The Scottish National Party overwhelmingly won in Thursday’s elections, claiming 56 of Scotland’s 59 parliamentary seats.
The U.K. Independence Party was defeated, emerging with just one seat. Before the election, the SNP held only six seats in Parliament’s House of Commons. (RELATED: Conservative Britain Crushed The Competition In The UK Election)
The SNP, which advocates Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, managed to win over voters in every district of a country traditionally tied to the Labour Party. Though it failed to win a Scottish secession referendum last year, the SNP reaped the advantages of a fresh and vigorous campaign organization.
It also won headlines and a historical footnote by electing Mhairi Black, a 20-year-old university student who will become the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667. She claimed the seat that Douglas Alexander, Labour’s top foreign policy official, failed to defend. Alexander is one of many leading Labour politicians unseated Thursday, along with its financial-policy chief and Twitter meme Ed Balls.
Meanwhile, UKIP lost one of its two seats in Parliament, despite winning the third-largest single share of the popular vote and a significant boost over its votes in 2010’s election. UKIP’s head, the charismatic but controversial Nigel Farage, failed to win the election for his own seat and announced his resignation from politics — at least, as some speculate, for the summer.
The British electoral system, in which voters only choose among their local candidates for parliament, means millions of votes could go unrewarded in the final count. UKIP won nearly four million votes, compared to the SNP’s 1.45 million. Because of the SNP’s local dominance in Scotland, it receives the advantage of 56 Parliamentary seats compared to UKIP’s single-seat embarrassment.
UKIP is known for its outspoken opposition to immigration and British membership in the E.U. Despite its existence on the margins of the parliamentary system, its stances have altered the tenor of the public debate. Labour’s Ed Miliband unsuccessfully attempted to pull votes from UKIP by hardening his stance on immigration — a move that instead seems only to have exacerbated Scottish votes for the more left-wing SNP. The Conservatives will likely continue courting UKIP voters by holding a hard line on the issue. (RELATED: UK Conservatives’ Hindi Election Song Is Catchy AND Awkward [VIDEO])
In the election’s final irony, several other marginal parties won far more seats in Parliament than UKIP, despite smaller popular votes: Northern Ireland’s pro-British Democratic Unionist Party won 8 seats with only 184,260 votes, and Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru held on to 3 with just 181,694.
And Northern Ireland’s separatist party Sinn Féin held on to 4 seats — even though it got just 176,232 votes, and even though its principles mean that duly elected candidates will all boycott actually serving in the British House of Commons.
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