SNP landslide puts break-up of Britain on political agenda

A triumphant Alex Salmond swept back to power in Scotland in such emphatic style that he put the break-up of Britain firmly on the political agenda for the first time in 300 years.

The Scottish First Minister led the Scottish Nationalists to the best result in their history, securing 69 of the Scottish Parliament's 129 seats – the first majority for any party since devolution in 1999.

Claiming his party's victory as "historic", Mr Salmond immediately declared his intention to bring forward a referendum on Scottish independence. His new majority at Holyrood gives him the votes to get a referendum Bill through the Scottish Parliament, meaning Scots will be asked if they want to secede from the United Kingdom at some time in the next five years.

The Nationalist success came at the expense of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party, which has treated Scotland as its most trustworthy fiefdom for much of the past century, suffered its worst result north of the border for more than 80 years as the SNP took seat after seat in the Labour heartlands of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.

But the SNP victory was fuelled mainly by the extraordinary collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote. The Liberal Democrats went into the election with 16 seats at Holyrood. They finished with only five and without a single constituency MSP on the mainland of Scotland.

The Tories, already down to their core supporters, saw their share of the vote dip but held their ground in the face of the SNP surge, starting with 17 seats and ending up with 15. In many areas, the Labour vote held up well, but with Liberal Democrat supporters switching to the SNP, Labour was swept aside.

The result was devastating for both the Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, who immediately announced he would resign in the autumn, and Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.

Mr Salmond declared: "Before the SNP was formed, one of our forebears was the National Party of Scotland. I think, 70 or more years later, the SNP can finally claim we have lived up to that accolade as the national party of Scotland."

Mr Salmond claimed the SNP had restored the trust of Scottish people in a way no party had ever done in Scotland. "We must trust the people," he said. "That is why in this term of parliament, we will bring forward a referendum and trust the people with Scotland's own constitutional future."

David Cameron congratulated Mr Salmond on his victory but stressed he would campaign hard against Scottish independence: "I will campaign to keep the United Kingdom together with every fibre that I have."

Mr Gray, who led Labour to its worst Scottish electoral performance in living memory, announced he would step down. "The Labour Party was very much second best," he said. "We could have done better. I do accept responsibility."

With only 37 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament – down from 46 in the last parliament – Labour needs someone to turn the party around. Many of the potential candidates who might have stepped up to replace Mr Gray have now lost their seats to the SNP.

A similar rebuilding job awaits the Scottish Liberal Democrats who were punished by Scottish voters for their role in the Government at Westminster.

The Nationalists ran a clever campaign focused largely on the personality and stature of Mr Salmond. Now he has a majority, Mr Salmond will be able to drive through a host of policies he was prevented from implementing in the last session, including minimum pricing for alcohol and his flagship plan to offer Scots the chance to leave the UK.

Timetable For Independence

*The SNP has already published a draft Bill for an independence referendum. Now Alex Salmond has the votes required to pass it in the Scottish Parliament. He will republish the draft Bill in the next year or so, and spend three years raising the profile of the issue. After the Bill passes, there will be a referendum. If Scots vote in favour, the Scottish Government would then open negotiations with the UK Government. It is unlikely that any UK government would stand in the way.

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice