Scottish elections 2021: SNP majority doubtful as counting gathers pace in Holyrood election

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith on how an SNP win is already having an impact in Westminster

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are almost certain to win an historic fourth term in the Scottish Parliament, but appear short of an outright majority.

A majority of pro-independence MSPs have been elected in the Holyrood election, with Nicola Sturgeon declaring “it is the will of the country” for Scotland to have a second Scottish independence referendum.

Signs are now suggesting there is likely to be a pro-independence majority thanks to backing from the Green Party.

And Nicola Sturgeon says that gives her a mandate to push ahead with plans to hold another referendum when the time is right.

She's certain to meet opposition from Westminster, with Boris Johnson saying it would be "irresponsible and reckless" to have one now.

'This is no time to have another divisive referendum', Environment Secretary tells ITV News

George Eustice told ITV News: "There was a referendum just a little over five years ago and it gave a result and, you know, right now we need to be focusing on getting out of this pandemic, getting our economy back on its feet again.

"This is no time to have another divisive referendum."

However the first minister also told ITV News: "The SNP is on course for a fourth consecutive election victory and a fourth term in office after 14-years in government. That's an extraordinary achievement."

She later added that any Westminster politician who stands in the way of a Scottish Independence referendum is “not picking a fight with the SNP, you are picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people”.

She said: “While we don’t know the final tally of seats right now, it looks as if it is beyond any doubt that there will be a pro-independence majority in that Scottish Parliament. And by any normal standard of democracy that majority should have the commitments it made to the people of Scotland honoured. “So for any Westminster politician who tries to stand in the way of that I would say two things. Firstly, you are not picking a fight with the SNP, you are picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people and secondly you will not succeed. “The only people who can decide the future of Scotland are the Scottish people and no Westminster politician can or should stand in the way of that.

In the Holyrood election, 65 is the magic number for an overall majority, but it remains in doubt whether the SNP will secure this majority, despite Ms Sturgeon's "quiet confidence" on Friday evening.

What Holyrood election results have been announced?

The final results are:

  • SNP - 64 seats

  • Liberal Democrats - 4

  • Conservatives - 31

  • Labour - 22

  • Green - 8

The SNP failed to gain the Aberdeenshire West constituency from the Scottish Conservatives.

Winning the seat has been seen as being key for Nicola Sturgeon’s party gaining an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

But Conservative Alexander Burnett held on to the seat with 19,709 votes, increasing his majority there and defeating Fergus Mutch, who polled 16,319 for the SNP.

Ms Sturgeon told ITV News that if Mr Johnson wanted to stop Scotland from holding a referendum, he would have to go to the Supreme Court to challenge it.

"The absurdity of a position where a PM was going to court to overturn the democratic decision of the Scottish people? I don't think we'll get to the position," she said. Achieving the 65 seats needed for an outright victory could make it harder for Mr Johnson to refuse another plebiscite, although if the SNP falls short of that target it could still achieve a majority in Holyrood for a referendum with the support of the Greens.

Nicola Sturgeon on the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum

Mr Johnson said a referendum would be “irresponsible and reckless” in the “current context” following the pandemic.

Pressed on what he would do if Ms Sturgeon pushed ahead with a referendum without Westminster’s consent, he told the Daily Telegraph: "Well, as I say, I think that there’s no case now for such a thing … I don’t think it’s what the times call for at all."

Former first minister Alex Salmond, meanwhile, has insisted his new Alba Party has put in a “creditable performance” in the Holyrood election – despite conceding they are likely to see no MSPs returned.

The pro-independence party, which launched at the start of the Holyrood campaign, had been fighting on the regional list section of the ballot, with the declared aim of winning an independence “supermajority”.

But while list votes are still be counted, he said his new party looked set to fall short of the amount needed to pick up seats.

Mr Salmond also claimed that there could be “perhaps even a million list voters” for Nicola Sturgeon’s party which would “elect nobody”, because of the SNP’s success in the constituency section of the vote.

Alex Salmond said his party put in a 'creditable performance'.

In England, Labour will be hoping for better results on Saturday after a bruising Friday which left Sir Keir Starmer facing criticism from senior figures across his party.

The Hartlepool by-election defeat dealt a significant blow to his leadership, but there was also bad news in council contests and a landslide victory for the Tories in the Tees Valley mayoral battle.

Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the Hartlepool by-election. Credit: PA

“I’m bitterly disappointed in the result and I take full responsibility for the results – and I will take full responsibility for fixing this,” Sir Keir said.

With results in from 84 of 143 English councils, the Tories had a net gain of seven authorities and 173 seats, while Labour had a net loss of four councils and 164 seats.

In London’s mayoral contest, Labour’s Sadiq Khan goes into Saturday with a lead of 24,267 first preference votes over Tory rival Shaun Bailey after the first seven constituencies declared, a closer contest than many had predicted.

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The other mayoral contests will also be keenly watched – Andy Burnham’s profile in Greater Manchester has seen him become the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Sir Keir as the next Labour leader, even though he is not in the Commons.

In the West Midlands, Andy Street will be looking to complete the Tory “hat-trick” of successes by retaining the mayoralty, following Jill Mortimer’s Hartlepool victory and Ben Houchen’s stunning result which saw him take 73% of the vote in Tees Valley.

In Wales – as in Scotland and England – the party in power during the pandemic appears to have been rewarded by the voters.

Welsh Labour have won the 2021 Senedd election but have failed to become the majority party by just one seat.

Mark Drakeford’s Welsh Labour avoided the kind of electoral drubbing Sir Keir endured on Friday, holding on to its “red wall” seats in the north.

Results have seen Labour win 30, the Tories 12, Plaid Cymru nine and the Liberal Democrats one.

Mr Drakeford, who extended the majority for his Cardiff West seat by more than 10,000 votes, said he was delighted his party had “exceeded expectations”.

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