It began with a cheer which ripped through the cavernous auditorium of the Royal Highland Centre as soon as the exit polls dropped.

For Scottish Labour campaigners huddled around a television screen in the far corner of the counting hall, the forecast was better than most dared hope.

Not only a landslide for Starmer, but a probable routing of the SNP - initially predicted to retain just 10 Scottish seats, but in the end holding only nine.

But how would things unfold in the capital?

"People are sick of the Conservatives, and they're sick of the SNP – that’s what we’ve been hearing on the doorsteps," said one Labour activist, buoyed by the results.

“So yes, maybe it’s a protest vote – a way of sending a message that ‘enough is enough’. But if we do win, and as big a win as this, we have to deliver.

“People are disillusioned enough, they can’t be let down again.”


As midnight loomed, speculation intensified that Labour were - unexpectedly - on track to take all three of the SNP-held seats, with pushback continuing from an SNP camp which insisted that it was still “too close to call”.

There were hints that Deidre Brock – an SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, and the first of the party’s candidates to arrive at the count – might be an early casualty when she was spotted looking tearful.

As the hours wore on and the scale of the SNP losses in other parts of the country trickled in, the mood became steadily more despondent.

While Labour’s Ian Murray and Christine Jardine – LibDem MP for Edinburgh West since 2017 – arrived around 2am to massive whoops of applause from their supporters, Joanna Cherry and Tommy Sheppard’s arrivals were more muted.

One journalist commented that Mr Sheppard “looked like he’d rather be anywhere else”, while Ms Cherry’s broad smiles were summed up as “putting a brave face on it”.

Hours of limbo came to an abrupt end at 4.30am as all five constituencies were suddenly ready to declare.

First up was Ms Jardine, who not only held her seat but massively increased her majority over the SNP from 3,769 in the 2019 election to 16,470 – capturing more than half the votes cast.

“In this country we do democracy, and we do it well,” said Ms Jardine.

Optimism was fading among SNP supporters at the Royal Highland Centre in InglistonOptimism was fading among SNP supporters at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston (Image: GordonTerris/Herald&Times)

Cold comfort, perhaps, to the SNP candidates next on stage to face their democratic demolition.

In the Edinburgh North and Leith constituency, Ms Brock did indeed lose out to Labour's Tracy Gilbert by 13,537 votes to 20,805 on a turnout of more than 63%.

She vowed to "keep on fighting", telling supporters assembled in the hall that she hoped "you do not read this as us giving up in any way on the cause of independence".

Ms Gilbert said support for Labour was a "vote for change in Scotland", pointing to the housing emergency, poverty, and "poor people feeding more poor people in food banks".

Mr Murray – at one time the only surviving Scottish Labour MP following a post-indyref SNP surge – said voters were "crying out for change" after holding his Edinburgh South seat with a majority of more than 17,000 over the SNP.

He said his time as an MP had been "sometimes lonely, often hard, but always hopeful", adding: "Being the sole Labour MP ends tonight with a bang".

Deidre Brock - one of the 2015 SNP intake - lost her Edinburgh North and Leith seatDeidre Brock - one of the 2015 SNP intake - lost her Edinburgh North and Leith seat (Image: GordonTerris/Herald&Times)

The departures of Ms Cherry and Mr Sheppard seemed emblematic of the SNP’s unravelling.

Both had been ushered into parliament in the 2015 bumper intake, and both pointed to a rot in the Nationalist apparatus rather than lost faith in the independence cause for their demise.

Ms Cherry - a divisive party figure who clashed with former party leader Nicola Sturgeon over gender rights, but helped spearhead the party's anti-Brexit campaigns - said she had faced "challenging" times during her nine year tenure in parliament.

Conceding defeat in the Edinburgh South West constituency by more than 6000 votes to Labour's Scott Arthur, an Edinburgh city councillor, Ms Cherry said she had endured a "torrent of abuse and intimidation" including "death threats and rape threats", adding: "That's what happens today in politics if you are a lesbian feminist who stands up for women's rights."

Ms Cherry - a KC - said Labour's landslide victory reflected "massive dissatisfaction" with the Conservatives, but she stressed that the SNP must also question "what's going wrong".

She said: "We must be honest - there have been other factors which have made it less likely for people to vote SNP.

"My defeat and the defeat of many other SNP candidates tonight means that my party must now have the courage to address what has gone wrong in recent years, otherwise this setback for the Scottish National Party will not be reversed, and I shall have a lot more to say about that in the days and weeks to come.

"However, this setback for the SNP should not be interpreted as a setback for the cause of independence."

Tommy Sheppard said voters were 'prepared to do anything' to get rid of the ToriesTommy Sheppard said voters were 'prepared to do anything' to get rid of the Tories (Image: GordonTerris/Herald&Times)

Tommy Sheppard, who lost his Edinburgh East and Musselburgh seat by 3,715 votes to Labour's Chris Murray admitted that it had been "a very bad night" for the SNP.

He said: "Politics is a game of ups and downs, of good and bad, and tonight this night belongs to the Labour party, and I congratulate them for that.

"It has been a very bad night for my party, for the SNP, and there are two main reasons for that.

"One is that a large number of people in my constituency and throughout the country offered their vote to the Labour party because they were so sick and tired of the Conservative government that they were prepared to do anything to get rid of them.

"But the second reason why many people, who voted for me in the past, didn't vote for me this time or stayed at home, is because they are concerned about what my own party has been doing in recent years.

"There are many, many factors involved here, some of which are contradictory.

"I want to say to them - we get it, we understand. For some people, we have lost your trust, your confidence."

Mr Sheppard added: "This is not the end of the journey - this is a setback. We will be back."