This is a dramatic General Election result in Scotland, with a 16-point swing from the SNP to Labour. At the time of writing Labour have won 37 seats, the SNP just nine and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats five each, with the final seat of Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire still to declare.

The sheer scale of Labour’s gains means that the party once again dominates its pre-2015 heartlands in the central belt, including all six seats in Glasgow and four of Edinburgh’s five Westminster seats. Election night was grim for the SNP, with the party losing more than three quarters of its seats. That is a hugely disappointing result both for John Swinney in his first two months as First Minister and for his party – and will leave the SNP much depleted at Westminster.

Labour politicians in Scotland hardly dared to believe that their party could be on course to become the largest party at this General Election and will be delighted with the result.

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They were right to be cautious about their chances of success during the campaign. The direction of travel in voting intention polls over the last year has clearly been away from the SNP and towards Labour, and the polls in Scotland have been showing a small Labour lead on average throughout the campaign.

However, pollsters have also been careful to point out just how much uncertainty there was at this election. With over a third of Scottish seats being marginal, even small movements in vote share between the SNP and Labour could have made big differences to the election outcome.

There were also signs that there could be greater volatility among voters at this election, with Ipsos’ final voting intention poll prior to polling day finding that 28% of voters across Britain might still change their minds – the highest we have recorded at that point in a General Election since 2010.

There have been a record number of Scotland polls over the course of this General Election campaign – more than three times as many as in the run-up to the 2019 election. That wealth of information has helped to tell the story of this election in Scotland.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney (Image: free)

Above all, this seismic General Election result was about change – both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. Voters have been telling polling companies that they’re ready for change for some time now. An overwhelming majority - 87% - of the Scottish public interviewed by Ipsos in March agreed that Britain needed a fresh team of leaders.

The polls showed the rise of Reform UK’s vote share under Nigel Farage’s leadership, with an average of 7% share of the vote in the five most recent Scotland polls compared with 4% prior to the election being announced. That increased support for Reform UK played a key role in Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross losing to the SNP in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East on election night.

The polls also helped to reveal voters’ priorities at this election. Independence – while still important to many voters – was a lower priority than the NHS and the economy. While it was a top priority for those intending to vote SNP, it did not feature in the top five issues for Labour or Conservative supporters. This was markedly different from the 2021 Scottish Parliament election campaign, when independence was a priority issue across supporters of all three parties.

That has important implications for the SNP’s strategy from here on, ahead of the Holyrood elections in May 2026. When launching his party’s manifesto at this election, John Swinney said that the SNP winning a majority of Westminster seats would empower the Scottish Government to begin negotiations for a second referendum. That now looks a very distant prospect.

However, it would be a mistake to take from this result that the question of independence is going away. The Scottish public remain divided on this question and the polls have moved very little in recent years. We may well see independence feature strongly once again at the next Holyrood elections.

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Analysis in the coming weeks and months will shed more light on this election. One issue that’s crucial to understand is why so many of the electorate stayed at home, and which groups didn’t turn out to vote at this election. Turnout in Scotland was just 59% at this General Election, down from 68% in 2019. That matters in our democracy.

So what next? “Change begins now”, according to Keir Starmer. But what will that change look like from the perspective of voters in Scotland?

Labour’s support in Scotland may be shallow, with many who back independence having been willing to lend the party their vote at this election to remove the Conservative government from office.

Labour will in no way be able to take their votes for granted at the next Holyrood elections in 2026. This election campaign has been light on policy, in part because Labour did not want to rock the boat ahead of polling day. But now that the Scottish electorate has voted for change, they will be expecting Labour to deliver it.

Emily Gray, Managing Director, Ipsos Scotland