GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (MAY 8, 2015) (ITN) – Scottish nationalists could take nearly every seat in Scotland but be shut out of any role in the British government, according to an exit poll after voting ended in Britain’s national election on Thursday (May 7).
The poll for national television stations showed the Scottish National Party (SNP) taking 58 out of the 59 parliamentary seats north of the border.
But 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, and could bolster Scots to push for a new referendum on independence, having narrowly lost one last year.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, widely judged to be the star performer of the election campaign even though she was not running for a seat in the London parliament, was wary of the projection.
“I’d treat the exit poll with HUGE caution,” she tweeted. “I’m hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely!”
In the earlier hours of Friday (May 8) Sturgeon met supporters in Glasgow, who welcomed her with deafening cheers.
In Aberdeen, former SNP leader Alex Salmond said the election was a “glad, confident moment for Scotland”.
“All the reports we’re getting across the country is we’re seeing an electoral tsunami in a gigantic scale, and that’s a tide flowing with the Scottish Nationalist Party,” said Salmond.
“Nicola Studgeon made an important speech earlier this week, where she made the point that political legitimacy matters in terms of the government of the UK having a reach over these islands. If the government doesn’t have it, then they have severe problems with legitimacy. If that was to come about, then (Prime Minister David) Cameron would have that very very difficult problem. Of course no government, no Westminster government of any complexion can possibly ignore what’s happening in Scotland this evening,” he added.
“I think it’s all to the good that Scotland looks set to deliver a message to Westminster which is so resounding, so unambiguous, so clear, a clarion call that cannot be ignored regardless of the political configuration at Westminster, and anybody who wants to ignore an electoral tsunami would usually get swept away in the tide,” said Salmond.
The left-of-centre SNP had offered during the campaign to work with Labour in order to shut out the Conservatives and reverse austerity policies. Labour leader Miliband had ruled out a coalition, insisting he could win an outright majority.
The SNP’s surge comes just eight months after the independence vote in which Scots narrowly rejected its call to break away from the United Kingdom.
Since then, however, many Scots have become disillusioned with Labour, which has traditionally been strong in Scotland, seeing it as having moved too far away from the left and closer to Conservative thinking. Some in Scotland deride Labour as “Red Tories”.
Promises to devolve more power to Scotland have also gone unfulfilled, leading to a sense of betrayal.