Scottish pro-independence party wins key elections

Photo: AP

The Scottish pro-independence SNP won over conservatives and liberals in a parliamentary election on Friday, Reuters reported. Still it would remain unclear whether SNP will have a clear majority as some results will hang on undecided through Saturday due to very close voting results. A clear majority for SNP will allow the country to call a new referendum for independence from the UK.

The SNP says it will seek to hold a new vote on secession by the end of 2023 if there is a pro-independence majority returned to the devolved 129-seat parliament - setting up a potential legal showdown with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who says he will refuse any such vote. The SNP won 38 of the first 47 seats so far declared, including East Lothian, Edinburgh Central and Ayr, three of the election's key battlegrounds. The SNP failed to win Dumbarton, the most marginal seat so far at the last election.

In some areas there was an increase in support for opposition pro-union parties, indicating the final outcome would be very close, with some seats allocated on a separate proportional representation system. The results suggest the SNP is on course to win a fourth term in office giving it a platform to push for a second independence referendum. But, if the party fails to win an outright majority it will be easier for the British government to resist demands for another vote.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader, said it had always a "very, very long shot" for her party to win a majority under the proportionally electoral system for the devolved parliament, which favours smaller parties."It would be good to do. But I have never taken that for granted and it has always been on a knife edge. I am extremely happy and extremely confident that we are on track in the SNP for a fourth consecutive election victory," said Sturgeon, who retained her own seat with a comfortable majority.

When asked what it would mean if the SNP did win a majority, Johnson said he would wait and see what happened. "I don't think people want much more constitutional wrangling right now," he told reporters, echoing previous comments that it was wrong to focus on independence during the Covid-19 crisis.

The outcome of the election could ultimately put Scotland on the path towards breaking its 314-year union with England. Scotland's politics have been diverging from other parts of Britain, but Scots remain divided over the prospect of another polarising independence vote.

The SNP need to gain at least four more seats to win an overall majority of 65, but could rely on the backing of the pro-independence Green Party, which took five seats in 2016, to pursue a second vote. Turnout across Scotland was higher than five years ago. Commentators said the SNP needed to get its supporters out to gain a majority, while it could also mean tactical voting by those opposed to breaking up the union.

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