NICOLA Sturgeon has declared the General Election an “historic watershed” as the SNP secured an extraordinary victory while Labour suffered its worst result in Scotland.
While nationalists celebrated unprecedented gains right across the country, virtually sweeping the board by taking 56 of the 59 seats, Labour has been left with just one MP in all of Scotland - with both Scottish leader Jim Murphy and the party’s election campaign chief Douglas Alexander losing their seats.
In the 2010 general election no seats in Scotland changed hands, with Labour returning 41 MPs and the SNP winning only six.
But this time round all but nine of the seats had elected new MPs, with Ms Sturgeon saying: “The political firmament, the tectonic plates in Scottish politics have shifted.
“What we are seeing is a historic watershed.”
She added: “Whatever the government is that emerges at Westminster, they cannot ignore what has happened in Scotland.”
But with David Cameron apparently heading for a second term as Prime Minister, Ms Sturgeon’s hopes of forming a “progressive alliance” that would end austerity have been dashed.
It seems likely Ms Sturgeon will seek to use her party’s triumph to gain more powers for Holyrood.
However Mr Cameron has already made clear he is determined not to allow the rising tide of nationalism to lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, promising the speedy delivery of a package of further devolution that has already been agreed.
The Conservative leader said: ‘’I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised and came together with other parties to agree both for Wales and for Scotland.
‘’In short, I want my party, and I hope a government I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost - the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom. That is how I will govern if I am fortunate enough to form a government in the coming days.’’
Jim Murphy’s once safe majority was eliminated as Kirsten Oswald swept to victory with 23,564 votes to Labour’s 19,295.
Mr Murphy, who replaced Johann Lamont as Scottish Labour leader late last year, now plans to stand as First Minister in next year’s Holyrood election. Following the declaration in his constituency, he admitted that it had been a difficult night for the party.
“Tonight Scotland has lost so many great members of Parliament from all across the country and I would like pay tribute to each and every one of them,” he said.
“There will be more to say about this in the days to comer, but for me personally and the Scottish labour party the fight goes on and our cause continues.”
Mr Murphy gave no indication that he intended to stand down as leader of Scottish Labour, saying that the “the Labour fightback” begins today.
With some constituencies showing swings to the SNP of more than 30%, Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election campaign chief, was the first big scalp of the night for the nationalists.
Student Mhairi Black, 20, beat the former government minister in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, the seat he had held since 1997.
In Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, which had been the safest Labour seat in Scotland, the SNP easily overturned a majority of more than 23,000 to capture the constituency which had been held by former prime minister Gordon Brown, who did not stand again.
As an SNP landslide swept across the country, Labour candidate Kenny Selbie polled 17,654 votes, nearly 10,000 fewer than nationalist
Roger Mullin, who picked up 27,628 votes for the SNP.
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran lost her Glasgow East seat to the nationalists,
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy lost his seat of Ross, Skye and Lochaber to the SNP, leaving Parliament after 32 years.
Scottish Conservative David Mundell held on to his seat in Parliament, winning the constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale,
The Scotland Office minister saw off the SNP tsunami to win the seat with 20,759 votes and a slightly increased share of the ballot.
In the north east, Former SNP leader and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond won a comfortable victory in Gordon, taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats.
Arriving at the count, Mr Salmond said:
“The winds are blowing across Scotland and they’re blowing very strongly, believe me, in the north east of Scotland,” he told the BBC.
“There’s going to be a lion roaring tonight, a Scottish lion, and it’s going to roar with a voice that no government of whatever political complexion is going to be able to ignore. I think it’s going to be a resounding voice, a clear voice, a united voice from Scotland, and I think that is a very good thing.”