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Twenty-year-old student Mhairi Black’s victory epitomizes the topsy-turvy state of British politics

Mhairi Black/SNP
The youth vote.
  • Heather Timmons
By Heather Timmons

White House correspondent

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party is about to take unprecedented control of Great Britain’s recalcitrant northern half, and is predicted to win an astounding 58 of the total 59 Scottish seats, up from only six in the last general election.

Among the winners is Mhairi Black, 20, a University of Glasgow student (she’s studying politics and public policy), who beat out a Labour party veteran to take the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat—a solidly middle income constituency southwest of Glasgow, making her the youngest Member of Parliament in more than 200 years. Black has no political experience to speak of, and a history of Tweeting about her drunken exploits, but was a strenuous campaigner for Scottish independence in the failed referendum last year.

And she’s hardly alone. Several of the Scottish National Party’s 58 winners have never held political office before, and like Black were drawn to politics during last year’s independence vote. As 50for15, a news site covering the smaller constituencies, explained last month: “What non-Scottish readers might not appreciate is the extent to which the independence movement transcended the SNP…it was a monumental, emotional and unprecedentedly engaging time” that awakened political consciousness around the country.

As the voting shows, the consciousness awakened wound up being mostly pro-SNP. Here are some of the party’s other new-to-politics winners:

Dr. Philippa Whitford, a breast cancer specialist, swept central Ayrshire in southwest Scotland, winning 53% of the vote versus the 26% her Labour opponent brought in. Her speech about the dangers of privatizing the National Health Service, which criticized the government’s push to make people pay for prescriptions, is credited with boosting her popularity.

Chris Law, a pony-tailed sometime documentary film maker who once owned a business that led motorcycle trips through the Himalayas, took West Dundee. Last year, he campaigned for independence by driving across the Scottish Highlands in a converted military vehicle:

Joanna Cherry, a lawyer who was one of Scotland’s first specialist sex crime prosecutors and now specializes in personal injury cases, won the southwest Edinburgh seat.

Yes, there are a lot of newly-elected women. In March, the SNP voted in changes that would boost the number of female candidates for open seats, and introduce an all-female list of candidates for one constituency, which raised women to 36% of the overall candidates.

The SNP’s sweep will almost certainly mean another vote on Scottish independence, even though the financial justification for Scotland remaining on its own is based on a generous estimate of the North Sea’s reserves, and an oil price of $100 a barrel, nearly double what it is now. This time, the results may be vastly different. As 50for15 reported from Dundee in April: “One small elderly woman we spoke to enthusiastically told us that if she saw the Prime Minister in the street, she’d very much like to punch him in the face.”

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