At the age of just 20, Mhairi Black has become Britain’s youngest member of parliament since 1667 in a victory that symbolises an expected nationalist landslide in Scotland.
Black still has to complete her final exams at Glasgow University but will now be putting her politics degree into practice as the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.
The no-nonsense blonde, who pronounces her first name “Mary”, won a majority of over 5000 in Thursday’s election to topple Douglas Alexander, the Labour party’s 47-year-old foreign affairs spokesman and campaign chief.
As the result was announced, a roar of approval went up from her supporters at the count centre but Black spoke in a steady voice as she vowed to improve life for ordinary Scots.
“We will work to put an end to the austerity cuts that are hurting people in communities both north and south of the border,” she said.
Black grew up in a family that supported Labour but like many in Scotland, has turned her back on the centre-left party that she says has become too distant from its supporters and left-wing roots.
Exit polls suggest that the SNP is set to make massive gains, taking all bar one of Scotland’s 59 seats, most of them from Labour.
Black says her hometown has been in decline for decades, with one in five people in Paisley now living in poverty and one in three families forced to use food banks.
She campaigned for Scottish independence in last September’s referendum. The vote was lost but she said a few weeks later: “It doesn’t mean the dream has died.”