Scottish Election: SNP wins emphatic victory but falls just short of majority

Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

The SNP has won an emphatic victory in the Holyrood elections, but did not gain an overall majority.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party took 64 seats in Thursday’s vote – 62 in constituencies and one on the Highlands and Islands and another in the South Scotland regional list – one shy of a majority but well ahead of the Tories on 31 seats.

With the failure to return 65 MSPs, the case for another independence referendum is weakened, but the Scottish Greens provide an overall pro-independence majority of 72 seats.

In a televised victory speech, Ms Sturgeon said another vote was “the will of the country”.

She added: “It is a commitment made to the people by a majority of the MSPs have been elected to our national parliament.

“It is the will of the country.

“Given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.”

If the request is rejected, Ms Sturgeon said, “it will demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals and that – astonishingly – Westminster no longer sees the UK as a voluntary union of nations”.

She added: “That in itself would be a very powerful argument for independence.”

Boris Johnson said earlier on Saturday that it would be "irresponsible and reckless" to have another referendum now.

Why Nicola Sturgeon will not rush into another referendum - and why Scotland is still split down the middle when it comes to independence

Mr Johnson has invited the First Minister and other devolved leaders to a Union “summit”.

Congratulating SNP leader Ms Sturgeon on her re-election as First Minister, Mr Johnson wrote in a letter: “I believe passionately that the interests of people across the UK and in particular the people of Scotland are best served when we work together.

“I would like to invite you to join me, UK Government colleagues and others at a summit meeting to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them.

“We will all have our own perspectives and ideas – and we will not always agree – but I am confident that by learning from each other we will be able to build back better, in the interests of the people we serve.”

The SNP also boasted a historic return in Glasgow Kelvin, after Kaukab Stewart became the first woman of colour to be elected to Holyrood in its 22 year history.

The First Minister said she was “thrilled” with Ms Stewart’s win, and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also congratulated her on claiming the seat vacated by the retiring Sandra White.

Despite the SNP win, the First Minister will now need to address gaps in her cabinet, after four sitting cabinet ministers stood down, including Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Constitution Secretary Mike Russell.

In the coming weeks, Ms Sturgeon will have to look to current junior ministers and possibly members of the new intake in the SNP to be brought into her ministerial team.

The final results:

  • SNP - 64 seats

  • Liberal Democrats - 4 seats

  • Conservatives - 31 seats

  • Labour - 22 seats

  • Green - 8 seats

The Scottish Conservatives matched their best ever result at a Scottish Parliament election as new leader Douglas Ross maintained the 31-seat total won in 2016.

The party picked up two seats on the regional lists, offsetting the loss of two constituencies.

Mr Ross, who took over the party in August last year, said he will not “shy away” from fighting SNP plans for an independence referendum in the new parliamentary term.

He said: “I’ll stop talking about independence when the SNP stop talking about independence.

“The fact that they put it front and centre of their election manifesto meant that I was going to respond to that.

“I’m not going to shy away from the SNP, I’m not going to hide from the crucial debate here in Scotland.

“But what I am going to put forward is a positive vision for our country, what we really can deliver as a whole parliament, as a whole country to secure the recovery that people here in Scotland desperately need after the 12 months we have been through together.”

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, meanwhile, has pledged to form a “credible alternative” to the SNP in the next five years, despite the party’s worst performance north of the border since devolution.

The party returned 22 MSPs, down from 24 in 2016, but the head of the party – himself only in post for 10 weeks – managed to counter polls which had them falling even further.

As the final results came in, he said: “We’re on a journey to build a credible alternative to the SNP.

“Not just oppose the SNP, but to build a credible alternative. And that job doesn’t stop with this election campaign.

“I think even my harshest critics would accept we have run an energetic and enthusiastic campaign, we got Labour back on the pitch.

“That is something for us to build on for the next five years.”

Scottish Green Party co-leader Lorna Slaterwas elected to Holyrood on the Lothian list Credit: Lesley Martin/PA

The Scottish Greens’ co-leader Lorna Slater said her party will have “greater influence in Holyrood than ever before” following the party’s best election performance.

Ms Slater said the SNP falling short of an overall majority and the Scottish Greens’ returning eight MSPs was a “good thing for Scotland” because her party offered “positive, practical policies” for the country.

Asked about the Scottish Greens’ role in the next parliament in light of the SNP falling short of an overall majority, Ms Slater said: “I think it’s a strength of the Scottish Parliament that we can have minority governments because actually, I think legislation is better when it’s worked on by more than one party.

“The SNP in the last parliament had to work with different parties on different pieces of legislation, and that means negotiation, it means consensus, it means grown-up politics.“So I think it’s a good thing for Scotland.”