2015 proved to a year of momentous change in Scottish politics.

Here we recall some of the highs and lows:

General Election

May’s General Election saw the SNP take 56 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster. Those elected included the then 20-year-old Mhairi Black, who defeated the shadow foreign secretary, and one of the architects of Labour’s campaign, Douglas Alexander. Also included in the new intake was one Alex Salmond.

On the same night Labour lost 40 of the 41 seats in Scotland the party had taken in 2010. The Scottish Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were also left with just one seat each. Soon afterwards Scottish Labour also lost its leader, former shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy.

The election campaign itself was hugely controversial with the Conservatives famously depicting Mr Salmond as a pickpocket in one poster and Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon accusing Labour leader Ed Miliband of being prepared to stab the UK in the back like “he did his brother”.

Opinion polling consistently suggested that the UK was heading towards a hung parliament, but in the final tally the Conservatives won with a majority at Westminster. At 10pm on election night when the BBC announced the outcome off its exit poll, which proved to be close to the actual result, Paddy Ashdown famously said if it was accurate he would publicly eat his hat (and he did, although in the form of a hat-shaped cake).


One of the defining images of the election, the ‘Edstone’ as it swiftly became known, attracted derision from the off. The 8ft 6in, two-tonne block of limestone, unveiled just days before voters went to the polls in what appeared to be one of the closest elections in years, was designed to be placed in the garden of 10 Downing Street if Labour won. Chiselled into the slab were the party’s six main election pledges.

But it failed to impress even Labour MPs. Michael Dugher, the then shadow transport minister, called the Edstone a “a 12ft, granite, marble, cock-up”. After the party’s thumping defeat one Labour MP, John Woodcock, said he wanted to find the Edstone and smash it. After the election it was traced to a warehouse in London but its current whereabouts remain unknown, although some Labour MPs say they have been told that it has been destroyed.

The TV debates

Perhaps best remembered for a remarkable group hug between Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Green party in England and Wales Natalie Bennett and the Welsh Plaid leader Leanne Wood.

Ms Sturgeon said recently that the debates, broadcast live in the weeks running up to the election, had been the most nerve-wracking of her political career.

After months of wrangling between politicians a mixed format emerged with the Conservatives refusing to take part in all the televised showdowns.

In the end they produced a number of notable moments, including Ed Miliband saying “hell, yeah”, he was tough enough for the general election, the reaction he received when he said that the last Labour government had not overspent and David Cameron promising not to cut tax credits.

Jeremy Corbyn

The veteran left-wing stunned Labour MPs by storming to a stonking victory in the party's leadership contest, just a month after Kezia Dugdale became the new Scottish Labour leader.

Such was the Islington MP’s popularity among new party members that it sparked the phrase 'Corbynistas’.

Since then there have been a number of controversies.

These include his decision not to sing the national anthem and his attempts to change his party's policies on major issues, including on Trident nuclear weapons.

Supporters point to Labour's recent victory in the Oldham by-election as a sign that the party is on the up, despite polls in Scotland suggesting that the party is on course to do badly in next year’s Holyrood elections. But many Labour MPs have yet to be convinced that their new leader can appeal to voters outside the party faithful.

Tim Farron

The Liberal Democrats got a new leader too, even if few people noticed amid Corbynmania.

Mr Farron, a northern cheeky chappie with a nice line in self-deprecation, took over from former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and came out fighting against the SNP and the Conservatives, denouncing both for their record on civil liberties.

But his lack of profile has created problems. One newspaper ran a column from him calling him “Tim Fallon”.

Ukip also looked as if it was going to get a new leader, until old leader Nigel Farage controversially "undersigned".

And the Scottish Greens kept their same ‘co-convener’ team of Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman, amid a hard fought, and occasionally controversial, contest.

Charles Kennedy

The sudden death of Charles Kennedy, at just 55, just weeks after losing the Highland seat he had held for 32 years, shocked and saddened those who knew him and millions who did not.

Praising Mr Kennedy one Lib Dem colleague revealed he had developed a mantra about the former party leader that ran: "If you ever get invited to go on (the BBC’s) Have I Got News For You say no unless you want to be made out to be a prat, or unless you're Charles Kennedy."

Politician from across all parties tribute to him as a man whose wit and humanity had enriched society.

Labour MP Harriet Harman said that although he was staunch in his position against the Iraq war "he never felt the need to denigrate those of us who got it wrong”, while the Commons Speaker John Bercow fought back tears as he described Mr Kennedy as a "principled, progressive and passionate" man.

David Cameron told MPs: "At his best, he was the best that politics can be.”


The political year in Scotland also brought with it a number of controversies. Former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael agreed not to take a ministerial payout after admitting that he lied about his knowledge of a leaked memo concerning the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in a row that became known as Nikileaks .

An election court later rejected a bid to unseat him and trigger a by-election in his Orkney and Shetland constituency.

However, Mr Carmichael is still being investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson.

Two of the SNP’s newly-elected MPs, Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry, also resigned their party whip following allegations of wrongdoing. Both insist that they are innocent of the allegations against them.

Scotland Bill

Earlier this month MPs voted in favour of the Scotland Bill. Triggered by last year’s independence referendum it is designed to give Scottish ministers greater powers over tax, welfare and even, thanks to a last-minute controversial addition, abortion.

But Scottish ministers warned that the powers did not go far enough and a new battleground has opened up on the so-called "fiscal framework". This will underpin how money is transferred between London and Edinburgh as the new powers come online. The Scottish Government and the Treasury are still locked in negotiation, while experts warn that the wrong settlement could cost Scotland tens of billions of pounds in years to come. It may be a case of watch this space in 2016.


Scotland opened its arms to hundreds of refugees fleeing the war-torn country.

At Westminster 57 of 59 Scottish MPs opposed UK Government plans to bomb Islamic State militants in Syria.

The proposal, to extend UK air raids from Iraq into neighbouring Syria, came in the wake of the Paris attacks in November, in which 130 people were killed by IS terrorists.

But MPs were split on the question of UK intervention and the impact it would have.

Mr Cameron’s proposals were finally passed after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed bombing in Syria, was forced to give his MPs a free vote.