Local Elections Scotland 2021

Boris Johnson slams prospect of Scottish second referendum as ‘irresponsible and reckless’ as Nicola Sturgeon fights for a majority amid claims that SNP could miss out by ONE seat

  • Polls suggest the SNP could fall short of a majority by the tiniest of margins 
  • Sturgeon wants a mandate to hold a new independence referendum 
  • Having to govern with an SNP/Green coalition would weaken her position 
  • Boris Johnson has insisted he would not support another independence vote 

Boris Johnson has set himself on course for a constitutional clash with Nicola Sturgeon if she pushes ahead with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum – which the PM has called ‘irresponsible and reckless’.

Counting continues in the Scottish parliamentary contest, with the SNP leader’s hopes of achieving a majority on a knife edge, after a poll predicted the party could miss out by just one seat. 

But it is still highly likely the SNP will win its fourth term in power at Holyrood, and Ms Sturgeon said ‘when the time is right’ she will offer Scots ‘the choice of a better future’ in a second independence referendum.

But Mr Johnson has insisted he would not support another independence vote, saying 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.’ 

Ms Sturgeon countered, telling Channel 4: ‘If this was in almost any other democracy in the world it would be an absurd discussion.

‘If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that.’ 

After 48 of the 73 constituency results in Scotland were declared on Friday, the SNP had 39 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two   

Miss Sturgeon’s hopes of winning an overall majority for the SNP at Holyrood election are hanging in the balance – despite her party making gains from its rivals.

Boris Johnson has insisted he would not support another independence vote, saying a referendum would be ‘irresponsible and reckless’ in the ‘current context’ following the pandemic

The SNP leader’s hopes of achieving a majority on a knife edge, after a poll predicted the party could miss out by just one seat 

The SNP picked up key seats in Edinburgh Central – where former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson replaced the one time Scottish Tory boss Ruth Davidson – as well as as in Ayr and East Lothian.

But under Holyrood’s proportional representation system, those successes could see it lose seats on the regional list ballot.

With 47 constituency results declared today, the SNP have won 38 seats, with the Liberal Democrats on four, the Conservatives with three and Labour two.    

Meanwhile, Labour’s Jackie Baillie held on to her Dumbarton constituency – which had been the most marginal seat in all of Scotland and a top target for the SNP.

Ms Baillie had a majority of just 109 from the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but increased that 1,483. 

With some constituencies still to be counted on Saturday, when the crucial regional list results will also be declared, Ms Sturgeon said it was ‘not impossible’. 

An SNP majority would be a major blow for Boris Johnson and pile pressure on him to grant a second Scottish independence referendum – which could lead to the break-up of the UK.

A final opinion poll by Ipsos MORI for STV News projected that the SNP could take 68 seats. But 12 per cent of the 1,502 people asked said they could still change their vote ahead of polls opening on Thursday.

Opposition party leaders (Conservative Douglas Ross pictured) were confident that they had managed to mobilise the pro-Union vote to stave off the threat of separation from the rest of the UK

Ipsos MORI Scotland managing director Emily Gray said a majority for the SNP ‘hangs in the balance’. She added: ‘The election result may come down to how the parties perform in a small number of key marginal seats, as well as in the regional vote, which is likely to prove particularly important in determining which party is in second place.

‘With a relatively high percentage of voters still saying they’ve not definitely decided, all the parties still have something to play for.’ The poll had the Tories and Labour both losing seats, dropping to 27 and 19 respectively, while the Greens were forecast to jump to 11 seats and the Lib Dems to lose one, ending on four.

Wales is a bright spot in dismal night for Labour 

Wales was last night set to be one of Labour’s few successes in the elections with the party likely to keep control of the Welsh Parliament.

The party appeared to have exceeded expectations as counting continued, with just one of its seats – the Vale of Clwyd – falling to the Welsh Conservatives. Labour also said it was confident of unseating former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in Rhondda.

At the start of the campaign, polling suggested Labour was facing its worst ever result in Wales, and was at risk of winning as few as 22 of the Welsh Parliament’s 60 seats, a loss of seven from 2016.

But last night, confirmed results and indications suggested Labour would end up only just short of an outright majority.

Two other polls were published earlier on Wednesday, with one predicting the SNP would drop to 59 seats.  

After the Lib Dems held their safe seat of Orkney the nationalists took the next 11 seats, including the previously Labour constituency of East Lothian.

The SNP also held 10 of their own seats, but some with markedly reduced majorities: Banffshire & Buchan Coast saw a 10.3 per cent swing to the Tories, and in Aberdeen Donside it was 6.2 per cent. 

In Clydebank & Milngavie the SNP held the seat but with a 5.8 per cent swing to Labour. It was the first blood in an election in which polls suggest Nicola Sturgeon could miss out on an SNP majority at Holyrood by just a single seat.

She is almost certain to remain in power in a coalition, but the failure would dent her call for a new independence referendum.

Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson won the first seat of the election for his party, holding Edinburgh Southern. He won 20,760 votes to SNP candidate Catriona MacDonald’s 16,738.

But former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson won the Edinburgh Central constituency in the Holyrood election formerly held by ex-Scottish Conservative chief Ruth Davidson.

Mr Robertson reversed a Conservative majority of 810 held by the former Tory leader, winning 16,276 votes. The Tory candidate, Scott Douglas, won 11,544 votes – giving the SNP a majority of 4,732.

In Ayr, the SNP’s Siobhian Brown defeated the incumbent John Scott, who had held the seat since 2000, by 18,881 votes to 18,711. Ms Brown reversed a majority of just 750 votes, winning by 170. 

Left: Scottish First Minister & SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon arrives on the counting floor at the Scottish Election 2021 Glasgow count. Right: ALBA party leader Alex Salmond talks on his phone as votes are being counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections

ALBA party leader Alex Salmond on his phone as votes are being counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the P&J Live/TECA, Aberdeen

Scottish Labour won 4,766 votes in the seat, while the Liberal Democrats took just 808, with a turnout of 68% of the electorate.  

Speaking before she retained her Glasgow Southside seat, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘A majority has always been a very, very long shot – the Holyrood system is a proportional representation system, in 2011 we effectively broke that system.

‘It would be good to do but I have never taken that for granted, that has always been on a knife edge – a small number of votes in a small number of seats – so we’ll wait and see how the votes will pan out over today and tomorrow.’ 

Salmond: This election was ‘perhaps too early to make breakthrough we were looking for’

Alex Salmond has said this election was ‘perhaps too early to make the breakthrough we were looking for’.

Asked by the BBC about his Alba Party’s prospects, the former Scotland first minister said ‘whether we will make it tomorrow, I don’t think so on the results we’ve seen’.

‘I think probably we will take out of this election the arguments we have been putting forward will be proven to be correct. Firstly that independence should be front and centre of election campaigns if we want to persuade people to vote for it.

‘And, secondly, it looks like, though it is not certain, that the SNP will be poised on an overall majority but there won’t be the backing in terms of the enthusiasm for getting on with the independence referendum.

‘Crucially, it seems perhaps a million, perhaps even more than a million, SNP votes on the regional list are going to elect perhaps one, perhaps two MSPs on that section of the ballot paper across Scotland. What a waste.’

The SNP leader has now said she hoped and expected that Boris Johnson would not block another independence referendum.

‘When we get to that point we will take the action, introduce the legislation that would be necessary for an independence referendum, and if Boris Johnson wants to stop that he would have to go to court,’ she told Channel 4 News.

‘I hope and expect that wouldn’t happen because actually Boris Johnson is not exempt from the rules of democracy.’

She added: ‘If this was in almost any other democracy in the world it would be an absurd discussion.

‘If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that.’

As the process of counting Scottish parliamentary votes began, experts predicted that the First Minister’s chances of wielding enough power to demand a second independence referendum hang in the balance.

Professor Sir John Curtice, Scotland’s leading pollster, told the BBC this afternoon: ‘They don’t need a dramatic increase in their support, two or three points up, two or three points down for their opponents would be enough.

‘But so far at the moment the SNP vote is running about a couple of points down on what it was in 2016 …. At the moment at least there aren’t signs of the consistent progress on the kind of scale that the SNP need that would translate into an overall majority.’ 

Ms Sturgeon is looking for an overall SNP majority of 65 seats or more to boost her argument that a fresh vote should be held, despite the overwhelming No vote in 2014.

Although she will be able to govern in a coalition with the pro-independence Greens if the SNP get fewer than 65 seats, it would dramatically weaken her argument that there is huge support for her plan.

Opposition party leaders were confident that they had managed to mobilise the pro-Union vote to stave off the threat of separation from the rest of the UK. 

Despite the pandemic and treacherous weather in some areas, turnout for ‘the most important election since devolution’ was said to be strong.

Last night, pro-Union parties said their vote was holding up in key areas, with the hope they could thwart Miss Sturgeon’s bid to get a parliamentary majority.

Votes in some 46 of the 73 constituency seats will be counted from about 9am today, with the first results expected from noon.

ALBA party leader Alex Salmond watches votes being counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections being counted in Aberdeen this morning

It is anticipated all 46 should be declared by Friday evening.

Then, from about 9am on Saturday, the remaining 27 constituency seats will be counted, after which the regional seats will be allocated.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Justice Secretary and a candidate for the Glasgow Pollok constituency, said there has been high turnout at many polling stations in his constituency and around the country.

Saying the SNP were feeling buoyant, Mr Yousaf said: ‘There is people who will take a high turnout as a positive sign for them, but I suspect every party will say that.’

Sturgeon blasts ‘racist and fascist’ Britain First leader at polling station

Nicola Sturgeon branded the former deputy leader of Britain First a ‘racist and fascist’ after an extraordinary confrontation outside a polling station on election day.

Jayda Fransen, who is standing as an independent in Glasgow Southside, the same constituency contested by Ms Sturgeon, confronted the SNP leader on Thursday.

Ms Fransen, who is from London and has convictions for religiously aggravated harassment, told Ms Sturgeon: ‘What are you sorry for? Mass immigration, Marxism? I’m not a fascist. I’ve been on the ground speaking to locals who say you are an absolute disgrace.’

After a back and forth, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘You are a fascist, you are a racist and the southside of Glasgow will reject you.’

The First Minister also added: ‘We’ll see what the locals’ view is later on.’ 

In Glasgow Southside, Ms Sturgeon is expected to win comfortably, despite going up against Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

Ex-Britain First deputy Ms Fransen is not expected to challenge.

He added: ‘I think the SNP’s going to have a good night, but I think other parties also I can see there’s an uptick in their vote too.

‘So really it’s going to come down to the wire in some seats I suspect.’ 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a staggered tallying up of ballots for the 2021 Holyrood election, with all results expected to be declared by Saturday evening.

Normally, counting begins immediately after the polls close at 10pm and continues overnight, with results confirmed in the early hours.

But the need for social distancing among count staff has meant votes will be tallied from Friday.

This year’s election, while conducted under the constraints of coronavirus rules, is also considered to be one of the most important since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.

With the SNP set for another five years in government, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will no doubt ramp up the pressure on Westminster to grant the powers for another vote on Scottish independence.

Her opponents in the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have stressed the importance of focusing on Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus instead

But the SNP leader and her party have said no referendum will be held until after the immediate health crisis is over, and they insist powers gained through independence would actually improve the recovery in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon has said another pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, including the Greens and Alba Party seats, should be enough to let Scots vote again on whether they want to leave the UK.

On Thursday, two voters in Glasgow North West said they were temporarily turned away from a polling station because a ballot box was ‘too full’.

Nadeem Basharat, 37, said he and his partner Joanne Basharat, 34, went to Jordanhill Parish Church polling station at around 8.30pm and were told they could not cast their vote at the time.

He said he was told ballot box 52 was too full and he was told to ‘come back by 10pm’, by a steward who was ‘quite vague’.

He told the PA news agency: ‘We went home and waited and got there for about 9.30pm and managed to get in, ballot box 52 was still pretty full, like it had just been pushed down and not a new box.

‘It looked like there were people there who didn’t manage to vote first time around.’

A spokesman for Glasgow’s returning officer said: ‘The sheer size of the regional paper meant some ballot boxes became full. We were able to deliver replacement boxes, but in this case some voters were asked to wait outside before voting.

‘The presiding officer is confident that all voters who were asked to wait were ultimately able to vote.’

How the election count works

The constituencies counting on Friday are: Aberdeen Central; Aberdeen Donside; Aberdeenshire East; Airdrie & Shotts; Angus North & Mearns; Argyll & Bute; Ayr; Banffshire & Buchan Coast; Caithness, Sutherland & Ross; Clydebank & Milngavie; Coatbridge & Chryston; Cowdenbeath; Cunninghame North; Cunninghame South; Dumbarton; Dundee City West; East Lothian; Eastwood; Edinburgh Central; Edinburgh Southern; Edinburgh Western; Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire; Falkirk East; Glasgow Anniesland; Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn; Glasgow Pollok; Glasgow Southside; Greenock & Inverclyde; Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse; Inverness & Nairn; Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley; Kirkcaldy; Linlithgow; Midlothian North & Musselburgh; Moray; Motherwell & Wishaw; Na h-Eileanan an Iar; North East Fife; Orkney Islands; Paisley; Perthshire North; Renfrewshire North & West; Rutherglen; Shetland Islands; Stirling; and Strathkelvin & Bearsden.

The remaining 27 which will begin counting from roughly 9am on Saturday are: Aberdeen South & North Kincardine; Aberdeenshire West; Almond Valley; Angus South; Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley; Clackmannanshire & Dunblane; Clydesdale; Cumbernauld & Kilsyth; Dumfriesshire; Dundee City East; Dunfermline; East Kilbride; Edinburgh Eastern; Edinburgh Northern & Leith; Edinburgh Pentlands; Falkirk West; Galloway & West Dumfries; Glasgow Cathcart; Glasgow Kelvin; Glasgow Provan; Glasgow Shettleston; Mid Fife & Glenrothes; Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale; Perthshire South & Kinrossshire; Renfrewshire South; Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch; and Uddingston & Bellshill.

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