This was the night of the long claymores. Scots voters scythed down Alex Salmond, that tallest of tartan poppies, and 20 of his separatist pals.
The General Election result north of the border was eye-poppingly savage and, in its way, thumpingly decisive. And on a night of crisis at Westminster, for those of a unionist persuasion it provided a moment of cheer.
Where Theresa May fell short, the seemingly unstoppable Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, delivered in spades. Thanks to her, ‘Tory’ is no longer a dirty word in Scotland: the party doubled its share of the vote to 28.6pc, and leapt from one seat to 13. It was their best result since 1983.
Nicola Sturgeon has been put on notice: up your game or at the next Holyrood elections in 2021, you could be out on your ear
Aged just 38, and arguably the most successful and popular Conservative in Britain, Miss Davidson looks to have a very big future ahead of her. In a party desperately short of star power, she glitters all the more brightly.
The result means Scottish politics has changed utterly. The message has been sent loud and clear that a second independence referendum is not wanted, and that the SNP’s failure to get to grips with declining school performance and poor public services will not do.
Nicola Sturgeon has been put on notice: up your game or at the next Holyrood elections in 2021, you could be out on your ear.
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There was no mercy shown on a night when reputation counted for nothing. Salmond lost to Tory Colin Clark, who in his victory speech declared ‘the silent majority have spoken — we’re proud to be part of the United Kingdom’.
And that wasn’t just hyperbole. In 2015, the share of the vote won by pro-UK parties in Scotland was 48.7pc. On Thursday, it was more than 61pc.
A bigger blow to the Nationalists came when Angus Robertson, their impressive leader at Westminster, was turfed out of his Moray seat.
Across the North, the central belt and the Borders, large, often five-digit majorities won just two years ago were swept away in the electoral whirlwind.
Salmond lost to Tory Colin Clark, who in his victory speech declared ‘the silent majority have spoken — we’re proud to be part of the United Kingdom’
Those separatists who survived often did so by the skin of their teeth: Stephen Gethins held on to North East Fife by just two votes over the Lib Dems after three recounts. In Perth, Pete Wishart won by 21 votes.
If this isn’t quite the end of the SNP — they retained 35 of their 56 seats — it is undoubtedly the beginning of the end.
After a decade in power in Edinburgh, and the spell of prolonged mass popularity that followed 2014’s independence referendum, the Nats are on the wane.
It is the age-old problem of what happens when a passionate political movement actually wins power — and is exposed as being ill-equipped to run a whelk stall.
Reports have shown that literacy and numeracy levels are falling among Scottish children, despite Miss Sturgeon’s promise to make education reform the centrepiece of her administration.
In the end, her measures have been timid and unconvincing, largely because she is wary of alienating Left-wing teaching unions and public-sector workers who she hopes will support the break-up of Britain in a second referendum. The ultimate goal of independence has consistently acted as a block on the hard, thankless business of effective government. Finally, the Scots have woken up to this.
Yet the First Minister is no fool. In an unusually muted speech at her official Bute House residence in Edinburgh yesterday, she hinted that a second referendum will now be put on the backburner.
‘Undoubtedly, the issue of an independence referendum was a factor in this election result,’ she said. ‘I’m going to reflect carefully on the result and going to take some time to do that.’
She recognised ‘a desire to bring people together and find a way forward that was rooted in consensus. I recognise my responsibilities as First Minister to play my part in that, and for that to be very much in the forefront of my mind.’
As welcome as this would be if it were genuinely her choice, in truth Miss Sturgeon has little option.
Ruth Davidson’s success is in large part down to positioning her party as doughty defenders of the Union, while Labour and the Lib Dems have wobbled on the issue.
Ruth Davidson’s success is in large part down to positioning her party as doughty defenders of the Union, while Labour and the Lib Dems have wobbled on the issue
She has repeatedly criticised Sturgeon for allowing her constitutional obsession to get in the way of the day job. Voters are clearly finding these arguments compelling, and it appears they could be losing faith in the SNP.
If the Nats’ fall from grace continues at such a brisk pace, there is an outside possibility that Miss Davidson’s momentum could carry her all the way to Bute House in four years time.
It will also worry the SNP that Scottish Labour is showing signs of life: after years in the doldrums, the party that gave Britain major figures such as Gordon Brown and John Smith has begun competing for left-of-centre votes again.
Having lost all of its Westminster seats but one in 2015, it secured seven in Thursday’s poll, giving a much-needed fillip to Kezia Dugdale, its leader at Holyrood.
The Lib Dems, who had also been cut to a single seat last time around, increased their haul to four.
Until now, to borrow Ken Clarke’s phrase about Theresa May, Miss Sturgeon has played the role of ‘bloody difficult woman’ in her relationship with the PM.
She has demanded a special Brexit deal for Scotland that would allow continued access to the single market, and threatened a new independence referendum if her demands are not met.
Now, I suspect, Mrs May will find that Ruth Davidson can also be bloody difficult. The Scottish Tory leader does not share the Prime Minister’s hardline take on leaving the EU, her desire to heavily restrict immigration, or her attachment to grammar schools.
And the moral authority and political muscle now wielded by Davidson will make it hard for Mrs May to wave away her concerns: remember, without the 13 seats secured in Scotland, the Prime Minister would not be back in Downing Street today.
One question will linger: just how far can Davidson go? It’s not hard to think of this gifted Scot one day walking over the threshold of No 10 and calling it home.
Is this the end for Nicola Sturgeon? SNP leader could be AXED following staggering losses to Tories led by Ruth Davidson as she admits calls for Indyref2 cost her seats
Amie Gordon, Richard Spillett and Scott Campbell for MailOnline
Nicola Sturgeon could face the sack after admitting her dogged pursuit of a second independence referendum cost the SNP seats.
The First Minister’s party lost a staggering 21 MPs north of the border – down to 35 from 56 in 2015 – after Ruth Davidson’s pro-Union Tories made huge gains.
Nicola Sturgeon (pictured today) refused to resign after the SNP took a battering in Scotland and admitted her dogged pursuit of a second independence referendum had cost seats
An SNP source told MailOnline there would be ‘questions’ over Ms Sturgeon’s leadership.
Her deputy John Swinney has also conceded they may have to look again at demanding Indyref2 after losing so many seats.
Speaking today Ms Sturgeon said SNP plans for another independence referendum were ‘undoubtedly’ a factor in the election result – but refused to admit it was ‘dead’.
She said: ‘It is an inescapable fact we suffered bitterly disappointing losses last night. The independence referendum was undoubtedly an issue in this election but it was not the only issue’.
When asked if she’ll now dump Indyref2 she suggested it could be postponed – not scrapped – and said: ‘I’m going to pause and reflect carefully on the result and move forward in the best interests of all of Scotland’.
She added said her party had ‘clearly won the election in Scotland’ and secured more seats than the other parties combined with a second vote at the heart of their manifesto.
SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson and former first minister Alex Salmond were both dumped out of office by the Conservatives yesterday.
The Tories’ seats are up from one to 13 and Ms Davidson is now being urged to take a ‘leading role’ in London – and is among the favourites to replace Theresa May after her election nightmare.
Labour won seven seats in Scotland – up from the one they had left following their 2015 election wipeout.
Scottish Conservative leader Davidson said plans for a second independence referendum were now ‘dead’ and Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the issue must ‘disappear’.
Nicola Sturgeon is facing massive backlash against her renewed bid to break up Britain.
The loss of 21 seats is the worst electoral reversal suffered by an SNP leader in nearly 40 years.
Ms Sturgeon explained it by saying: ‘I strongly suspect there were independence supporters amongst those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn yesterday,’ she said, stressing that ‘rushing to overly-simplistic judgments’ about the election was ‘not the right thing to do’.
Deputy first minister John Swinney said earlier: ‘Clearly the focus on the message of saying no to a second independence referendum gained very significant traction.
‘We saw that and we felt that.’
Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson were among the SNP big hitters to lose their seat
Ms Sturgeon also slammed Theresa May for calling election and said she must now abandon her ‘reckless’ plans for Hard Brexit and ‘keep the UK in the single market’.
Sturgeon also said the prime minister had ‘lost all authority and credibility,’ and should resign.
Ruth Davidson is being talked about as a possible replacement.
Lord Ashcroft, a former deputy chairman of the Conservatives, said: ‘Increasing calls even at this stage for Ruth Davidson taking a leading role in the national Conservative Party and rightly so.’
It is now highly unlikely that the nationalists will be able to hold a second referendum with just 35 seats.
Before the polls opened, Ms Davidson warned of the dangers of further ‘constitutional wrangling’
She said: ‘Every seat the SNP takes, will on Friday be hailed as a ringing endorsement of independence.
‘As ever, she will try claim that Scotland has spoken with one voice. Her voice.
‘I want that claim to ring hollow. I want to silence it once and for all.’
Before yesterday’s election, the SNP was in control of all of Scotland apart from a few seats – the picture has changed completely today
Ms Sturgeon insisted her party had won the election in Scotland – returning more MPs than its rivals combined.
The SNP leader added: ‘It is an inescapable fact that we also suffered some bitterly disappointing losses last night.’
She paid tribute to Mr Robertson, who had been MP for Moray since 2001, describing him as a ‘politician and parliamentarian of immense stature, who week after week held the Prime Minister to account, providing the scrutiny that the official opposition in the House of Commons failed to do’.
Ms Sturgeon continued: ‘I want to also make particular mention of Alex Salmond, my friend and mentor for almost 30 years, and without a shadow of a doubt the giant of modern Scottish politics – someone who has devoted his life to serving this country.’
The 2015 result, in which the SNP won all but three of the seats in Scotland, was an ‘exceptional, perhaps once in a century’ achievement, she said.
‘Traditionally in Westminster elections, the SNP is squeezed by the main UK parties.
‘Indeed in this campaign we have seen the return of a dominant two-party system in England.
‘This makes the SNP’s achievement of winning a clear majority of seats in Scotland all the more remarkable.
‘However, as we do after all elections, we will reflect on these results, we will listen to voters and we will consider very carefully the best way forward for Scotland, a way forward that is in the interests of all of Scotland.’
The Conservatives won former First Minister Alex Salmond’s seat of Gordon in Aberdeenshire
With the Tories having lost their majority, she said the SNP would ‘work with others, if it is at all possible, to keep the Tories out of government’.
Ms Sturgeon stated: ‘We’ve always said that we would work in alliance with others to promote progressive policies to build a fairer country.
‘We stand ready to play our part in that alliance.’
She criticised Theresa May, who called a snap election in a bid to boost her party’s slender majority at Westminster – a gamble which spectacularly backfired on the Conservative leader.
The Prime Minister had now ‘lost all authority and credibility’, Ms Sturgeon said.
She added: ‘The damage the Tories have done to the stability and the reputation of the UK cannot be overstated.
‘In less than a year they have caused chaos on an industrial scale.
Angus Robertson was ousted from Parliament by Conservative Douglas Ross and Salmond lost his seat of Gordon in Aberdeenshire to Tory Colin Clark.
Other prominent nationalists who lost their seats include Mike Weir who was defeated by Tory Kirstene Hair, and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik who lost the Ochil and South Perthshire seat to Tory Luke Graham.
The success of Ms Davidson’s Tories in Scotland is in stark contrast to the situation south of the border, where Theresa May has lost seats and is struggling to maintain her authority.
Ms Davidson said her party had enjoyed an ‘historic night’. She told BBC Scotland: ‘Indyref2 is dead, that’s what we have seen tonight.’
Sturgeon refused to accept criticism over her party’s losses, insisting it was Theresa May who took the biggest hit.
She told BBC Scotland: ‘She [Mrs May] called an election clearly very arrogantly thinking she was going to crush the opposition, sweep everybody aside and cruise to a landslide majority.’
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘I’ve always said the SNP would want to be part of a progressive alternative to a Tory government.
There was a wave of victories including a win for Douglas Ross (left) in Moray where he swept aside SNP depute leader Angus Robertson (right)
‘I’m disappointed at the SNP losses but I’m pleased that we’ve won the election.
After losing his seat, Mr Salmond said: ‘The SNP has lost a number of fine parliamentarians this evening, that is a grievous blow for us.
‘But overall results show the SNP will win a majority of the seats in this country and a majority of the votes.’
The former nationalist leader, who was first elected as an MP 30 years ago in 1987, was defeated by Tory Colin Clark.
Mr Salmond vowed: ‘You’ve not seen the last of my bonnet and me,’ quoting a Jacobite song.
The SNP lost the first seat of the night north of the border to Labour, with Gerard Killen winning Rutherglen and Hamilton West with 19,101 votes, beating Margaret Ferrier who polled 18,836 votes.
Labour also won Glasgow North East from the nationalists, ousting Anne McLaughlin, and defeated the SNP in Midlothian and East Lothian.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told BBC Scotland, ‘the reality is the SNP vote is crumbling in their urban heartlands’.
She added: ‘I’ve got a few fantastic new generation of Labour MPs going down to the House of Commons next week.’
The success of Ms Davidson’s Tories in Scotland is in stark contrast to the situation south of the border, where Theresa May (pictured today) has lost seats and is struggling to maintain her authority
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson was ousted from Parliament by Tory and football referee, Douglas Ross. The Conservative secured 22,637 votes, defeating Mr Robertson, who was the SNP’s Westminster leader, on 18,478.
Pete Wishart, who was the chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee in the last parliament, held on to his Perth and North Perthshire seat by just 21 votes, with Tory MEP Ian Duncan coming close to ousting him.
Elsewhere, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Renfrewshire East, Stirling and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk also turned from yellow to blue.
In East Dunbartonshire, Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson regained the seat from the SNP’s John Nicolson.
Ms Swinson had held the seat for a decade before being ousted by Mr Nicolson in 2015.
And the SNP also lost out in East Renfrewshire, this time to the Tories.
Paul Masterton took the constituency – which 20 years ago had been the safest Tory seat in Scotland – from the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald.
The results came after an exit poll suggested the SNP could lose 22 seats across Scotland.
Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell told BBC Scotland: ‘It’s becoming increasingly clear the SNP bubble has burst.’
But in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, the SNP’s Mhairi Black was re-elected with 16,964 votes – although the party’s support in the seat fell by 10 per cent.
Ms Black became the youngest MP when she won the seat in 2015 at the age of 20, ousting then Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.
Gavin Newlands has held the neighbouring Paisley and Renfrewshire North seat for the SNP.
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser saidit was an ‘astonishing decline’.
The Scottish Tories enjoyed their best result in 25 years following a remarkable resurgence thanks to their staunch opposition to independence.
Under charismatic Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson the party has been enjoying a revival. Since 2001, the Tories have only held one seat in Scotland.
Any improvement at all would mark their best result since 1992 when it had 11 Scottish MPs. All were swept away in Labour’s 1997 landslide.
Conquering Tory hero Ruth Davidson issues thinly-veiled attack on DUP over stance on gay rights as it is revealed the party’s list of demands may include a soft Brexit
By Rory Tingle, Scott Campbell and Martin Robinson for MailOnline
Ruth Davidson has aimed a sideswipe at the Democratic Unionist Party over its opposition to gay marriage.
The Scottish Tory leader tweeted a link to a speech on gay pride she delivered in Belfast in a coded warning to Theresa May not to let the DUP, which is set to go into coalition with the Conservatives, push her to the right on social matters.
The Northern Irish party, which has 10 MPs, follows a stridently conservative social agenda that includes opposition to abortion and support for the death penalty.
Ruth Davidson has aimed a sideswipe at the Democratic Unionist Party over its opposition to gay marriage
The Scottish Tory leader tweeted a link to a speech on gay pride she delivered in Belfast in a coded warning to Theresa May not to let the DUP push her to the right on social matters
It has also been criticised by green activists for appointing climate change skeptic, Sammy Wilson, as Northern Ireland’s environment minister.
Ruth Davidson tweeted: ‘As a Protestant Unionist about to marry an Irish Catholic, here’s the Amnesty Pride lecture I gave in Belfast..’
During the speech, Ms Davidson said: ‘I am practicing Christian. I am a Protestant. I am a Unionist. I am Scottish and British.
DUP’s leader was blown up and her father shot in the head by IRA
More than 3,600 died in the Troubles as Catholic Irish militants seeking to unite the province with the Republic of Ireland faced off against the British Army and Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries, who wanted it to remain British.
Arlene Foster has been feted as a member of a new generation of politicians who came to prominence after the peace.
But even if she is two decades younger than outgoing leader Peter Robinson, a sidekick of firebrand party founder Ian Paisley, the conflict left deep scars.
Foster’s father, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Police Reserve, was shot in the head by the IRA on the family farm when she was eight. She watched him come ‘crawling into the house, blood streaming down his face,’ she told the Sunday Tribune newspaper.
He recovered and continued to serve in the police, but the family was forced to move.
When she was 17 she survived an IRA bomb on her school bus which was being driven by a part-time soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment, badly injuring the girl sitting next to her.
‘I am engaged to a Catholic Irishwoman from county Wexford who was educated by nuns. For me, equal marriage isn’t about one religion or county or community.’
The DUP supported leaving the EU, but is expected to push for a softer Brexit excluding a hard border with the Irish Republic and any new customs operations.
One red line is the idea of Northern Ireland being granted some sort of ‘special status’ when Brexit comes to pass.
The DUP will not stand for any arrangement that physically sets the region apart from anywhere else in the UK.
That includes suggestions that border, immigration and customs controls could be set up at ports and airports like Stranraer and Liverpool rather than in Belfast or Larne.
Another big price to pay for the party’s support in Westminster could be the reinstatement of any EU subsidies that farmers lose when Brexit is a done deal worth about £350million a year.
Another set of funds doled out by Brussels could also be on Ms Foster’s shopping list – about £400m of payments due over the next four years that go to community development and cross-border projects as part of a dividend for the peace process.
While the DUP, with its strong links to the business community in Northern Ireland, does not want to see the region set apart from the rest of Britain but it may also use its strong hand to push for a reduced corporation tax rate.
The Republic’s 12.5 per cent rate has been a bone of contention at times, including with suggestions from some quarters that Dublin poached foreign investors considering locations north of the border.
The DUP manifesto also vows to oppose Tory plans to cut pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel allowance, for example.
With the DUP’s newfound position as power brokers, its website crashed from the the surge in internet traffic.
Mrs Foster has hailed her party’s influence that they will gain in their role as kingmakers.
Theresa May is pictured leaving Downing Street with her husband Philip to go to Buckingham Palace earlier today following the snap election result
But she warned that it would be ‘difficult’ for Mrs May to cling on after her humiliating defeat.
Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, she remained tight-lipped about the prospects of the DUP supporting the Conservatives, but suggested Mrs May could have to go.
She said: ‘Of course it’s too soon to say what we’re going to do yet. We need to see the final make-up of Parliament and then we’ll reflect on that.
‘I certainly think that there will be contact made over the weekend but I think it is too soon to talk about what we’re going to do. I think we need to wait and see.’
Arlene Foster will not want to see any physical manifestation of the divide between the EU and the UK
Asked directly if she thought Mrs May would survive, she said: ‘I don’t know. I see that she’s on her way back to London.
‘I think that it will be difficult for her to survive, given that she was presumed at the start of the campaign – which seems an awfully long time ago now – to come back with over 100, maybe more, in terms of her majority.
‘And now we’re in the position we find ourselves in tonight, so it will be an incredibly difficult evening for her.’
DUP mocked for poster offering MP that ‘doesn’t answer to Tories’… but it’s not quite what it seems
A DUP election poster that offers an MP who ‘answers to us – not the Tories’ has gone viral online.
Many social media users mocked the party for the claim given they are expected to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives after Theresa May’s party failed to secure a majority in this year’s general election.
However, the poll date – May 6th – shows the poster was actually from the 2010 election for seats at Westminster, when the DUP leader was Peter Robinson, not Arlene Foster.
Social media users mocked the DUP for their alleged ‘hypocrisy’ after this poster circulated on the Internet, but it is actually from the 2010 general election