New Scottish independence referendum is ‘will of the country’, says Sturgeon

SNP wins 64 seats in parliament as other pro-independence parties make gains

Another Scottish independence referendum is the "will of the country", first minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted, despite her SNP failing to win an overall majority at Holyrood.

The SNP won a total of 64 seats in the Scottish Parliament – one more than in 2016, but one short of the total needed for a majority.

But with the Scottish Greens having their best ever Holyrood performance, returning eight MSPs, the Parliament now has 72 MSPs who support a second independence vote.

However former first minister Alex Salmond’s Alba Party – which had been campaigning for an independence “supermajority” – failed to get any MSPs elected.

Speaking on Saturday, the first minister said her first focus would be on the coronavirus pandemic, but that the people of Scotland should be able to decide on the constitutional question "when the time is right".

An independence referendum was pledged in the manifesto of both the SNP and the Scottish Greens, and Ms Sturgeon declared: "It is a commitment made to the people by a majority of the MSPs have been elected to our national parliament.

“It is the will of the country.

"Given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.

If the request is rejected, Ms Sturgeon said, “it will demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals and that – astonishingly – Westminster no longer sees the UK as a voluntary union of nations”.

She added: “That in itself would be a very powerful argument for independence.”

She also appealed to independence supporters, telling them they must “patiently persuade our fellow citizens” of the case for an independent Scotland.

‘New greener future’

The win by the SNP, the fourth consecutive victory for the party, saw more votes cast for them in local constituencies than in any other election since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Tories returned 31 MSPs, equalling their 2016 performance. Meanwhile Labour was down two on 22 MSPs and the Liberal Democrats saw their number of members reduced from five to four.

Earlier on Saturday, British prime minister Boris Johnson insisted it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to have such a ballot as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

He told the the Daily Telegraph his impression was that Scottish voters had “moved away from the idea of a referendum”.

But Scottish Green co-leader, Lorna Slater, said as part of work towards a “new greener future” for Scotland there must now be a referendum.

She said: “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.”

One of the seats taken by the SNP was in Glasgow Kelvin, where Kaukab Stewart became the first woman of colour to be elected to Holyrood in its 22 year history – with Tory Pam Gosal later joining her as an MSP

Lost seats

Meanwhile Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy became the first permanent wheelchair user to be elected to Holyrood on the Glasgow list.

Earlier on in the day, the Tories had held the key seats of both Aberdeenshire West and Galloway and West Dumfries.

And although Ms Sturgeon’s party made other gains in the constituency votes at Holyrood on Friday, their success in gaining Ayr and East Lothian, from the Tories and Labour respectively, meant they lost seats on the South of Scotland regional list – with the energy minister Paul Wheelhouse ousted as a result.

While Labour recorded its worst performance in the Holyrood election campaign, new leader Anas Sarwar, who took charge less than three months ago, said the party had something “to build on for the next five years”.

He stated: “We are significantly ahead of where we were just 10 weeks ago, and I’m incredibly proud of everything our activists have achieved.

“Our campaign for a national recovery defined this election campaign, and we will take that energy into the Scottish Parliament.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie conceded it was “frustrating” his party had not been able to gain more votes, even though he said that “our message clearly got through and had a big appeal on the doorsteps in our strongest areas”.

He added: “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.” – PA