SNP failed to convince Scots of urgency of independence, says John Swinney

Scottish First Minister John Swinney speaking to the media at The Port of Leith Distillery in Edinburgh, following the landslide General Election victory for the Labour Party
-Credit: (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

The SNP has "failed to convince people of the urgency of independence," John Swinney has said after a catastrophic night for his party.

It has lost dozens of MPs in the General Election, dropping from 48 to just nine with one seat left to declare.

The party had initially targeted at least 29 seats in Scotland – enough for a majority – and then hoped to trigger negotiations with incoming prime minister Sir Keir Starmer on holding another independence referendum.

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First Minister and SNP leader Mr Swinney said: "I have to accept that we failed to convince people of the urgency of independence in this election campaign.

"Therefore, we need to take the time to consider and to reflect on how we deliver our commitment to independence – which remains absolute.

"As somebody who has devoted their entire adult life to the winning of Scottish independence – not for an abstract reason, but because I believe it will transform the lives of our people for the better – we need to get that approach correct in the forthcoming period.

"I accept that we need to engage with, listen to and learn from the people of Scotland on how we take forward our arguments for independence."

He said the SNP now needs to take time to reflect on how best to move forward.

"The Scottish National Party needs to be healed and it needs to heal its relationship with the people of Scotland, and I am absolutely committed to doing that," he said.

The loss of seats saw substantial swings from the SNP to Labour in a number of constituencies, as well as defeat for high-profile former MPs including Joanna Cherry KC and Kirsten Oswald.

Mr Swinney said opinion polls have been 50/50 on the issue of independence, which he described as a "formidable expression of support by the public."

Speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, the SNP leader congratulated Sir Keir and vowed to work "collaboratively and co-operatively" with the new UK government.

He also said he is committed to remaining leader until the Scottish Parliament election in 2026, but admitted he will need to get the SNP into a "fit state" to compete.

Mr Swinney said: "The first thing I want to do is congratulate Sir Keir Starmer on his emphatic election victory.

"It goes without saying that last night was an incredibly tough night for the Scottish National Party and I’m very sorry to lose so many able MPs and so may staff who have worked so well to support them.

"The SNP needs to be healed and to heal its relationship with the people of Scotland, and I’m committed to doing exactly that."

He said he takes “full responsibility” for the results, and vowed to "reflect on last night’s setback."

Voters had been "absolutely desperate to get rid of the Tory government”, he said, and that was the “prevailing mood of people’s voting intentions."

Westminster leader Stephen Flynn held on to his Aberdeen South seat, but said his party needs to look inwards to fix the issues.

"What we need to focus on now as a party is how we get ourselves into winning shape in the next 18 months in the build-up to the Scottish Parliament election," he told the BBC.

"That’s going to require a lot of effort from people and it’s probably going to require some people to open the curtain and look at some of their own skeletons and realise that we’ve not been doing things as well as we possibly could have been. Myself included in that regard.

"So it’s a time for reflection, it’s a time to listen, and hopefully a time to rebuild and come back better."