SNP on fifty-six seats - where next for Sturgeon's surging party?

Nicola Sturgeon signing nomination form 2

Having won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the general election the SNP are now the UK’s third largest party. But what next?

Talk before the election was all about talk of a “progressive alliance” with the likes of Plaid Cymru, the Greens and Labour, but with the shock Conservative majority that has clearly not happened.

So what next?

The new parliament

In Westminster, the SNP will not be able to use a progressive alliance to get their way as the Conservatives have a majority of seats, but in committees and on votes where Tory back-benchers rebel, the party will have some influence.

Furthermore, a Conservative majority works into the SNP’s hands, as the Conservatives just have one seat in Scotland and 15% of the vote. The SNP can use the narrative that Scotland's voice is not represented in government.

In terms of direct influence, a Labour minority government with SNP support would have been ideal for the SNP, but a Conservative majority may help the party politically.

2016 Scottish election

The next step for the SNP will be to build on their majority in the Holyrood parliament next May, one which will have even more powers.

Unless something major changes in the next twelve months then it is likely that the SNP - now with even greater support than in 2011 - will have a strong majority in Holyrood, or at the very least be the largest party.

The 2016 election could also be decisive on Scotland’s future. If the SNP include a commitment to hold a referendum in their manifesto and win then the country could be faced with another referendum. Such a commitment could of course only be under certain circumstances, for example in regards to an EU referendum. However, one will have to wait until the 2016 manifesto for that.

2016 could be perhaps as great a turning point in Scotland's future as 2014.

After that, one can only speculate.

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