At 10pm on Thursday, a sonic boom of gasps thundered through England and Wales as the exit poll showed the Tories set for a bigger majority than anyone predicted.
A fraction of a second later, there came an echo north of the border when the SNP result was announced.
In the end, the exit poll proved to have overstated the gains for the secessionists, but it was a very good night for them.
Sturgeon’s opportunism is hardly surprising. Breaking up the UK is what gets her out of bed in the morning and what she dreams of at night. However, what happens next will not be dictated by Sturgeon but by the constitution
Nicola Sturgeon’s party went from 35 seats to 48, halving the Scottish Tory MP group and taking Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s seat of East Dunbartonshire.
The lurid sweep of SNP yellow across the electoral map bodes ill for Scotland and the UK because Sturgeon’s number one priority is still the same.
‘Scotland has sent a very clear message – we don’t want a Boris Johnson government, we don’t want to leave the EU,’ she told the BBC.
‘Boris Johnson has a mandate to take England out of the EU but he must accept that I have a mandate to give Scotland a choice for an alternative future.’
By ‘alternative future’, she means independence – or ‘Scexit’, as it has been rechristened in Scotland.
The Prime Minister worries that he doesn’t understand Scotland – a fear not entirely without foundation – but he must steel his nerve, avail himself of good counsel and come up with a plan to save the Union
Sturgeon’s opportunism is hardly surprising. Breaking up the UK is what gets her out of bed in the morning and what she dreams of at night.
However, what happens next will not be dictated by Sturgeon but by the constitution.
Under the Scotland Act, the Scottish Parliament must request permission from Westminster to hold a referendum on Scexit.
Now, Sturgeon might try to get round this by holding a wildcat referendum, though Scottish Unionists would likely boycott it as a sham. Some in her party have suggested taking the Government to court and, in effect, suing their way to independence.
Both these options carry significant risks and so it makes more sense for Sturgeon to focus instead on the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
A populist campaign which casts the wicked Tories as denying Scotland its say could pay dividends.
It might even take Sturgeon’s minority government back to majority status. Thereupon she would argue that continuing to deny her a second plebiscite was tantamount to dictatorship.
The Prime Minister worries that he doesn’t understand Scotland – a fear not entirely without foundation – but he must steel his nerve, avail himself of good counsel and come up with a plan to save the Union.
The first trap to avoid is panic. The SNP has done well but it still secured only 45 per cent of the vote, the same share the pro-independence side managed in the 2014 referendum.
The next trap to sidestep is the devolution delusion – the myth that the only way to stop independence is to concede more powers to Holyrood.
‘Scotland has sent a very clear message – we don’t want a Boris Johnson government, we don’t want to leave the EU,’ she told the BBC. Nicola Strugeon is pictured above at a count in Glasgow
If Johnson struggles to grasp the instincts and impulses that drive the average Scottish voter, those who counsel endless devolution or even federalism grasp them even less.
They who sup pints in Glasgow pubs or toil drilling crude out of the North Sea do not obsess over the constitution.
Their priorities are those of voters across Britain: more jobs, better schools, shorter waiting times. The SNP at Holyrood has failed them on these matters because it is a secessionist campaign first, and a government a distant second.
The PM should recognise this for the opportunity that it is – to show that the Union can be the answer to the shortcomings of devolution.
In Edinburgh a state-of-the-art hospital for children, due to open in 2012, remains under lock and key because it doesn’t meet safety standards. There is nothing to stop the Government announcing UK ministers will open it.
The Scottish results pose a huge challenge for Johnson. The answer is to think radically, act practically and get people on-side by defying the received wisdom of the elites.
He did it in England and Wales. He must believe he can do the same in Scotland.