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

Media caption,

Nicola Sturgeon says the SNP 'will listen to voters'

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

The SNP remains the largest party in Scotland with 35 seats - but lost 21 of the 56 constituencies it won in 2015.

Ms Sturgeon said she would "reflect carefully" on the result.

However, Ruth Davidson - whose Scottish Conservatives went from one seat to 13 - said Ms Sturgeon should now take a second referendum "off the table".

Her call was echoed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who both took seats from the SNP and who also campaigned heavily against another referendum.

Across the UK the Tories have 318 seats, leaving them eight seats short of a majority.

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Giving her reaction to the result, Nicola Sturgeon 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."

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

"I strongly suspect there were independence supporters amongst those who voted for Jeremy Corbyn yesterday," she said, stressing that "rushing to overly-simplistic judgments" about the election was "not the right thing to do".

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 and that the party had be "attentive to that point".

Image source, AFP/Getty

Analysis by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Yes, the SNP won the election in Scotland. Arithmetic and every Nationalist will tell us so. But they lost votes, they lost 21 seats and they markedly lost momentum.

Aides say Ms Sturgeon is genuinely considering options, authentically rethinking - while urging others in Scotland to do the same.

In the immediate term, she is demanding a role in Brexit negotiations which she says must now be rescheduled and repeating her offer to oust Mrs May, if the parliamentary votes can be found. Those issues are the prime focus.

But what about indyref2? She will certainly not abandon the aim of independence - nor the calculation that it would be brought about via a referendum.

I also think it unlikely that she will formally renounce the proposed timetable for indyref2 - which is at the end of the Brexit process.

Perhaps, rather, she might seek to clarify the detail of that timetable.

In practice, though, indyref2 is hobbled. It may not be "dead", as Ruth Davidson declared. But it is certainly ailing.

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.

'Immense stature'

The first minister also congratulated those who had been elected MPs and paid tribute to those that had lost their seats - including former first minister Alex Salmond and SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

She described Mr Robertson as a politician and parliamentarian of "immense stature" who had held Theresa May to account. Mr Robertson lost his seat to Conservative Douglas Ross after holding Moray since 2001.

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 the SNP candidates that had failed in their bid for re-election had done so because of a "massive political miscalculation" by Ms Sturgeon.

'Political miscalculation'

She said the campaign had been dominated by one issue - Ms Sturgeon's decision in March to move for another independence referendum.

Ms Davidson said: "This morning, we have heard SNP figures acknowledge that the referendum demands were behind its bad result. We have heard the first minister say she will 'reflect' on the matter. I'm afraid that's not enough."

Ms Davidson said that while the SNP's share of the vote had fallen by 13%, her party's had risen by the same amount.

Media caption,

Davidson says Scotland 'needs a break' from indyref2 plans

She added: "Simply put, Scotland has had its fill. We need to focus on the challenges we face on education, on NHS funding, on the new tax and welfare powers - as well as the huge challenge of Brexit.

"Nobody will condemn the first minister if she now decides to re-set her course. This is her opportunity to do so - and I urge her to take it immediately. She must take it off the table."

'Stunning result'

Despite her party's success in Scotland, Ms Davidson acknowledged that the UK result had "fallen short" of Conservative expectations.

She said it was now incumbent on her party to listen to others in parliament as well as the people outside it.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called the Scottish result the "final nail in the coffin" of plans for a second independence referendum.

Her party saw their numbers rise from one MP to seven. Ms Dugdale said: "This was a stunning general election result that proves Scottish Labour is back.

Image caption,
Kezia Dugdale with Labour's new MPs in Rutherglen

"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."

'Respond immediately'

The result proved to be bitter sweet for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who increased their tally on the 2015 result to four.

However, the party lost out to the SNP's Stephen Gethins in Fife North East by the narrowest of margins. The Nationalists held the seat by two votes following a third re-count.

The Lib Dems are understood to be considering taking the issue to court.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said that the overall Scottish result had been a rejection of another independence referendum.

He said: "The central issue of the election in Scotland was another independence referendum.

"The Scottish people have rejected that proposal. Nicola Sturgeon must respond immediately to this major event.

"That's why they should hold an early vote in the Scottish Parliament to delay and stop any independence referendum in this parliamentary term."

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