The Scottish National Party won its fourth straight parliamentary election on Saturday and insisted it will push on with another referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kindgom even though it failed by one seat to secure a majority.
Final results of Thursday’s election showed the SNP winning 64 of the 129 seats in the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament. The result extends the party’s dominance of Scottish politics since it first won power in 2007.
Other results from Super Thursday’s array of elections across the U.K. emerged Saturday, including the Labour Party’s victory in the Welsh parliamentary election. Sadiq Khan, also from the Labour Party, was also widely expected to be reelected mayor of London.
The election with the biggest implications was the Scottish election, as it could pave the way to the break-up of the U.K. Scotland’s devolved government has an array of powers, but many economic and security matters remain within the orbit of the British government in London.
1 seat short of majority
Although the SNP won the vast majority of constituencies, it failed to get the 65 seats it would need to have a majority as Scotland allocates some by a form of proportional representation.
Despite falling short, the SNP will be easily able to govern for the five-year parliamentary term with the eight members of the Scottish Greens, who also back Scottish independence.
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, said her immediate priority would be steering Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic and that the legitimacy of an independence referendum remains, SNP majority or not.
“This is now a matter of fundamental democratic principle,” Sturgeon said. “It is the will of the country.”
Johnson critical of another referendum
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the leader of the Conservative Party, would have the ultimate authority whether or not to permit another referendum on Scotland gaining independence.
Johnson appears intent on resisting another vote, setting up the possibility of renewed tensions between his government and Sturgeon’s devolved administration.
The prime minister wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper published Saturday that another referendum would be “irresponsible and reckless” in the “current context” as Britain emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has consistently argued that the issue was settled in a September 2014 referendum, when 55 per cent of Scottish voters favoured remaining part of the U.K.
Proponents of another vote say the situation has changed fundamentally because of Brexit, with Scotland taken out of the European Union against its will. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 52 per cent of the U.K. voted to leave the EU while 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain.
Tensions over Scotland’s future
Sturgeon said it would be wrong for Johnson to stand in the way of a referendum and that the timing is a matter for the Scottish Parliament.
There’s been growing talk that the whole issue may end up going to court, but Sturgeon said the “outrageous nature” of any attempt by the British government to thwart the democratic will of Scotland would only fuel the desire for independence.
“I couldn’t think of a more powerful argument for independence than that,” she said.
The Scotland results have been the main focus since an array of local and regional elections took place Thursday across Britain, in which around 50 million voters were eligible to vote.