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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK

Scots parties reflect on historic election

The Labour Party in Scotland is ready to begin its second term in office after maintaining its dominant position at Westminster.

Its convincing election victory left the Tories reeling and the Scottish National Party trying to put a brave face on its results.

The Liberal Democrats held onto the 10 Scottish seats won at the 1997 election with an increased share of the vote.

Within hours of William Hague declaring his intention of standing down as Tory leader, his Scottish counterpart Raymond Robertson announced he was following suit.

How the vote breaks down

  • Labour took 56 seats with 43.9% of the vote, which was down 1.7% on 1997
  • The SNP won five seats, down one on 1997. They took 20.1% which is 2%
  • The Lib Dems maintained their 10 seats, but increased their share of the vote by 3.4% to 16.4%
  • The Tories gained one seat, but saw their share of the vote fall by 1.9% to 15.6%
  • The other parties did not win any seats, but their share of the vote increased by 2.2% to 4%
    Mr Robertson, who has been in post since 1997, denied the party's performance - they failed to capture to their key target seats - was the sole he was stepping down, saying he would have gone anyway.

    The former history teacher said: "I was very proud to be William Hague's chairman.

    "He became leader at a time when people said that perhaps Conservatives had no future in Scotland - how wrong was that?

    "We need to appoint a new chairman and I look forward to handing over my strong party to my successor when they are appointed."

    And Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Scots Tory president, who failed to regain Edinburgh Pentlands, dismissed talk of a breakaway Scottish Tory party as "complete nonsense".

    However, there was some consolation as the party ousted the SNP in the Galloway and Upper Nithsdale seat to give them their first Scottish MP in four years.

    But that win could not detract from the fact that the Tories share of the Scottish vote plunged even lower than the 1997 wipe-out levels.

    Similarly it was not a good night for the SNP, although party leader John Swinney tried to talk the performance up.

    As well as losing Galloway, the SNP failed to take any of its target seats - including Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, and saw its Scottish share of the vote decline.

    With all 72 Scottish results declared, Labour had an unchanged tally of 56 seats and 43% of the vote, down 2.28% on 1997.

    The SNP ended one seat down at five seats and 20% of the vote, down 2%.

    The Tories ran the SNP a close second in Perth but ended the night with 15.6% of the vote, just under 2% down on 1997.

    The Lib Dem tally of Scottish was unchanged at 10, but their share of the vote went up by 2% to 20%.

    But all parties were worried about voter apathy, after a contest in which only 58% of Scots turned out to vote.

    An otherwise-euphoric Scottish Secretary, Helen Liddell, admitted at Labour's victory media conference in Glasgow: "I think the aggression and the rammies that have emerged as part of the political process, as of the entertainment culture of politics, puts people off.

    "People want rational argument, they want to hear party programmes explained and explored."

    She said: "There is a lesson in this for the politicians and for all of us who respect democracy.

    "It is not there as a football to be kicked around for entertainment. It is about building a better society, particularly for the most vulnerable."

    The Lib Dems are the only party to increase their share of the vote, and they attribute this to the campaigning by Charles Kennedy and their performance in government at Holyrood.

    Scottish party leader Jim Wallace said his party had run a positive campaign which had struck a chord with voters and he contrasted the party's fortunes with the Tories and the SNP.

    He said: "It is quite remarkable we have actually now overtaken the Conservative Party in Scotland in terms of the popular vote as well as in terms of seats as yet again we return to Westminster with the second largest number of Westminster seats.

    "The SNP lost a quarter of the vote that it got in the 1997 general election. They had 600,000 in 1997 and they went down to 450,000 yesterday.

    "They have shed a quarter of the votes, and they may argue it was a lower turnout, but on a lower turnout the Scottish Liberal Democrats actually increased our numerical vote as well as our percentage vote."

    The SNP is trying to put a brave face on a disappointing night.

    It is the worst result since 1987 for the nationalists - losing one seat and going within 48 votes of losing another.

    But although the Lib Dems have twice as many seats, John Swinney insists the SNP is Scotland's second party: "The SNP has established itself as the second party in the popular vote in Scotland and the party to challenge for political leadership in Scotland.

    "We have earned in a very tough election the status of the second party in Scottish politics and we are ideally placed to challenge for first."

    He added: "As to the future of the SNP, the task is very clear. We must focus all our energies and ensure we win the arguments and the popular vote in the 2003 Holyrood elections."

    The Scottish Socialist party failed to gain its target of 100,000 votes, but still claimed to be well on the way to establishing itself as the fifth force in Scottish politics.

    The party's Tommy Sheridan said: "We have not realised the 100,000 target, which we knew was ambitious, but what we didn't foresee was the huge drop in turnout which is a badge of shame for the four big business parties.

    "They have had wall-to-wall, cover-to-cover TV and newspaper coverage, and yet they have failed to inspire the electorate of Glasgow and Scotland.

    "Despite the political censorship of our campaign by the broadcast media and the daily broadsheets, we have secured a magnificent 70,000 votes for genuine, radical socialism and we feel we have now arrived on the political scene in Scotland."

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