Sturgeon promises second referendum as SNP poised to win Scottish elections

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to press ahead with plans for a second independence referendum after the Scottish National party was poised to win its fourth consecutive Holyrood election, triggering a constitutional battle with Boris Johnson.

With counting continuing into Saturday evening, the Scottish National party were expected to fall two seats short of an overall majority despite winning a record number of Holyrood constituency seats, after a surge in anti-independence tactical voting.

Sturgeon’s lingering hopes of winning a majority were quashed after the Scottish Conservatives won the key SNP target seat of Aberdeenshire West with a hefty majority – a result the Tories will argue vindicates their decision to make independence one of the biggest issues in their campaign.

Bouyed by a record turnout in a Holyrood election of 64%, the first minister said Scottish voters had given her an “emphatic” mandate to stage a legally-recognised referendum in the next parliament – a challenge the prime minister dismissed before the election result was declared.

Johnson, speaking after the first tranche of results on Friday suggested the SNP would fail to achieve a majority, told the Telegraph: “I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless.”

Citing the Treasury-funded furlough scheme and the British army’s role in delivering Covid vaccinations, Egli ha detto: “I think there’s been an eloquent testimonial during the pandemic to the power of the union.”

Sturgeon signalled the Scottish government was ready for a constitutional battle with Johnson, using an expected pro-independence majority of SNP and Scottish Green MSPs to vote through Holyrood legislation enabling a referendum.

A BBC Scozia seat projection forecast the Scottish Greens would win a record nine seats from the regional top-up lists, which proportionally allocates 56 of Holyrood’s 129 seats, giving independence parties a comfortable overall majority.

That would force the UK government into the politically hazardous territory of asking the UK supreme court to quash that legislation, risking an increase in popular support for independence in Scotland and a constitutional battle over Holyrood’s limited legal powers.

Sturgeon told Channel 4 News her government would legislate for the vote “and if Boris Johnson wants to stop that he would have to go to court”.

“If this was in almost any other democracy in the world it would be an absurd discussion," lei ha aggiunto. “If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that.”

With the final list votes due to be counted later on Saturday, a BBC Scotland projection showed a result very close to the 2016 Holyrood election, when the SNP also won 63 seats. It predicted the Tories would win 31 seats, Lavoro duro e faticoso 22, down two, the Greens nine, up by three, and the Lib Dems down one on four.

Sturgeon’s ability to control the timing and strategy on a referendum was secured after Alex Salmond’s attempt to win seats for his new hardline pro-independence Alba party failed; he was humiliated after Alba secured about 2% of the vote, with SNP voters failing to swing behind his demands for an immediate referendum campaign.

After early indications from the regional list vote suggested Alba would fail to win seats, Salmond appeared on a YouTube broadcast directed at his supporters. Looking tired, he complained Alba was “shut out” of the televised leaders’ debates and hit out at “weirdos and cranks” of the mainstream media.

Describing the SNP leadership as “among the most graceless I have ever come across”, he claimed that “Nicola lost her nerve on independence back in 2017 and has never recovered it”, adding that Alba was still needed in order the “fill a vacuum” created by Sturgeon’s “prevarication”.

One of the last constituency results to declare saw the election of Holyrood’s first woman of colour, Kaukab Stewart, a veteran candidate for the SNP in Glasgow Kelvin.

The final result, which gave the SNP the highest share of the vote since the Scottish parliament was set up in 1999, followed some widely varying results in the constituency counts on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, after a series of strong results for pro-UK candidates suggested the SNP vote was lower than expected, Sturgeon said she had always believed an SNP overall majority was a “very, very long shot”. Labour and the Tories believed an upsurge in anti-independence tactical voting in marginal seats, and Lib Dem-, Tory- and Labour-held seats, would restrain the SNP.

But the mood changed dramatically on Saturday after list votes showed higher levels of support for the SNP than expected. That led the Tories to predict the SNP could just snatch an overall majority. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said the outcome was “very much on a knife edge … Clearly it’s extremely close.” Conservative officials said Sturgeon’s plea to SNP voters to back the party on both votes “seems to have worked”.

Angus Robertson, the former SNP Westminster leader who comfortably won Edinburgh Central – the seat famously taken off the SNP by Ruth Davidson, the then Scottish Tory leader in 2016 – said there was a clear mandate for a second referendum.

Robertson, a combative and very experienced election strategist tipped as a future SNP leader, disse: “If a majority is elected to the Scottish parliament in favour of an independence referendum, then that’s exactly what should happen," Egli ha detto.

Dealing with the social and economic impacts of the Covid crisis would be the immediate priority, Ha aggiunto. “The decision needs to be taken at the right time, in the right circumstances, about when it’s right to hold a referendum," Egli ha detto.

His caution reflects a series of opinion polls which have shown a 10-point fall in support for independence in recent months, compared with a peak in the “yes vote” of 58% late last year. The fall in the yes vote implies that consistent warnings from pro-UK parties that the Covid recovery needs to come first have cut through, even if that has not translated into greater support for Labour or the Tories.

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