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by Andrew Learmonth
08 May 2021
Scotland has voted for a second independence referendum, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon and Kaukab Stewart outside the count at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow.

Scotland has voted for a second independence referendum, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has told the Prime Minister that there can be “no democratic justification” to block a second independence referendum, following the results of Thursday’s election. 

The First Minister was speaking after the SNP won 64 of Holyrood’s 129 seats, just one short of an overall majority. 

However, the Scottish Greens recorded the best result in their history, winning 8 MSPs, giving Holyrood a pro-independence majority.

Douglas Ross’s Conservatives won 31 seats, matching their 2016 tally, while Labour’s Anas Saraw lost two MSPs to take 22 seats. 

The Lib Dems remained at four. 

In a speech on Saturday evening after most of the results were out, the SNP leader said a vote on independence was now a “matter of fundamental democratic principle.”

The First Minister said her priority would be to “lead Scotland through the pandemic and to keep people safe,” and kick starting the recovery. 

When the crisis had passed, she added, then it would be time to give “people in Scotland the right to choose their future.”

She said: “Let us be clear about what Scotland voted for on Thursday.  The people of Scotland have voted to give pro independence parties a majority in the Scottish Parliament. 

“The final numbers may not yet be known, but it is beyond doubt that the pro independence majority in our new parliament will be larger than it was in the last one.

“Both the SNP and the Scottish Greens stood on a clear commitment to an independence referendum, within the next parliamentary term. And both of us made clear that the timing of a referendum should be decided by a simple majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. So in no way can a referendum be described as just a demand of me, or of the SNP. 

“It is a commitment made to the people, by a clear majority of the MSPs, who have been elected to our national parliament. It is the will of the country. And given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson, or indeed for anyone else, seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future. 

“Let me be very clear about this, if the Tories make such an attempt, they won't be placing themselves in opposition to the SNP, they will be standing in direct opposition to the will of the Scottish people, and they will demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals. 

“And astonishingly that Westminster no longer sees that as a voluntary union of nations. That in itself would be a most powerful argument for Scotland becoming an independent country.”

On Friday, Boris Johnson told the Telegraph that in the “current context” another vote on the constitution would be “irresponsible and reckless”.

Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, suggested independence would be a distraction from the COVID recovery. 

He said: “We need to get people back into work, businesses back on their feet, and our economy growing again. We need to tackle the backlogs in our health services, in our courts, and our young people need to catch up on their missed education.

“We must not allow ourselves to be distracted - COVID recovery must be the sole priority of Scotland’s two governments.”

The SNP’s road to a majority of their own was all but closed off when the party failed to win Aberdeenshire West from the Tories. In the end it wasn’t close, with incumbent Alexander Burnett increasing his majority from 900 to 3,390.

As in other constituencies across the country there was an element of tactical voting, with supporters of other pro-UK parties lending the Tories their vote. 

Other notable results included the election of the SNP’s Kaukab Stewart in Glasgow Kelvin, who will be the first woman of colour in Holyrood.

That glass ceiling was smashed for a second time just hours later when Pam Gosal was elected for the Tories as a list MSP. She’s also the first ever Sikh to be elected to Holyrood. 

In Glasgow, Labour won big on the list, taking four MSPs, including Pam Duncan Glancy, who will be the parliament’s first-ever wheelchair user.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross will be heading back to Holyrood after winning a seat on the Highlands and Islands regional list.

Green co-convenor Lorna Slater, who was elected on the Lothians list, said her party had succeeded after conducting “a positive campaign on a green recovery and tackling the climate crisis”.

She added: “It is clear that we need to start working on a new greener future for our country, and part of that must be a referendum on how Scotland is governed. Voters have delivered a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish Greens playing a vital part, and it is now incumbent on Boris Johnson to recognise that democratic mandate.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar defended his party’s result. 

"I think even my harshest critics would accept we have run an energetic and enthusiastic campaign, we got Labour back on the pitch,” he said. “That is something for us to build on for the next five years.“

Douglas Ross said the Tories had prevailed "against the odds and against most of the polls".

He added: “While other pro-UK parties lost seats, the Scottish Conservatives fought the SNP hard all over Scotland and took them on. We have cemented our position as Scotland’s biggest opposition party.

“Predictably, Nicola Sturgeon is already stoking division. Within hours, she has broken her word to voters and is already demanding another referendum.

“The Scottish Conservatives will keep our promise.

“Our promise was that a vote for the Scottish Conservatives would be a vote to stop an SNP majority - and in so doing stop Indyref2 and get the focus back 100% on the recovery from Covid."

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said it was "frustrating" that the party didn't add to their tally of MSPs.

“We will take the four seats that we have been given into the next parliament.

“The issues we highlighted will be important in the next five years.

“Those are mental health, early years education, an industrial strategy for recovery, and action on the climate emergency.

“So, as our MSPs look at the five years ahead we will pursue those issues."

Alex Salmond’s Alba failed to pick up a single seat. However, the former first minister said the party was “here to stay”. 

“I congratulate Nicola on her victory but, of course, with victory comes responsibility. The incoming SNP Government must now deliver on their promise to take Scotland towards Independence.  And there is no excuse for them not to do so,” he said. 

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - More than two-thirds of Scotland's murders are drug-related

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