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Scottish National Party’s ‘damaging’ U.K. election result hits independence push


Scottish First Minister John Swinney speaks to the media at The Port of Leith Distillery, following the landslide General Election victory for the Labour Party, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Friday, July 5, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

The pro-separatist Scottish National Party was virtually obliterated at the U.K. General Election on July 5, suffering a devastating blow to its withering independence movement.

Keir Starmer’s Labour party overturned more than a decade of SNP domination by storming to a majority of Scotland’s 57 seats, as it rode to power in Westminster.

The SNP lost dozens of lawmakers as it recorded its worst result in a British general election since 2010, with leader John Swinney lamenting a “very, very difficult and damaging” night for his party.

Mr. Swinney had targeted winning 29 seats as a mandate for reopening negotiations with the British government for another independence referendum, but it returned only nine MPs, with one result still to declare.

That was down from the 48 it won at the last election in 2019.

Labour returned just one Scottish Labour MP last time round but sealed its comeback in its former heartland by sweeping every Glasgow seat as well as numerous others in Scotland’s central belt.

Also Read | U.K. General Election 2024 highlights

The crushing loss for the SNP means it relinquished its position as Britain’s third-biggest party, which brings a high-profile slot during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament.

It will also lose out on public funding and key positions on parliamentary select committees.

“There will have to be a lot of soul-searching as a party as a consequence of these results that have come in tonight,” SNP leader John Swinney admitted to the BBC.

Finance scandal

The SNP has dominated in Scotland in the last three UK elections, peaking with the 2015 vote when it won 56 seats out of 59 seats. In 2010, it got only six seats.

But the party has been under pressure from the resurgence of Labour in its former fiefdom north of the English border, as it rides a wave of displeasure against the Tories nationwide.

The SNP has been in turmoil for months as voters tire of its 17 years in charge of the devolved Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

Critics have also accused it of focusing on independence at the expense of key issues such as the cost-of-living crisis, education and health.

Support for the SNP has also slumped amid a finances scandal that saw former SNPleaser Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, charged with embezzlement. Murrell is the party’s former chief executive.

Ms. Sturgeon herself was arrested, but released without charge.

Mr. Swinney only took charge in May following the resignation of Humza Yousaf after the collapse of the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens in Edinburgh.

Mr. Yousaf was in power for just over a year.

The result leaves the SNP with a massive fight on its hands to remain in control of the devolved government in Edinburgh when voters elect a new Scottish parliament in 2026.

“The Scottish National Party needs to be healed and it needs to heal its relationship with the people of Scotland, and I am absolutely committed to doing that,” said Swinney.

Labour and the Conservatives insist independence was dealt with at the 2014 referendum when 55 percent of voters in Scotland opted to remain part of the UK.

Despite the SNP’s slump, the number of Scots favouring independence has held at around 40 percent, according to surveys, providing the SNP with some solace.



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