One night that can change -again- the relations between Scotland and the UK. Scottish pro-independence SNP won 56 out of Scotland's 59 seats in yesterday's UK parliamentary election. The SNP had never achieved such a figure: its record high stood at 11 seats, and in the 2010 election, it had managed to capture 6 seats. No one has today any doubts that this impressive result will result in enlarged autonomy for Scotland. And who knows if it could also open the door to a second referendum on independence.
Election winner -his Conservative Party is set to have an absolute majority, with more than 325 seats- and UK Prime Minister David Cameron was yesterday quick to remind that his party will devolve more powers to Scotland "as fast as we can." The Conservative Party manifesto vows to introduce a Scotland Bill in the first session of the new Parliament. The program also plans to devolve to Scotland "significant new welfare powers," and to "provide the Scottish Parliament with one of the most extensive packages of tax and spending powers of any devolved legislature in the world."
Nicola Sturgeon recalled what her party's expectations are from now onwards: "Whatever the government is that emerges at Westminster, they cannot ignore what has happened in Scotland." What has happened is the SNP has taken some 50% of the Scottish votes. Thanks to the UK's electoral system, the pro-independence party has virtually won all the seats there. Only three constituencies escape from SNP dominance: one in Edinburgh (Labour), another one in the south (Conservatives), and the Orkney and Shetland (Liberal Democrats).
This is a devastating defeat for Labour. The party has lost 18 percentage points and 40 seats if compared to 2010. Also the Libdems suffered a dreadful night, as they lost all the seats in their traditional Highlands stronghold, which is now the domain of the SNP. One of those seats has swung from the Liberal Democrats to SNP's former First Minister Alex Salmond. According to him, yesterday's result is "an extraordinary statement of intent of the people of Scotland."
This Scotland's "intent" could well include a re-run of the independence vote, above all if the SNP believes Cameron's Scotland Bill is not a really extensive one that brings significant new powers. Two key dates are on the horizon: in May 2016, a Scottish Parliament election will be held. Opinion polls predict the pro-independence party to even get a larger victory than in 2012, when they secured an absolute majority. Sturgeon's party could be running the election with the promise to hold a second referendum on independence. This promise might be linked to the second key date: before the end of 2017, Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU or not. A result against EU membership in England combined with a vote in favour of EU in Scotland could mark a point of no return in the relations between both nations.
(Image: Sturgeon and Salmond during the campaign / photo: SNP)