General election 2019 results: Derek Mackay says independence referendum mandate 'reinforced' if SNP seize 55 seats
Finance secretary Derek Mackay has said the SNP's mandate for a second referendum will have been "reinforced" if the SNP takes 55 seats in Scotland in line with exit poll predictions.
The result would be just one short of the party's remarkable haul of 56 seats in 2015, after a campaign over the past month which was dominated by the SNP's demand for a second referendum on independence next year.
Mr Mackay told STV the poll looks "too good to be true".
"I think what's clear from these numbers, even if you look into the detail - it is divergence, we are diverging from the rest of the UK," he said.
"If the rest of the UK has voted Tory we won't be getting Brexit done, it will just be the next stage of this whole sorry saga.
"But I think it will reinforce the SNP's mandate and that would be phenomenally good result if that turns out to be accurate. If this is is any way accurate then this is a fantastic result for the Scottish National Party."
It would also be an increase of 20 on the 35 MPs that Ms Sturgeon's party returned in 2017.
He added: "Of course the SNP has reinforced our mandate and had a spectacular result if these figures are true."
First Minister Nicola Stugeon said while the exit poll "suggests a good night" for the SNP, she added that "what it indicates UK wide though is grim".
Polling expert Sir John Curtice warned: "The SNP figure in Scotland is the bit about the exit poll that we are frankly less confident about."
Scotland's justice secretary urged SNP supporters to "keep the heid" after the exit poll was announced.
Humza Yousaf said: "I would be saying to people to keep the heid, a good Scottish phrase.
"It points to a very good night for the SNP and it points to the SNP winning another election, which just strengthens our mandate for another referendum.
"But it's very disheartening to see a potential Conservative majority."
Mr Yousaf said he wanted to see a Section 30 order request sent "as soon as possible" to Westminster, adding: "It's not for any Westminster government or any Tory prime minister to deny Scotland or to choose when Scotland has that referendum."
Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the predicted Tory majority of 86 would be the party's best result since 1987.
"This would be giving a Conservative Government for the UK with a working majority, a very substantial working majority able to carry forward its agenda for the next five years and able to get Brexit done," he said.
But Mr Fraser played down suggestions that the result in Scotland gave the SNP a mandate for independence.
"What we saw in this election was SNP candidate after SNP candidate saying this was not about indyref2."
He added: "Richard Thomson in Gordon was very explicit, you can vote for the SNP and note for indyref2."