Glasgow, Scotland – The Scottish ruling party won an unprecedented fourth successive term in government on Saturday after winning in the Scottish parliamentary elections.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won 64 of 129 seats, slightly below the overall majority, with its closest rivals, the Scottish Conservative trade unionists, 31.
The result, which also saw the pro-independence Scottish Green Party win eight seats, could pave the way for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Voters across Scotland turned out to vote on May 6, but coronavirus restrictions meant the tally started later than normal.
Counting on the constituency portion of the two-section poll began on Friday, but it wasn’t until Saturday evening, when the so-called regional lists were also allocated, that all the numbers were known.
The result means that, just as has been the case for the past 10 years, parties in favor of Scotland becoming a sovereign state outnumber parties that advocate staying in the UK.
The SNP, led by its leader and Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has now won four of the last six Scottish Parliament elections since the decentralized legislative body was established in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, in 1999.
It was the second victory for Sturgeon’s Scottish Parliament in seven years as head of the SNP, and will be seen as a vote of confidence in his post as Prime Minister.
“There is something about the cautious center-left SNP, public duty and Nicola Sturgeon leadership mix that voters appreciate,” senior Scottish political commentator and author Gerry Hassan told Al Jazeera.
“It’s no coincidence that she has always had huge personal opinion polls.”
🏴 The Scottish people have spoken – this is a landslide from the SNP.
✅ Highest number of votes
✅ Largest number of constituency seats ever recorded
✅ Highest vote share ever in Scottish election
👇 Once we rebuild Scotland from COVID, there will be an independence referendum. pic.twitter.com/k5Oq4hndh1
– The SNP (@theSNP) May 8, 2021
But wrangling over Scottish independence, rather than national policies, once again seemed to push voters to the polls.
The Scots rejected the independence of the British state by 55-45% in a referendum in 2014, but recent opinion polls have shown that support for Scottish sovereignty was often equal to or greater than that of the Union, and voting preferences have long been tied to Scotland’s constitutional future, especially as Scotland overwhelmingly chose to stay in the European Union in the UK’s Brexit referendum in 2016.
“We have a new term – the people voted for the SNP and we will hold another referendum because it is democracy,” SNP candidate Roza Salih, who narrowly missed the election, told Al Jazeera. ‘one seat on the regional ballot list. .
The pro-EU SNP has pledged to hold another plebiscite once the current COVID crisis is over.
Along with the Scottish Greens, the SNP has the numbers to win a vote on the issue in the newly elected chamber, just as the party did in the previous parliament.
But the Prime Minister of the British Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, has on several occasions refuse to sanction another referendum, with the constitution a matter reserved for the government of Westminster in London, and a tense stalemate between the two administrations began before all the votes were even counted.
“We would pass the necessary legislation, and that would only happen if it was passed by the Scottish Parliament,” Sturgeon told the media.
“Yes [Johnson] wanted to stop that would be the case where he would have to go to the Supreme Court to challenge it – and that would be his decision, not mine.
“What [the SNP and Sturgeon] are looking for a fight, ”Kevin Hague, a Scotland-based entrepreneur, pro-British activist and chairman of These Islands, a pro-union think tank, told Al Jazeera.
“Because that’s how their claim machine works. [Sturgeon] doesn’t want an independence referendum anytime soon because people don’t want it and frankly she would lose it.
Although Scotland’s mixed voting system makes this task extremely difficult, Sturgeon will be disappointed that he did not secure an absolute majority for his party – which the SNP did in 2011.
But, with a renewed – and heavy – term from a record turnout, the Scottish Prime Minister is likely to feel emboldened as she contemplates another five-year term.
She will also seek to end her controversies surrounding her predecessor as SNP leader and prime minister Alex Salmond, who threatened to destroy his post as prime minister.
Once friends and committed allies, Sturgeon and Salmond’s relationship fell in a sensational and public way after the latter was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women.
Salmond was acquitted in an Edinburgh court early last year, but Sturgeon distanced himself from his former mentor, whose own attempt to re-enter the Scottish political arena with his newly established Alba Party for Independence hit the pads after failing.
Stopping the worsening drug crisis in Scotland, as well as pulling the constituent country out of the current coronavirus pandemic, will be high on Sturgeon’s priority list during his new term.
But, as always, Scotland’s constitutional future will remain at the forefront as Edinburgh and London brace for what will likely be a very bitter showdown.