LONDON (AP) – The ruling Scottish National Party was on track on Saturday to win its fourth consecutive parliamentary election and close to securing a majority that would allow it to push for another referendum on the independence of the Kingdom -United
With 60 constituencies counted, the SNP had won 51 of 129 seats and was clearly on track to expand its dominance of Scottish politics. However, given the Scottish electoral system, which also allocates some seats through some form of proportional representation, the party risks not having the 65 seats it would need in the Edinburgh-based parliament to gain a majority.
In Wales, the vote count concluded showed the Labor Party doing better than expected in the parliamentary elections as it extended its 22 years of control over the Welsh government.
The ballots continue to be counted from the local elections in England, which have already been particularly beneficial for the Conservative Party of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But it is the Scottish elections that could have the biggest UK-wide implications by speeding up another referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK.
If the SNP got a majority, its leader, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, would argue that it has a mandate to call another referendum. If the party fails, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the ultimate power to authorize a referendum, could claim she did not. On Saturday, he wrote in the Daily Telegraph that another referendum would be “irresponsible and reckless” in the “current context” as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking after winning his seat in Glasgow on Friday, Sturgeon said his immediate priority would be to deal with the pandemic and “then the time is right to give this country the choice of a better future”.
Scotland has been part of the UK since 1707 and the issue of Scottish independence appeared settled when Scottish voters rejected 55-45% secession in a 2014 referendum. But the decision was made across the UK in 2016 to leave the EU went against the wishes of most Scots – 62% voted to stay in the bloc while most voters in England and the UK Wales wanted to leave. This gave the Scottish nationalist cause new legs.
Scottish Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney said the party would still have the right to call an election if it failed, but a sufficient number of other pro-independence members were elected, such as the Scottish Greens.
“I am convinced that will be the case,” he told the BBC.
Elections in England have so far been largely positive for Johnson’s Tories, including his victory in a special election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labor Party has held since 1974. on parts of England that had been Labor strongholds for decades, if not a century. Many of those seats that have gone from red to blue voted overwhelmingly in 2016 for Britain’s departure from the European Union. The rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines also appears to have given the Conservatives a boost.
On what has come to be dubbed Super Thursday, around 50 million voters were eligible to take part in numerous elections, some of which had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic that has left the UK with the most large number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.
For the Labor Party and its new leader, Keir Starmer, Hartlepool’s result was a huge disappointment and led to another bout of soul-searching in a party which in 2019 suffered its worst general election performance since 1935.
Starmer said he had taken full responsibility for the party’s defeat at Hartlepool, adding that he would soon strategize on how he could reconnect with his traditional voters. He did not give more details.
Although the Labor Party is clearly losing ground in its traditional heart, its support has continued in many other parts of England, such as the big cities. The party has won a series of mayoral elections, most notably in Liverpool. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham were due to win a second term.
Labor has also done particularly well in Wales, retaining its grip on power after winning half of the seats in the Welsh parliament, just one short of a majority. Mark Drakeford, who will remain prime minister, said the party would be “radical” and “ambitious” in government.