EDINBURGH - Scottish nationalists could take nearly every seat in Scotland but be shut out of any role in the British government, according to an exit poll after voting ended in Britain's national election on Thursday.
The poll for national television stations showed the Scottish National Party (SNP) taking 58 out of the 59 parliamentary seats north of the border.
But Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives were on course to win the most seats in parliament with 316, just shy of an outright majority, with Ed Miliband's Labor Party trailing on 239.
If confirmed, such an outcome would deny the SNP the kingmaker role it had sought in the House of Commons and kill off the prospect of a leftist alliance with Labor to force Cameron out of office.
But it would dramatically highlight the political divide between England and Scotland, and could bolster Scots to push for a new referendum on independence, having narrowly lost one last year.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, widely judged to be the star performer of the election campaign even though she was not running for a seat in the London parliament, was wary of the projection.
"I'd treat the exit poll with HUGE caution," she tweeted. "I'm hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely!"