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The fourth is with them: SNP secure historic election victory

© Jane Barlow/PA WireNicola Sturgeon at the count in Glasgow
Nicola Sturgeon at the count in Glasgow

The SNP secured a historic victory last night as the party celebrated a fourth Holyrood election win in a row.

While the party’s hopes of an overall majority remained on a knife-edge as the final counts continued, a resounding victory ushered them into Holryood to form the next Scottish government.

It came after an unprecedented election, with campaigning curbed by Covid and a record number of postal votes, as the turnout reached 66%, a record high for a Holyrood election. The Greens won enough seats to create a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, paving the way for a showdown with Downing Street over a second referendum.

Former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who won Edinburgh Central, said: “If the people have sent a majority to Scotland’s parliament, saying that as we emerge from Covid that there should be an independence referendum, that’s exactly what should happen.”

Of 73 the constituency seats, 62 seats went to the SNP, five to the Tories, four to the Libs Dems and two to Labour.

However, although the SNP remained the dominant party in Scotland after 14 years in power, they could not win an outright majority, as they had done in 2011, due to the Holyrood system that favours smaller parties in list seats.

The final totals stood at the SNP on 64 seats, the Conservatives in second with 31, Labour on 22, the Greens with eight and the Lib Dems on four.

One of the seat generating most interest yesterday was Aberdeenshire West, where the SNP failed to overturn the Tories’ small majority of 900. Over the two days, the SNP picked up constituency seats in Edinburgh Central, Ayr and East Lothian.

On Friday, the SNP took from the Tories the constituency seats of Ayr, which John Scott had held since a by-election win in 2000, and Edinburgh Central, which was previously held by former leader Ruth Davidson, who is going to the House of Lords.

Scottish Labour lost a stronghold in East Lothian, which had been held by the party since 1999 but held on to Dumbarton, where deputy leader Jackie Baillie increased her slim majority of 109 in 2016 to 1,483 as experts highlighted evidence of tactical voting by unionists counteracting an effective drive by the SNP to get their supporters to the polls.

Dumbarton had been Scotland’s most marginal seat and the SNP’s number one target in the election. The Lib Dems succeeded in holding all four of their constituency seats.

Alex Salmond failed to win a seat but insisted his Alba Party put in a “credible performance” in the Holyrood election.

He said: “It is now Nicola’s responsibility to carry forward the independence argument and she now has to answer the questions of how you proceed with obduracy from Westminster.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said his party would continue to provide a pro-independence majority at Holyrood. He said: “I’ve always said that parliament is at its best when there’s a balance and ministers are at their best when they’re kept on their toes, whichever political party they’re from.”

He added: “We’ve worked hard over the last five years to push the SNP beyond their comfort zone and we’ll keep on doing that.”