overturned a majority of more than 23,000 by recording a 34.5pc swing.

It also claimed East Dunbartonshire, removing Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson in a closely fought battle.

Ms Sturgeon, who took over from Mr Salmond as SNP leader after the referendum, said Labour had been "losing touch with the people of Scotland" for "many, many years" and was reaping what it had sowed.

Ms Sturgeon's predecessor Mr Salmond, who won in the constituency of Gordon, went further by saying that Mr Cameron would be left "with no legitimacy whatsoever up in Scotland" if he led the next government.

Voters had unleashed an "electoral tsunami" that would reverberate across the UK, he added.

"There's going to be a lion roaring tonight and it's going to roar with a voice that no government of whatever political complexion is going to be able to ignore," he said.

Another remarkable result came in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, where the SNP's Mhairi Black overturned a 16,614 Labour majority to defeat Labour's general election coordinator Douglas Alexander.

The 20-year-old politics student is the youngest MP to enter the House of Commons in around 350 years. "People have woken up to the fact that Westminster has not been serving them and the Labour Party has not been serving them," she said in her acceptance speech.

Ms Black, a pro-independence university student with a history of volunteer work and activism, reached enough new voters to topple a Labour Party stalwart. "I have been elected alongside a strong group of SNP MPs," she said. "We will work to put an end to the austerity cuts which are hurting people in communities both north and south of the border. We will call for the powers promised to Scotland in the referendum, starting with those that make the biggest impact of getting more people into work and making work pay."

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran also lost her Glasgow East to the nationalist party.

At the beginning of the night Labour was hopeful of holding two of Edinburgh's five seats, but as the votes were counted, the mood in their camp became gloomier as the extent of the rout became clear.

The SNP's Alan Brown also defeated Labour's Cathy Jamieson in Kilmarnock and Loudoun.

Other Labour seats which fell included Falkirk, Glasgow North East, Dundee West, Dunbartonshire West, Ochil and South Perthshire and Glenrothes.

When the dust had settled yesterday morning, a total of 50 of Scotland's 59 seats had changed hands. The SNP now has 56 MPs while Labour and the Lib Dems have seen their standing slashed to one seat each. The Conservatives retained their single seat. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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