Scottish gov’t sets stage for another independence vote
The Scottish National Party won its fourth straight parliamentary election on Saturday and insisted it will push on with another referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK, even though it failed by one seat to secure a majority.
Final results of Thursday’s election showed the SNP winning 64 of the 129 seats in the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament. The result extends the party’s dominance of Scottish politics since it first won power in 2007.
Other results from Super Thursday’s array of elections across Britain emerged Saturday, including the Labour Party’s victory in the Welsh parliamentary election. Labour’s Sadiq Khan was also reelected mayor of London.
The election with the biggest implications was the Scottish election, as it could pave the way to the break-up of the United Kingdom. The devolved government has an array of powers but many economic and security matters remain within the orbit of the British government in London.
Though the SNP won the vast majority of constituencies, it failed to get the 65 seats it would need to have a majority as Scotland allocates some by a form of proportional representation. Though falling short, the SNP will be easily able to govern for the five-year parliamentary term with the eight members of the Scottish Greens, who also back Scottish independence.
SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said her immediate priority would be steering Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic and that the legitimacy of an independence referendum remains, SNP majority or not.
“This is now a matter of fundamental democratic principle,” Sturgeon said. “It is the will of the country.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the leader of the Conservative Party, would have the ultimate authority whether or not to permit another referendum on Scotland gaining independence. Johnson appears intent on resisting another vote, setting up the possibility of renewed tensions between his government and Sturgeon’s devolved administration.
The prime minister wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper published Saturday that another referendum would be “irresponsible and reckless” in the “current context” as Britain emerges from the pandemic.
He has consistently argued that the issue was settled in a September 2014 referendum, when 55 per cent of Scottish voters favored remaining part of the UK. Proponents of another vote say the situation has changed fundamentally because of Brexit, with Scotland taken out of the European Union against its will. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 52 per cent of the UK voted to leave the EU while 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain.