General election 2017: Sturgeon says Indyref2 ‘a factor’ in SNP losses

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon conceded that plans for a second referendum had affected her party’s performance

SNP plans for a second independence referendum were “undoubtedly” a factor in the general election result, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The first minister was speaking after her party lost 21 of the 56 seats it won in 2015 – including those of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson.

Despite the losses, the SNP remain the largest party in Scotland with 35 of the country’s 59 constituencies.

The Scottish Conservatives increased their number of MPs from one to 13.

However, across the UK the Tories are forecast to end up with 319 seats – 12 fewer seats than when Theresa May called the election.

Speaking from her official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh, the first minister said “Undoubtedly the issue of an independence referendum was a factor in this election result, but I think there were other factors in this election result as well.”

Brexit, a late surge in support for UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and tactical voting were some of the other factors Ms Sturgeon cited as having contributed to the outcome.

Her comments follow those of her deputy, John Swinney, who said the prospect of another vote on Scottish independence was a “significant motivator” in the election result.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that while a number of factors had been at play in the vote: “Clearly the focus on the message of saying no to a second independence referendum gained very significant traction.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Swinney said there were clearly issues the party had to address

“We saw that and we felt that.”

He added: “As the first minister has said in the early hours of this morning, we will take time and care to reflect on the outcome of this result, but we have to acknowledge that the question of a second independence referendum was a significant motivator of votes against the SNP in this election and we have to be attentive to that point.”

Ms Sturgeon admitted that her party had suffered “bitterly disappointing” losses, but accused the Conservatives of “causing chaos on an industrial scale”.

She said: “They are planning to cobble together an unstable administration causing yet more damaging uncertainty, all of this because they have consistently put the interests of the Tory party ahead of the interests of the country.”

Ms Sturgeon added that “the reckless Tory pursuit of a hard Brexit must be abandoned” and she appealed to MPs from all parties to join together to keep the UK and Scotland within the European single market.

The first minister accepted that Brexit and her party’s backing for a second Scottish independence referendum had had an impact on the SNP’s performance and said she would “reflect” on that and consider the way forward in the days to come.

The first minister also congratulated those who had been elected MPs and paid tribute to those that had lost their seats.

‘Remarkable recovery’

In particular, she said Angus Robertson had been a politician and parliamentarian of “immense stature” who had held Theresa May to account and provided “the scrutiny that the official opposition in the House of Commons failed to do”.

She described former leader Alex Salmond as “my friend and mentor for almost 30 years and without a shadow of a doubt the giant of modern Scottish politics”.

The Conservatives’ tally of 13 MPs gave the party its best result in Scotland since 1983.

Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson said they had enjoyed a “historic night” and claimed: “Indyref2 is dead.”

That sentiment was echoed by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who called the result the “final nail in the coffin” of plans for a second independence referendum.

She added: “This was a stunning general election result that proves Scottish Labour is back.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale celebrated her party’s improved performance with Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray

“Just two years after we were nearly wiped out in Scotland, we have staged a remarkable recovery and overturned some gigantic SNP majorities, and pushed the Nationalists incredibly close in many seats.

“I am incredibly proud of the campaign we ran in Scotland, which focused on our belief that together we’re stronger with Scotland as part of the UK, coupled with Jeremy Corbyn’s positive vision of a country for the many, not the few.”

Ms Dugdale said the prime minister’s decision to call a snap poll seven weeks ago had backfired.

“Theresa May has gambled and lost spectacularly and she should now resign as prime minister – and Ruth Davidson should tell her that”, said Ms Dugdale.

“As for the SNP, this was a catastrophic result and is the final nail in the coffin for Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a divisive second independence referendum.”

Tory Colin Clark, who defeated Mr Salmond in Gordon, said in his victory speech: “The silent majority have spoken. We’re proud to be part of the United Kingdom.”

Image copyright Luke Graham
Image caption Conservative Luke Graham took the Ochil and South Perthshire seat from the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Mr Salmond blamed a late surge in support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour for the SNP’s defeat in many seats.

Other high-profile losses for the SNP included John Nicolson, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Mike Weir while in North East Fife Stephen Gethins held on to win by just two votes.

Labour gained a number of seats back from the nationalists with the party making a return to winning ways in Scotland’s largest city as they took Glasgow North East from Anne McLaughlin.

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Ian Murray, who had been the only Labour MP in 2015, retained Edinburgh South with a massively increased majority as the party won a total of seven seats.

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