And what of the incumbents – the SNP in Scotland and the Conservatives around the UK? Well, the results so far tell a mixed picture. North of the border, the SNP will form another Government but do not take an overall majority, running short by just a handful of seats. Though Sturgeon is claiming a “historic” third victory for the Party, the failure to secure an all out win is a shock and may mark a decisive moment of normalisation for the SNP.
The party will have no real difficulty in Parliament however, with the close support of the Greens, Sturgeon won’t feel the challenges of running a minority government. She could, in theory, even still win a vote in Parliament for a second independence referendum as the Greens would back it, but whether she could credibly claim she has a mandate for that is another matter. And of course, she needs the support of Westminster.
The SNP lost votes in this election from areas that voted ‘No’ in last year’s independence vote. To secure a referendum from Whitehall, Sturgeon needs “clear and sustained evidence” that a majority of Scots back independence in order to secure another referendum, and many argue that support for the SNP and support for independence are intrinsically linked. Sturgeon has a delicate balancing act to perform over the next four years.
The other big story of the night, and possibly biggest surprise, is the Conservative Party’s performance in Scotland. That they have taken second place behind the SNP marks a transformative moment in Scottish politics. The Party saw huge swings in their favour and in many seats have doubled their vote share, largely at the expense of Labour.
Elsewhere in the country, the Conservatives have picked up a handful of seats, which can be considered an achievement for a ruling party at this stage in the electoral cycle. Ultimately though, the overall results in England show little enthusiasm for the Conservative government. A reality that could well go unnoticed thanks to their extraordinary result in Scotland.