The Scottish National Party’s 56 newly-elected MPs hit the bars of the Palace of Westminster after arriving for their photo-call with Nicola Sturgeon yesterday. Both the Strangers’ Bar and the Sports And The Social Club stood four deep as the newbies and their staff clambered for their first taste of alcohol-fuelled power.
Former first minister Alex Salmond MP held court for a gaggle of SNP members huddled around a bin on the riverside terrace of the House of Commons. He was in a jolly mood, even posing for ‘selfies’ with fellow drinkers.
Nearby other SNP members had left empty cans of Iron-Bru, the Scottish soft drink that is stocked in all Parliamentary cafes at the behest of MPs from North of the Border.
Despite the frivolity the message was clear, the SNP members are now a huge force in Parliament, making the place feel different. Even the sight of Dundee West’s Chris Law MP wearing a traditional Scottish three-piece green tweed suit with a beard and pony tail seemed reminiscent of the film Brave Heart.
The new MPs had been asked to assemble at St Stephens’ Entrance for a packed photo call with the media. Most of the MPs had arrived on a single flight from Glasgow earlier in the day.
Speaking to journalists Nicola Sturgeon said: “The men and women of our group of 56 MPs are here to do a job of standing up for Scotland’s interests at Westminster – and also to be the most effective opposition to the Tory government on behalf of people throughout the UK.
“Half of voters in Scotland voted SNP last Thursday, and I am very conscious of the need to unite Scotland and also represent the half who did not.
“Equally, nearly two-thirds of voters UK-wide did not vote Tory, and I am determined that SNP MPs will play a positive and constructive role in promoting the cause of progressive politics across the UK. I want the SNP to lead that effort, and to work with others in projecting a progressive alternative to the Tory agenda.
“SNP MPs will be good for Scotland – and good for democratic politics south of the border too, by subjecting the Tory government to sustained and searching opposition.”
In the last parliament the SNP had just 6 MPs, and the largest number they have ever had is eleven.
Sturgeon told the BBC she had a brief phone conversation with David Cameron about the new contingent of MPs, who have struck fear into the heart of the establishment. She said: “David Cameron cannot simply operate as if nothing has changed in Scotland – everything has changed.”
As the SNP partied into the night the Tories appointed their only Scottish MP, David Mundell, to the post of Scottish Secretary. He had previously been a junior minister in the Scottish Office, and replaces the Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael.
Mundell is likely to oversee the transfer of powers from London to Edinburgh, making Scotland independent in almost all key areas aside from defence, foreign policy and fiscal union.