Scottish Political Map Redrawn After Labour Routs SNP

(Bloomberg) -- Scotland faces a significant political reset after the Labour Party pummeled the Scottish National Party in UK-wide elections, dealing a thumping setback to its already-fading hopes of forcing another independence referendum.

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As Labour swept to emphatic victories north and south of the border, and routed the ruling Conservatives, the SNP wilted to its worst performance in more than a decade. It won just nine of Scotland’s 57 districts, with one result in the Highlands delayed because of a recount.

With the SNP now only the fourth-largest party in Westminster, the result muffles the pro-breakaway Scottish voice across the UK, and caps a torrid couple of years for the party.

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The party’s leadership has been in turmoil, police have been investigating its finances and its running of the Scottish government has come under increasing criticism. But SNP leaders past and present preached a message of contrition and defiance.

First Minister John Swinney, appointed to the job in May to calm the turmoil in the party, said it was a “tough night.” Nicola Sturgeon, one of his predecessors, maintained that the election in Scotland was all about ousting Rishi Sunak from Downing Street in London.

Swinney said the party had to listen and learn from the election. There will be a period of “soul searching” he said in Edinburgh.

The outcome all but kills off the party’s plan to press for another vote on independence, something both the Conservatives and Labour repeatedly rejected anyway. The SNP now has two years to regroup before it faces a Scottish Parliamentary election in 2026.

“On independence, the issue has not gone away, but we need to focus hard on making it relevant to people,” Sturgeon said.

For Keir Starmer’s Labour, the election represents a major revival. The party reclaimed many of the seats across Scotland’s central belt — running from Glasgow in the west to Edinburgh in the east — that were once seen as Labour strongholds before they switched to the SNP following the 2014 independence referendum.

Labour took 37 districts, close to where the party was a decade ago, while the Liberal Democrats increased their count by three.

“This result clearly shows that it’s about time the SNP listened to the people of Scotland,” said Ian Murray, who was Labour’s sole MP in Scotland at the last election. “But this result isn’t about the SNP, it’s about the people of Scotland voting for change.”

It’s a far cry from 2015 when the SNP won 56 of Scotland’s then 59 Westminster seats, in the wake of a referendum on leaving the UK months earlier.

While backing for independence has remained largely unchanged — Scots are still roughly split down the middle — the SNP has seen its support slump and a governing partnership with the Scottish Greens collapse. The latter led to the resignation of Sturgeon’s successor, Humza Yousaf, earlier this year.

On top of that, a police investigation into SNP finances led to the arrest of senior party members, including Sturgeon. Her husband has been charged with embezzlement.

“It would be wrong to assume the SNP is dead and buried,” Sturgeon said.

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