the Scottish National Party was on track on Saturday to remain by far the largest party in the decentralized parliament in Holyrood, but it looked likely it would not win a majority of the chamber’s 129 seats.
The pro-independence SNP won 59 of the 70 single-round majority constituency seats declared on Saturday afternoon, but was unable to take target margins considered essential for a majority in the partially proportionately representative parliament.
The fourth consecutive victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections for the SNP means that they will continue in the government of Edinburgh with a powerful platform to push for a second referendum on independence from the UK.
However, the British Conservative government will likely use any SNP failure to secure an outright majority as a reason for refusing to approve a re-run of the 2014 poll, in which the Scots supported retention in the union at 55-45 percent. .
Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, said it had always been “a very, very long time” for her party to win a majority in the proportionately representative parliament, a feat so far only successful in 2011. The SNP has led a minority government for five years.
“I feel extremely happy and extremely confident that we are on the right track in the SNP for a fourth consecutive electoral victory and having the ability to form a government again,” Sturgeon told the BBC during the Glasgow count on Friday. .
Analysts said that even if the SNP did not achieve a majority, the pro-independence Scottish Greens appeared almost certain to win enough seats to ensure that more than half of Holyrood’s MPs support another referendum.
Sturgeon has repeatedly insisted that the British government’s refusal to approve another independence vote would not be viable if there was overall majority support for a vote in Holyrood.
Scottish Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would “just have to accept democracy in Scotland” if a majority of MPs back another referendum.
“This is a fundamental democratic point. This is what the people of Scotland will have voted for, ”Swinney told the BBC on Saturday.
Johnson in January suggested that Westminster should not approve another referendum until at least the 2050s. In one interview with The Telegraph The newspaper published on Saturday, the prime minister gave no details of his intentions, but said he believed a referendum “in the current context” would be “irresponsible and reckless”.
The final balance of the 56 deputies selected via regional list seats was to be announced on Saturday after the proclamation of the last constituency seats.
Despite wins in some key target seats, the SNP’s hopes of a majority suffered a blow when the tactical vote by Conservative supporters helped Labor detain the Dumbarton fringe in eastern Scotland . In Aberdeenshire West, Liberal Democrat supporters helped the Tories push back a challenge from the SNP.
John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the Aberdeenshire West result made it clear that the SNP would not repeat the 2011 feat of winning Holyrood’s majority. “The road to 65 [seats] is now clearly closed, ”Curtice told the BBC.
But an improved performance by the Scottish Greens suggested there would be a larger Holyrood majority for a second UK exit referendum. “The pro-independence majority in the next parliament will probably be a bit heavier,” said Mark Diffley, a Scottish public opinion consultant.
Analysts said Labor appeared unable to outdo the Tories as Scotland’s biggest opposition party, despite what was generally seen as a good campaign for the new leader of the once-dominant left-wing party, Anas Sarwar .
Sarwar nearly doubled the Labor vote in Glasgow Southside constituency but was easily beaten by the incumbent Sturgeon. But the new leader insisted that progress was being made on his “project” for Labor change.
“Compared to where we were just 10 weeks ago when I took over this job, it’s a wonderful turnaround,” he said.
Turnout across Scotland on Thursday was higher than in 2016, despite bad weather and snow in parts of the country and what many observers deemed a relatively lackluster campaign.
Voters in Scottish parliamentary elections have two votes, with the fortunes of small parties largely determined by who chooses the regional party lists.
The constituency-level vote tally suggested that the new pro-independence Alba party launched by former SNP premier Alex Salmond – who was only on regional lists – would fail to win a single seat.
Salmond said friendly bloggers on a video call that he was ‘in bad shape’ after losing his seat in Westminster in 2017. But the former SNP leader insisted Alba would continue to be a hotbed for ‘disgruntled’ independence supporters frustrated with what he said was Sturgeon’s failure to assert his UK.
Graphics by Cale Tilford, Max Harlow, Joanna S Kao and Steven Bernard