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Election dents Scottish nationalists' hopes for independence

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Major losses for the Scottish National Party in Britain's general election could force First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to rethink her plans for independence and her strategy on Brexit, observers said Friday.

[GLASGOW] Major losses for the Scottish National Party in Britain's general election could force First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to rethink her plans for independence and her strategy on Brexit, observers said Friday.

Last year's vote for Britain to leave the European Union had fuelled separatists' ambitions to take Scotland out of the 300-year-old British union but the latest poll could serve to dash them again.

"Indyref2 is dead, that's what we have seen tonight," Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said, using the separatist slogan.

Ms Davidson led her party to its best result in Scotland for three decades, in contrast to Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's dismal showing elsewhere in the UK.

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The separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) nevertheless remains Scotland's biggest party despite some punishing losses, including former first minister Alex Salmond as well as the party's current deputy leader Angus Robertson.

Asked what the implications of the result would be for her hopes for independence, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC: "I'm going to take time to reflect on this."

"I'm not going to rush to hasty judgements or decisions but clearly there is thinking for me to do about the SNP result," she said.

She admitted that the prospect of independence had left Scotland "feeling uncertain".

Scotland voted by 55 per cent against independence in a 2014 referendum, but the defeated nationalists voted en masse for the SNP in 2015 handing them 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland.

Mrs May called a snap general election in an attempt to strengthen her hand in forthcoming Brexit talks - and quell the nationalists' ongoing agitation for a second independence referendum.

She lost her parliamentary majority following a late surge for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The election also saw a partial revival for Labour, which once dominated politics in Scotland but was reduced to just one Scottish lawmaker in 2015.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said her new MPs will be firm opponents of a second independence referendum.

She said: "The SNP vote is crumbling in their heartlands...it's a very bad night for the SNP."

Professor Iain Begg, from the London School of Economics, said it was a "disastrous" election for the SNP.

"The Scottish nationalists, losing more than 20 seats, that is very bad news for them and for any ambition Nicola Sturgeon has to call a second referendum," he told AFP.

The SNP is expected to remain Britain's third-largest party, giving Sturgeon the chance to seek a "progressive alliance" with Labour to lock Mrs May's Conservative Party out of government.

Asked if there was a role for the SNP in a future government, Ms Sturgeon said: "There may well be, but it is perhaps too early to say that".

"But we will want to play a role...in trying to, if we can, secure a progressive government at Westminster."

AFP

For more stories on the UK Elections, go to bt.sg/ukelect17

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