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Scottish party projected as short of majority

by The Associated Press | May 9, 2021 at 4:06 a.m.
First Minister and SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates after retaining her seat for Glasgow Southside at the count for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Glasgow, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. On winning her seat in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon, said early results indicated that her party was on course to win its fourth straight election in Scotland but that the final outcome would not emerge until Saturday evening. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

LONDON -- Scotland's governing Scottish National Party was poised Saturday to win its fourth-straight parliamentary election, but the party's anticipated inability to secure a majority complicates its ambition to hold another referendum on independence from the U.K.

With 68 constituencies counted, the party had won 57 of the 129 seats in the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament and was on course to extend its dominance of Scottish politics.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzv6B0iV--8]

However, because Scotland allocates some seats by a form of proportional representation, the party looks set to fall just short of the 65 seats it would need to have a majority. Based on the latest results, the BBC forecast that the National Party would end up with 63 seats.

The party's leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, conceded as much Saturday, saying it wasn't a big surprise given the electoral system in Scotland.

Sturgeon said the immediate priority on her return to power would be steering Scotland through the coronavirus pandemic, but that the legitimacy of an independence referendum remains, majority or not. In a September 2014 referendum, 55% of Scottish voters favored remaining part of the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Greens, who also back a referendum, were set to pick up parliamentary seats.

"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 honored," Sturgeon said.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative Party, would have the ultimate authority on whether to permit another referendum on Scotland gaining independence. So far, Johnson has refused to countenance another vote, setting up the possibility of renewed tensions between his government and Sturgeon's administration.

The prime minister wrote Saturday in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that another referendum would be "irresponsible and reckless" as Britain emerges from the pandemic.

Sturgeon said it would be wrong for Johnson to stand in the way of a referendum and that the timing is a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

"I would say two things. Firstly, you're not picking a fight with the SNP [Scottish National Party], you're picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people," she said. "And secondly, you will not succeed."

There's been growing talk that the issue may end up going to court, but Sturgeon said the "outrageous nature" of any attempt by the British government to thwart the democratic will of Scotland would only fuel the desire for independence.

"I couldn't think of a more powerful argument for independence than that one," she said.

The Scotland results have been the main focus since an array of local and regional elections took place Thursday across Britain.

In Wales, the concluded vote count showed the Labor Party doing better than expected in the parliamentary election as it extended its 22 years in control. It retained its grip on power after winning half the seats, just one short of a majority. Mark Drakeford, who will remain as first minister, said the party will be "radical" and "ambitious."

Ballots continue to be counted from local elections in England, which already have been particularly good for Johnson's Conservative Party, notably its victory in a special election in the town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labor Party had held since 1974.

The win extended the Conservative Party's grip on parts of England that had been Labor strongholds for decades, if not a century. The speedy rollout of coronavirus vaccines also appears to have given the Conservatives a boost even though the U.K. has recorded Europe's highest coronavirus-related death toll, at 127,500.

Though Labor is losing ground in the traditional heartlands, its support held up in many other parts of England, such as the big cities.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media after Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer won the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media after Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer won the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Ballots are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Aberdeen, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)
Ballots are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in Aberdeen, Scotland, Friday May 7, 2021. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Tower Bridge in London, Saturday, May 8, 2021, against the backdrop of the skyline of the financial district. On what was dubbed Super Thursday, around 50 million voters were eligible to take part in scores of elections in the UK, some of which had been postponed a year because of the pandemic that has left the U.K. with Europe’s largest coronavirus death toll. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Tower Bridge in London, Saturday, May 8, 2021, against the backdrop of the skyline of the financial district. On what was dubbed Super Thursday, around 50 million voters were eligible to take part in scores of elections in the UK, some of which had been postponed a year because of the pandemic that has left the U.K. with Europe’s largest coronavirus death toll. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media next to a large inflatable of him, after Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer won the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media next to a large inflatable of him, after Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer won the Hartlepool by-election, at Hartlepool Marina, in Hartlepool, north east England, Friday, May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party made further inroads in the north of England on Friday, winning a by-election in the post-industrial town of Hartlepool for a parliamentary seat that the main opposition Labour Party had held since its creation in 1974. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London, following the declaration that the Labour Party has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary election, Friday May 7, 2021.  Britain's governing Conservative Party has won the Hartlepool election, dealing a blow to the Labour Party, with other by-election results still to be declared. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer leaves his home in London, following the declaration that the Labour Party has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary election, Friday May 7, 2021. Britain's governing Conservative Party has won the Hartlepool election, dealing a blow to the Labour Party, with other by-election results still to be declared. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Votes are sorted to be counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are sorted to be counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Votes are counted for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections at the Emirates Arena,in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday May 8, 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
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