The final results of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election have been announced, with the SNP falling just one seat short of an overall majority.
The party’s 64 MSPs – up one on 2016 – will be supported by eight from the Scottish Greens in efforts to secure a second independence referendum.
The Scottish Conservatives vote held steady in second place, maintaining their 31-seat total from the previous Scottish Parliament election.
Anas Sarwar was unable to increase Scottish Labour’s seat total, with the party down two MSPs to 22.
The Scottish Greens boosted their influence at Holyrood by picking up an additional two seats for their total of eight.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats lost one seat, with Willie Rennie’s party now on just four.
Alex Salmond’s Alba Party failed to win any seats.
Speaking on Saturday, Nicola Sturgeon said her first focus would be on the coronavirus pandemic, but that the people of Scotland should be able to decide on the constitutional question “when the time is right”.
An independence referendum was pledged in the manifesto of both the SNP and the Scottish Greens, who have already picked up an extra seat on the Central Scotland list.
The first minister said: “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, 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.”
Sturgeon also appealed to independence supporters, telling them they must “patiently persuade our fellow citizens” of the case for an independent Scotland.
The win by the SNP, the fourth consecutive victory for the party, saw more votes cast for them in local constituencies than in any other election since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
With all constituencies and two regions declared, the SNP are on 63 seats, while the Tories have 21, Labour are on 15, the Scottish Greens have five and the Lib Dems four.
Earlier on Saturday, prime minister Boris Johnson insisted it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to have such a ballot as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis.
He told the the Daily Telegraph his impression was that Scottish voters had “moved away from the idea of a referendum”.
One of the seats taken by the SNP was in Glasgow Kelvin, where Kaukab Stewart became the first woman of colour to be elected to Holyrood in its 22 year history.
In her acceptance speech, Stewart said: “It is without doubt an honour to be elected as the first woman of colour to the Scottish Parliament.
“It has taken too long, but to all the women and girls of colour out there: the Scottish Parliament belongs to you too, so whilst I may be the first, I will not be the last.”
Stewart, a teacher, first ran for parliament in 1999 against Scotland’s first leader Donald Dewar.
She later told the BBC: “I must admit in 1999 when I stood at that time I didn’t think that it would be me that would be the first woman of colour to actually get elected in 2021 but it is.
“You know, you have to keep going, keep persevering, keep working hard, and we’ve got there in the end.”
She was followed hours later by the Conservatives’ Pam Gosal on the Glasgow list, who tweeted: “It’s a privilege to be the first female MSP elected to the Scottish Parliament from an Indian background. Thank you to everyone who’s supported me. Can’t wait to get to work for the people of the West of Scotland.”
Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy also became the first permanent wheelchair user to be elected to Holyrood on the Glasgow list.
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