Election '97: Forsyth loses footing in Scots abyss

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Michael Forsyth last night became the first serving Secretary of State for Scotland to be ousted from Parliament since 1974 as the Tory Party faced wipe-out north of the border. In a devasting night for Scottish Tories, Ian Lang the President of the Board of Trade was also defeated at Galloway and Upper Nithdale with a 9.5 swing to the SNP.

Alistair Morgan, the new MP said "It is no longer matter of if Scotland will be independent, but when.'' The SNP just failed to take Glasgow Govan where Labour's Mohammed Sawar became Britain's first Muslim MP

The scalps of two other ministers, Raymond Robertson and George Kynoch quickly followed, falling to Labour. So too did Eastwood, the true blue suburb of Glasgow which was on paper the Tories' safest seat in Scotland. The SNP also took Tayside north from Bill Walker"

SNP Treasury spokesman John Swinney took the seat with a majority of 4,160 from Mr Walker, one of the most colourful figures in Scottish politics.

The likelihood was that the Tories would be without a seat north of the border by tonight

"There is something of a tidal wave sweeping across the Conservative Party in the country., said Mr Forsyth, "We could not resist that here in Stirling."

"It is a fact of politics that we live by the ballot box, we live by the sword and we die by the sword," said Mr Forsyth. First elected in 1983, Mr Forsyth - Baroness Thatcher's "Young Lochinvar" - had twice held Stirling against pundits' predictions but Labour's Anne McGuire always looked the favourite this time. She turned Mr Forsyth's notional majority of 236 into one of 6,411.

"It is an historic night," George Robertson, the man most likely to become Secretary of State for Scotland, declared as the way was opened for a Parliament in Edinburgh by the turn of the Millennium.

Mr Robertson looked forward to working in a Blair government for a devolved parliament, starting with a referendum in the Autumn. His Hamilton South constituency was the first to declare a result in Scotland - increasing his majority over the SNP by more than 3,000 to 15,878. In emotional tones, he made plain his desire to be Scottish Secretary but said he would be proud to serve in any position.

"I want to be part of a process that will produce a devolved Scottish Parliament, the first parliament for Scotland for 300 years. It is an historic mission," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Forsyth was sent a message of support yesterday by his patron and heroine Baroness Thatcher who flew to Stirling last week to lend her support.

Since becoming Secretary of State in July 1995, Mr Forsyth has tempered his right-wing instincts and pursued a populist agenda - donning the kilt and even using the Saltire for his campaign poster.