London: The ruling Liberal Democrats party suffered a jolt on Saturday after losing heavily in local council elections and the referendum on adopting an alternative voting system.

The losses are seen as a personal blow to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who favoured the proportional representation voting system to the present first-past-the-post system.

Voters, however, not only rejected the party's preferred voting system, but also dealt major electoral setbacks in local councils even in the party's stronghold in north England.

It was the first test of public opinion after general elections in Britain last year.

After the referendum results were out, Clegg said it was a "bitter blow" but he had to accept the "overwhelmingly clear" result.

Clegg said, "I wish I could say this was a photo finish but it isn't, the result is very clear. I'm a passionate supporter of political reform but when the answer is as clear as this, you have got to accept it. This is a bitter blow for all those people, like me, who believe in the need for political reform."

There was good news for Clegg's coalition partner, the Conservative party, which not only held its position in the local election, increasing it marginally, but also went on to win the referendum.

The Conservative party and Labour party were against in changing the current first-past-the-post system.

After the Liberal Democrats recorded a poor showing in the local elections, elements in the Conservative party said the two parties should part ways in the near future, and that the Conservative party should remain in power in a minority government until the term ends in 2015.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) which favours independence from the United Kingdom, won a majority and its leader, Alex Salmond, promptly promised to hold a referendum on the independence issue.

During an address in Edinburgh, he said his party had "a majority of the seats, but not a monopoly on wisdom".

Salmond said, "This party, the Scottish party, the national party, carries your hope. We shall carry it carefully and make the nation proud. I'll govern for all of the ambitions for Scotland and all the people who imagine that we can live in a better land.”

The SNP now has a clear majority of four in the 129-seat Scottish Parliament, enough votes to hold an independence referendum.

(Agencies)