Colourful Conservative Davidson blunts drive for Scottish independence

Exit poll predicts SNP will lose about 20 seats in Scotland

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond and the party's Commons leader Angus Robertson, Sturgeon's number two in the party, lost their seats to the Conservatives.

John Swinney, Scotland's education secretary and a former leader of the SNP, said that the Scottish parliament had already backed a second referendum and that the general election result would still reinforce the party's mandate for such a plebiscite. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the party had its best result in 20 years.

William McDougall, a lecturer in politics at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the election campaign in Scotland was "completely different" to the battle in England, with the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all playing the union card at the expense of the SNP.

But Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, said Ms Sturgeon should immediately shelve her plans for a second referendum.

Mr Salmond, the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman, had swept to power in the seat with a 8,687 majority in 2015, overturning decades of Liberal Democrat rule.

The party made huge gains across Scotland in the 2015 General Election, all but wiping out Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats north of the border; each party retained only one seat each. While official data has yet to be released, it is possible that some of these people abandoned the SNP in order to vote for a party that was more committed to Brexit, such as the Conservatives, or, potentially, Labour.

Speaking to the BBC, Sturgeon said: "I'm not going to rush to hasty judgements or decisions, but clearly there's thinking for me to do about the SNP result ..."

While pollster Mark Diffley from Ipsos MORI said: "Scrambling to think where the 22 SNP losses come from".

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 result.

"But overall results show the SNP will win a majority of the seats in this country and a majority of the votes".

Ms Sturgeon stated: "We've always said that we would work in alliance with others to promote progressive policies to build a fairer country. We're proud to be part of the United Kingdom".

Sturgeon put a positive spin on the losses, arguing her party was still likely to be the third-largest party in parliament, and the returns would still mean a strong showing for the SNP in Westminster. "It's a very bad night for the SNP".

Exit polls predict the party will lose 22 seats in the House of Commons, a significant reverse of the party's landslide victory in 2015 which saw it gain 56 MPs.

In the heat of the night some SNP sources started briefing against Nicola Sturgeon and her husband who is chief executive of the SNP and mastermind of its campaign.

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