Glasgow, Scotland – Scotland’s ruling party won an unprecedented fourth consecutive term on Saturday after crossing into victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won 64 of the 129 seats to escape, just one in the general majority, with its closest rivals, the Scottish Conservative Unionists, winning 31.
The result, which also saw the Scottish Green Green Party win eight seats, could pave the way for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Voters across Scotland went to the polls on May 6, but coronavirus restrictions meant the count began later than normal.
Counting on the electoral part of the two-section vote began on Friday, but until Saturday evening, when the so-called regional lists were also assigned, the full figures were known.
The result means that, as has been the case for the past ten years, the parties in favor of Scotland becoming a sovereign state outnumber the parties advocating permanence in the UK.
The SNP, led by its Scottish leader and Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has now won four of the last six Scottish Parliamentary elections since the decentralized legislature was established in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, in 1999.
This was Sturgeon’s second Scottish parliamentary victory in his seven years at the helm of the SNP, and will be seen as a vote of confidence in his first presidency.
“There’s something about the mix of the prudent center-left, public duty and Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership that voters like in the SNP,” Gerry Hassan, a high-profile Scottish political author and commentator, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s no coincidence that he got a huge score from personal surveys.”
🏴 The people of Scotland have spoken: it is an SNP landslide.
✅ Highest number of votes
✅ The highest number of constituency seats in history
✅ The highest percentage of votes in the 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 the dispute over Scotland’s independence, rather than domestic policies, came up once again to drive voters to the polls.
Scots rejected British state independence by 55 to 45% in a referendum in 2014, but recent opinion polls have seen support for Scottish sovereignty often coincides with or exceeds support for the Union, and voting preferences have been tied to Scotland’s constitutional future, above all, as Scotland overwhelmingly chose to remain in the European Union in Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum.
“We have a new mandate: the people have voted for the SNP and we will have another referendum because this is democracy,” SNP candidate Roza Salih, who narrowly lost a seat on the regional list, told Al Jazeera of the vote. .
The pro-EU SNP has pledged to hold another plebiscite once the current COVID crisis is over.
With the Scottish Greens, the SNP has the numbers to win a vote on the matter in the newly elected chamber, as the party did in the previous parliament.
But the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly said so rejected to sanction another referendum, with the constitution a matter reserved for the Westminster government in London, and a tense confrontation began between the two administrations even before all the votes were counted.
“We would proceed with the necessary legislation and this would only happen if it were passed by the Scottish Parliament,” Sturgeon told the media.
“Yes [Johnson] I wanted to stop him from going to the Supreme Court to challenge him, and that would be his decision, not mine. “
“What [the SNP and Sturgeon] looking is a fight, ”Kevin Hague, a Scotland-based businessman, pro-UK activist and chairman of These Islands, a pro-union think tank, told Al Jazeera.
“Because that’s how your claim machine works. [Sturgeon] he doesn’t want an independence referendum soon because people don’t want it and, frankly, he would lose it. “
While Scotland’s mixed voting system makes it hugely difficult to do so, Sturgeon will be disappointed that he did not get a direct majority for his party, which the SNP did in 2011.
But with a renewed and strong term of record turnout, the Scottish Prime Minister will likely feel excited as she looks towards another five-year term.
He will also try to leave behind his controversies over his predecessor, both as SNP leader and Prime Minister Alex Salmond, who threatened to destroy his presidency.
Once committed to friends and allies, Sturgeon and Salmond’s relationship broke down sensationally and publicly after the latter was accused of sexually assaulting several women.
Salmond was acquitted by an Edinburgh court early last year, but Sturgeon has distanced himself from his former mentor, his own attempt to re-enter the Scottish political scene with his newly pro-independence party Alba, who reached the buffers after he got no seat.
Stopping the deteriorating drug crisis in Scotland, as well as leaving the constituent nation of the current coronavirus pandemic, will occupy a prominent place on Sturgeon’s list of priorities during his new term.
But, as always, Scotland’s constitutional future will remain at the center as Edinburgh and London prepare for what will likely be a very bitter confrontation.