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Whoever wins UK vote, ‘sea change’ coming in Scotland

Scottish nationalists are on course to make historic gains in Thursday`s general election and win unprecedented influence in Westminster, ironically energised by their defeat in last year`s independence referendum.

Over 55 percent of Scots said “No” when asked “should Scotland become an independent country?” in September, seemingly delivering a hefty blow to the Scottish National Party (SNP) that was created in 1934 with the express purpose of splitting from Britain.

Instead, the party has regrouped and renewed, building on momentum generated during the independence campaign and gaining strength from anger against budget austerity.

Combative SNP leader Alex Salmond stepped down following the defeat, to be replaced by protege Nicola Sturgeon, whose wit and grit have even won supporters south of the border.

Since the independence vote, the party`s membership has quadrupled to over 100,000.

Stoked by the pain of defeat, the tartan army now tops poll after poll in Scotland and according to an Ipsos Mori survey for Scottish Television, could grab all 59 Scottish seats, an increase of 53 since 2010. “This will be the first time this has happened at a Westminster election,” said Gerry Hassan, an expert on Scottish politics and author of `The Strange Death of Labour Scotland`.

“Taken with their control of the Scottish parliament and Labour`s loss of local government dominance, it indicates a sea change in politics north of the border,” he told AFP.

In the referendum on September 18, “the SNP lost a battle, but is winning the war,” added Kate Jenkins, of the London School of Economics.

Defeat would be a crushing blow for Labour, which would lose dozens of seats in a region traditionally considered to be its home turf.

Young gun Mhairi Black epitomises the SNP`s surging confidence and influence.

The 20-year-old student is odds-on to win the seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South, in the process booting out Labour heavyweight Douglas Alexander, the current shadow foreign secretary, who has held six different ministerial positions in past governments.

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