2015 United Kingdom general election in Scotland
The 2015 United Kingdom general election in Scotland was held on 7 May 2015 and all 59 seats were contested under the first-past-the-post electoral system. Unlike the 2010 general election, where no seats changed party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won all but three seats in Scotland in an unprecedented landslide, gaining a total of 56 seats and taking the largest share of the Scottish vote in sixty years, at exactly 50%. The Labour Party suffered its worst ever election defeat in Scotland, losing 40 of the 41 seats they were defending, including the seats of Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and the then Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. The Liberal Democrats lost ten of the eleven seats they were defending, with the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and former leader Charles Kennedy losing their seats. The election also saw the worst performance by the Conservative Party, which received its lowest share of the vote since its creation in 1965, although it retained the one seat that it previously held. In all, 50 of the 59 seats changed party, 49 of them being won by first-time MPs.
All 59 Scottish seats to the House of Commons
Colours on map indicate winning party for each constituency
The general election in Scotland was fought in the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, in which 1,617,989 voters (44.7%) backed independence while 2,001,926 (55.3%) did not. The referendum saw a record turnout of 84.59%, the "highest turnout in any nationwide ballot in Scotland since the advent of the mass franchise after the First World War". There was speculation as to whether this would significantly affect the turnout in the general election. An immediate consequence of the referendum was a massive rise in the membership of the pro-independence parties, with the SNP in particular adding 60,000 to its membership to reach over 85,000 within two months of the referendum.
Since 2005, the Scottish National Party had come first in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election as well as the 2009 European Election. In Westminster, however, it was a different story; although the party won the Glasgow East by-election in 2008, which was one of the safest Labour seats in the UK, by the time of the 2010 UK election and even with an increase of 2.3% in the vote, it only managed to retain the seats it won in the 2005 election. A year later in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the SNP became the first majority government since the opening of Holyrood, a remarkable feat as the mixed member proportional representation system used to elect MSPs makes the acquisition of a one-party majority challenging. The SNP gained 32 constituencies, 22 of which came from Scottish Labour, nine from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and one from the Scottish Conservatives. Such was the scale of their gains that, of the 73 constituencies in Scotland, only 20 were represented by MSPs of other political parties in 2011.
The SNP's majority in the Scottish Parliament allowed it to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence. This was held in 2014, and the proposal for independence was defeated by 10.6 percentage points. In spite of this, the campaign in favour of independence made a set of significant in roads across the central belt of Scotland, a region which has traditionally had a strong affiliation with the Labour Party. The Yes campaign took 44.7% of the vote in Scotland on a high turnout of 84.6%: well beyond the SNP's 19.9% vote share at the 2010 UK general election. This took form at the 2015 UK general election with a saturation of the SNP vote in areas which had a higher "Yes" vote at the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
Scottish Labour had held the majority of seats in Scotland in every general election since the 1960s. This is usually attributed to the North-South divide in British politics, where Scotland and Northern England tend to return mostly Labour MPs whereas the South of England tends to vote mostly for the Conservatives. Many prominent government officials represented Scottish constituencies, such as the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Chancellor Alistair Darling. In the 2010 election, the Labour Party in Scotland increased its share of the vote by 2.5% and re-gained the Glasgow East and Dunfermline and West Fife constituencies giving them 41 out of 59 seats in Scotland. At the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, Labour lost out to the SNP across much of the central belt of Scotland, holding on to 15 out of 73 constituency seats in Scotland.
In 2015 Labour lost 40 of its 41 Scottish constituencies at the UK Parliament, with Edinburgh South becoming the only constituency in Scotland to have a Labour MP after the election. The party lost out heavily to the SNP in working class areas around central Scotland, with Scottish Labour's safest constituency (Glasgow North East) returning the largest swing in the election at 39.3% from Labour to SNP. The party performed best in its more affluent constituencies, with Scottish Labour's leader Jim Murphy missing out in his former constituency of East Renfrewshire by just 6.6% of the vote. Labour's next closest constituency result came in Edinburgh North and Leith, where the missed out to they SNP by 9.6% of the vote, and in East Lothian, where the SNP polled ahead of Labour by 11.5% of the vote.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats lost 10 of its 11 Westminster constituencies from 2010, with its safest constituency in Great Britain - Orkney and Shetland - becoming the only Liberal Democrat constituency in Scotland. They marginally lost out to the SNP in East Dunbartonshire, where former Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson lost out to the SNP by 4% of the vote. Among those to lose their constituency at the election were former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. The Liberal Democrats came third in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, constituencies which they had held in the previous election.
The Scottish Conservatives have not held a majority of Scottish seats in a general election since 1955 and it lost all eleven of its seats in the election of 1997. From 2001 until 2017, the party only held one Westminster seat in Scotland. In 2005, following the re-organisation of Scottish constituencies, that seat was Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, a mostly rural constituency near the Scottish borders. In 2010 its share of the vote in Scotland increased by roughly 0.9% and it retained the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, as its only Scottish constituency. It had been reported the party could gain Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, a seat which they lost out on to the SNP by 0.6% of the vote.
Minor parties such as the UKIP and the Scottish Greens announced that they would contest more Scottish seats than they did in the 2010 election. UKIP targeted the sole Conservative seat in Scotland, as well as standing candidates in several others. The British National Party also announced its intention to contest more seats than in 2010, though in the event did not stand a single candidate in a Scottish constituency. The Scottish Socialist Party stood in four constituencies.
The prospect of an electoral alliance between pro-independence parties—specifically the SNP, the Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Party—was raised after the referendum and supported by elected SNP politicians, but played down by Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie, who said party members did not want their "distinctive Green perspective" to be lost. The SSP supported negotiations for a formal alliance until late in 2014.
- 31 March – The first official day of the election campaign got under way, with the Scottish Greens becoming the first party to launch their manifesto.
- 7 April – First TV debate was broadcast on STV
- 8 April – Second TV debate was broadcast on BBC Scotland, with UKIP and the Scottish Greens included.
- 10 April – Ed Milliband visits Edinburgh, claiming the SNP's aim to have full control of tax in Scotland would create a £7.6bn financial "black hole".
- 12 April – Third TV debate was broadcast on BBC Scotland, between the four main parties. The debate was criticised, with many of the public claiming it was a "Rammy".
- 21 April – Sir John Major entered into the row, and repeated claims by David Cameron that an Labour-SNP government would be a "recipe for mayhem" and entering blackmail. A number of former Conservative ministers entered into the debate claiming deep unease about the rhetoric. Lord Tebbit described Cameron's repeated warnings about the SNP as "puzzling" and "pointless", and might even push Scots to vote tactically for Labour. Lord Forsyth claimed it was playing a "short term and dangerous game" which could further threaten the union. Ed Miliband rejected the claims, while Nicola Sturgeon labelled Sir John's comments as "Silly over the top and an affront to democracy".
- 4 May – Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and comedian Eddie Izzard were heckled by opponents while campaigning in Glasgow city centre, with the scene descending into scuffles. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon condemned the scenes but said they had "nothing to do with the SNP". The following day the SNP placed two members under "administrative suspension".
As in 2010, there were televised debates ahead of the election, featuring the Scottish leaders of the three main UK parties as well as the leader of the SNP. The first debate was broadcast on STV on 7 April. The second debate was held on BBC One Scotland on 8 April with additional representatives from the Scottish Greens and UKIP. A follow up date a few days later took place on Sunday Politics Scotland, The debate was criticised, with many of the public claiming it was a "shambles". The Last debate took place on 3 May.
|Date||Organisers||Venue||Viewing figures||P Present S Standing-in NI Not invited A Absent I Invited|
|8 April||BBC Scotland||Aberdeen||P
|12 April||BBC (Sunday Politics Scotland)||Glasgow||P
|3 May||BBC Scotland||Edinburgh||P
The leaders from each of the main parties are:
- Scottish Labour – Jim Murphy
- Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party – Ruth Davidson
- Scottish Liberal Democrats – Willie Rennie
- Scottish National Party – Nicola Sturgeon
|Total||Gains||Losses||Net +/-||% seats||Total votes||% votes||Change|
List of constituencies by party
|Rank||Constituency||Winning party 2010||Swing Required||Labour's place 2010||Result|
|1||Dundee East||SNP||2.27%||2nd||SNP hold|
|2||East Dunbartonshire||Liberal Democrats||2.28%||2nd||SNP gain|
|3||Edinburgh West||Liberal Democrats||4.09%||2nd||SNP gain|
|4||Argyll and Bute||Liberal Democrats||4.47%||3rd||SNP gain|
|5||Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale||Conservative||4.57%||2nd||Con. hold|
|Rank||Constituency||Winning party 2010||Swing Required||Liberal Democrat's place 2010||Result|
|1||Edinburgh South||Labour||0.36%||2nd||Lab. hold|
|2||Edinburgh North and Leith||Labour||1.82%||2nd||SNP gain|
|3||Aberdeen South||Labour||4.07%||2nd||SNP gain|
|4||Dunfermline and West Fife||Labour||5.58%||2nd||SNP gain|
|5||Glasgow North||Labour||6.58%||2nd||SNP gain|
Scottish National Party
|Rank||Constituency||Winning party 2010||Swing Required||SNP's place 2010||Result|
|1||Ochil and South Perthshire||Labour||5.14%||2nd||SNP gain|
|2||Argyll and Bute||Liberal Democrats||6.37%||4th||SNP gain|
|3||Gordon||Liberal Democrats||6.92%||2nd||SNP gain|
|5||Dundee West||Labour||9.80%||2nd||SNP gain|
|Rank||Constituency||Winning party 2010||Swing Required||Conservative's place 2010||Result|
|1||Argyll and Bute||Liberal Democrats||3.79%||2nd||SNP gain|
|2||West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine||Liberal Democrats||4.07%||2nd||SNP gain|
|4||Perth and North Perthshire||SNP||4.53%||2nd||SNP hold|
|5||Banff and Buchan||SNP||5.23%||2nd||SNP hold|
Of the 59 sitting MPs at the dissolution of Parliament, 52 stood for re-election, but only 9 were successful:
Other notable MPs
- Alex Salmond (SNP) won Gordon, making him the only former Scottish MP in this election to return to Parliament following a break. He previously served as MP for Banff and Buchan from 1987 to 2010, and therefore had the longest total service of any Scottish MP returned at the 2015 election.
- Mhairi Black (SNP) won Paisley and Renfrewshire South at the age of 20, making her the youngest MP since the Reform Act 1832.
- 2015 United Kingdom general election in England
- 2015 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland
- 2015 United Kingdom general election in Wales
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