U.K. Elections: Conservatives Make Gains; Pro-Independence Parties Win In Scotland

Elias Hubbard
May 9, 2021

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at a Glasgow counting centre on May 7, 2021.

Sturgeon has said her first priority will be to lead the country out of the coronavirus pandemic but independence has remained front of mind for the 50-year-old politician, "it looks as if it is beyond any doubt that there will be a pro-independence majority in that Scottish Parliament and by any normal standard of democracy that majority should have the commitments it made to the people of Scotland honored, " Sturgeon said.

However, even if the SNP doesn't win the 65 seats needed for an outright victory, there's a high likelihood that a pro-independence majority could be achieved with the support of the Greens.

Winning an overall majority isn't easy under Scotland's electoral system which is a mixture of first-past-the-post and proportional representation. They had also been buoyed by opinion polls showing an increase in support for sovereignty and Ms. Sturgeon's high popularity among voters.

"You'll have Nicola Sturgeons saying, "I won the election, I now have a mandate to hold a second referendum" and Boris Johnson saying, 'Well, I'm not giving you one, it's too soon, you didn't win well enough'".

"The SNP has won this election emphatically", she told reporters on Saturday. Sturgeon emphasizes, however, that Brexit, which the Scots rejected, has changed the situation.

Labour's Jackie Baillie held what was Scotland's most marginal seat, increasing her majority in Dumbarton from 109 to 1,483, thanks to massive Tory tactical voting.

The prime minister has called a summit with the leaders of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, saying the United Kingdom is "best served when we work together".

Scots voted by 55%-45% in 2014 to remain part of the United Kingdom, and Johnson says that was a "once in a generation" vote.

Chris Deerin, director of Reform Scotland, an Edinburgh-based think tank, said the probable pro-independence majority pointed to clash with both sides digging in.

He has called talk of a second referendum "irresponsible and reckless".

"But in some of the big ballot boxes, I think we ended up over 3% in Aberdeenshire East, the same in Banff and Buchan, a bit more actually, which I'm pleased with because these are our best results in Scotland".

Sturgeon has ruled out holding any vote until after the pandemic, with the SNP indicating it would be held by the end of 2023.

Britain's exit from the European Union - opposed by a majority of Scots - as well as a perception that Sturgeon's government has handled the COVID-19 crisis well, and antipathy to Johnson's Conservative government in London, have bolstered support for Scotland's independence movement.

"The timing of an independence referendum now should be a matter for the Scottish parliament", she said.

The British government says that legally Scotland needs permission from the British Parliament to hold a referendum.

"The absurdity and outrageous nature of a Westminster Government, potentially going to court to overturn Scottish democracy, I can't think of a more colorful argument for Scottish independence than that myself", she said.

A special election was held in the town of Hartlepool in northern England where Britain's governing Conservative Party won a parliamentary seat previously held by the Labour Party since 1974.

Meanwhile, former first minister Alex Salmond conceded it is unlikely his new Alba Party will take seats in this election. The two had a falling out after Mr. Salmond resigned as leader in 2014 and later faced several sexual assault charges.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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