The Scottish National Party has made big gains in elections north of the border. One political expert tells Channel 4 News the Scottish Labour party has suffered a “devastating defeat”.
The leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, has described the unfolding election result a “spectacular success”.
The SNP has secured bigger gains than political pundits predicted at the expense of some prominent Labour names.
If the SNP goes on to secure an overall majority, which has never been done in the Scottish Parliament, a referendum on independence could be held within the next five years.
Alex Salmond, who won Aberdeenshire East with about 64 per cent of the vote, said wins across the country meant the SNP can now properly be described as the “national party”.
Mr Salmond said: “Firstly, I think it demonstrates that Scotland has outgrown negative campaigning.
Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon blogs on SNP success in Scotland and AV fallout elsewhere:
"Disunited Kingdom. Disunited coalition. Ed Miliband? Must do better.
"What a fascinating set of results. Labour in Scotland has been walloped. Ignore the Labour spin telling you the SNP hoovered up Lib Dem support in Scotland."
Read more: The SNP is smiling while coalition relations cool
“I hope after this result we’ll see an end to negativity and scaremongering in Scottish politics – no more insults to the intelligence of the Scottish people.”
Referring to an SNP forerunner, the National Party of Scotland, he added: “Some 70 years and more later, the SNP can finally say that we have lived up to that accolade as the national party of Scotland.
“We have reached out to every community across this country.”
The SNP gained seats in traditional Labour strongholds including Glasgow and the west of Scotland.
Candidates once thought of as potential Labour frontbenchers lost out, including former ministers Andy Kerr, Tom McCabe and Frank McAveety.
Professor John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, told Channel 4 News Scottish Labour had suffered a “devastating defeat”.
He said: “It is their worst performance since at least 1931 and will force the party to rethink their approach to devolution.
“Labour have been playing their second 11 at Holyrood while the SNP have been playing their first 11. Any sportsman will tell you the first 11 usually beats the second 11.”
Speaking after the result Iain Gray said: “I am the elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and that gives me the responsibility. The responsibility to lead, looking at the campaign, analysing what’s happened tonight, and deciding how the party goes forward.
“That’s a responsibility that I intend to undertake.”
Mr Gray refused to be drawn further on his future as Labour leader.
Read more - Lib Dems crushed in polls
The Lib Dems saw their share of the vote in Scotland slump as it did across the rest of Britain.
Lib Dem 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.