Angus Robertson has said the SNP’s election gains show it can be compared with “the best-rated political parties anywhere in Europe”.
The party’s former Westminster leader hailed the results so far after recording what he described as an “emphatic and unparalleled” victory in Edinburgh Central.
Mr Robertson won the seat previously held by former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson with 16,276 votes, and a majority of 4,732 over the Tories.
He said it was the SNP’s best ever result in the constituency and voters had “rejected” the party of Boris Johnson and Brexit, as well as others which also “want to block an independence referendum”.
Results ‘heartening’ but SNP still have ‘a lot of work to do’
The 51-year-old, who was the MP for Moray for 16 years until he was ousted by Douglas Ross in 2017, said it was “impossible to say” if the SNP was on course for a majority.
However, he added: “I do know that the SNP has been gaining seats, and the SNP has been in government for three terms, so it looks like we’re heading for a fourth term.
“And on the numbers that I’ve seen so far, we’re polling so strongly that we would have to be compared with the best-rated political parties anywhere in Europe.
“You don’t have such a successful showing unless the people want the SNP to continue in government and want to see Nicola Sturgeon remain as first minister.
“I think we can take huge heart from that, but there’s a lot of work to do and we’re going to have to start as quickly as we can.”
On the numbers that I’ve seen so far, we’re polling so strongly that we would have to be compared with the best-rated political parties anywhere in Europe.”
He said the first minister had sent him a message of congratulations, but he had not had time to read it in the immediate aftermath of his victory.
Questioned on whether he would be asking Ms Sturgeon for a top job in her next Cabinet, Mr Robertson said: “It’s not my place to ask such a question”.
Lib Dems retain Edinburgh West
Elsewhere in Edinburgh, Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton held Edinburgh Western, hugely increasing his majority from 2,960 to 9,885.
He said it was “a great day” and that he was “delighted”, although he also admitted: “Of course there was a bit of tactical voting, as there is throughout the country.”
With the party losing its top target seat in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, it could now end up with five MSPs again, or potentially four, one fewer than 2016, depending on the list results.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, who has been tipped as a future Scottish Lib Dem leader, was asked if it was time for a change at the top.
“No. Willie (Rennie) is a great leader and I will follow him for as long as he wants to do the job,” he said.
In Edinburgh Southern, meanwhile, Labour’s Daniel Johnson also increased his majority, finishing with 4,022 more votes than the SNP.