Stunning defeats for Britain’s Conservative Party in Scottish local elections have shaken the government and threaten to loosen the nearly three-century union of England and Scotland.
Victories by the left-of-center Labor Party and independence-seeking nationalists in the Thursday voting left no local councils in Conservative hands.
Labor, which has huge leads over the Conservatives in national opinion polls, now is in charge of most of Scotland’s local authorities.
Labor and the centrist Liberal Democrats promise a Scottish parliament to create a degree of devolved government, while the nationalists want to break from the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
With results declared from 28 of 29 new, restructured local councils, Labor had won 20, the Scottish National Party three and Independents two. No party had overall control in three districts.
The Conservatives had scant chance of winning the sole district being declared today, Argyll and Bute.
“We have had a very disappointing outing,” acknowledged Scottish Conservative Party chairman Sir Michael Hirst.
” … But this is not the time to lose our nerve,” he added, signaling that Prime Minister John Major’s Conservatives will stick to their lone stance of keeping government under a single Parliament in London.
The British Broadcasting Corp. predicted that Labor would get 47 percent of the Scottish vote, the nationalists 27 percent, the Conservatives 11 percent and the Liberal Democrats 6 percent.
Of the 1,161 seats in the new councils, Labor had 612, the nationalists 177, Conservatives 79, the centrist Liberal Democrats 120, and independents the remainder.
Some believe a defeat next month in England and Wales might prompt a challenge to Major’s leadership of the party before the end of the year.