SNP Win A Historic Majority

The SNP has secured an unprecedented victory by taking a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament election.

Alex Salmond's party passed the half-way point by taking its 65th seat in a historic win at Kirkcaldy, the first time gains on this scale have been achieved since the Parliament was established in 1999.

The decisive victory comes at the heavy expense of Labour in what were considered heartland territories, and with a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote.

The Nationalists' gains suggested that a referendum on independence could be held within the next five-year term, if the party can go on to secure a majority.

Shocks came quickly after polling stations closed last night, with major Labour politicians finding themselves out of a job.

Seat after seat in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh fell to the SNP as well as a clean sweep of the entire north east region.

Candidates once thought of as potential Labour frontbenchers lost out, including former ministers Andy Kerr, Tom McCabe and Frank McAveety.

Former Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie was unseated in Edinburgh Pentlands.

But the Lib Dems appeared the biggest losers, with heavy falls in the share of votes and a high number of lost deposits.

Leader Tavish Scott held on to Shetland with a reduced share but his party was beaten in areas where it had previously enjoyed a comfortable majority.

The party's finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis was ousted by the SNP's Christine Grahame, who took Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale with 43.51% of the vote.

SNP leader Alex Salmond, who won Aberdeenshire East with about 64% of the vote, hailed ``spectacular'' successes.

He said wins across the country meant the SNP can now properly be described as the ``national party'', represented in all parts of Scotland.

Mr Salmond's main opponent for the job of First Minister, Mr Gray, hung on to his seat by just 151 votes.

There are now suggestions he may resign.

Mr Gray won in East Lothian with 12,536 votes compared to 12,385 for SNP challenger David Berry, who commanded a 3.1% swing away from Labour.

In 2007, the SNP beat Labour nationally by just one seat to become the largest party at Holyrood, forming a minority administration led by Mr Salmond.