Nicola Sturgeon sets stage for next chapter of Scottish independence fight

Boris Johnson tries to kill nationalist push with kindness, urging shared effort to recover from pandemic.

Nicola Sturgeon sets stage for next chapter of Scottish independence fight

LONDON — Nicola Sturgeon gave up hope of securing a majority for her party in Scotland — but not of a referendum on independence.

The routes to hitting the 65 seats needed for an outright win closed off late Saturday afternoon when it became clear her Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) had failed to gain West Aberdeenshire from the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament election.

But a pro-independence majority is all but guaranteed when Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) from the SNP and Greens are tallied together, and First Minister Sturgeon sounded bullish on Saturday night. She said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had no reason to deny Scotland another referendum.

“In no way can a referendum be described as just a demand of me or of the SNP,” she said in a speech. “It is a commitment made to the people by a clear majority of the MSPs that have been elected to our national parliament. It is the will of the country. And given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or indeed for anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future.”

Sturgeon added: “If the Tories make such an attempt they won’t be placing themselves in opposition to the SNP, they will be standing in direct opposition to the will of the Scottish people.”

Her comments show that the independence debate will continue to dominate Scottish politics and to call into question the future of the U.K. The government in Westminster will argue that the SNP’s failure to win a majority should put an end to demands for a fresh referendum. But that will cut no ice with the SNP. 

Johnson tried to kill off the fight with kindness, with a focus on how the U.K. nations can work together to build back after the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a letter to Sturgeon, he said the vaccine rollout showed the “team U.K. in action” and stressed that the economic response would continue to require a four-nation project. He invited Sturgeon, as well as leaders in Wales and Northern Ireland, to a summit about “our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them.”

The message was clear: An independence referendum is not up for debate. “Our focus is on recovery and recovery from the pandemic,” a U.K. government official said. “The incoming Scottish government must focus on that too.”

Asked what Johnson might do if the SNP tries to fight Westminster in the courts about whether a referendum should be allowed, as Sturgeon has threatened, the official said: “We’ll just have to see what they do. We’d hope they focus on other issues.”

Mandate questioned

Government outriders made the argument that a failure to win an outright majority had killed off the SNP’s independence demands. “I don’t think the SNP has a mandate for an independence referendum,” Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie told the BBC after the result became clear.

Another MP said the Conservative campaign message, urging voters to back the Tories to deprive the SNP of a majority, had been vindicated. Luke Graham, a former Downing Street adviser on the union, said the SNP’s failure to win a majority would mean “the momentum for a second referendum is reduced.”

After the West Aberdeenshire result came in, SNP officials were quick to brief that talk of an outright majority was always overblown.

To be sure, the electoral system in Scotland is proportional, giving smaller parties a leg-up at the expense of the dominance of a few. “It was always kind of stacked against us from the start,” one SNP official lamented.

In the end, it was tactical voting by pro-union supporters that appeared to deprive Sturgeon of an outright majority. In the SNP’s top target seat, Labour-held Dumbarton, a big swing from the Conservatives translated into a larger majority for the incumbent, as Tory voters held their noses and backed the party most likely to defeat the nationalists.

In Eastwood, a three-way marginal between the two unionist parties and the SNP turned into a relatively comfortable win for former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw. The Labour vote there dropped by around 4,000, with the Tories the main beneficiary.

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party aimed to win tactical support in party list votes from independence supporters who voted SNP on the constituency ballot, but it looks unlikely to win any seats. The former Scottish first minister blamed his successor, Sturgeon, for deciding not to encourage her supporters to vote Alba or Green on the list and therefore letting unionist opponents in “through the back door.”

The SNP official quoted above noted the irony in the fact that while Salmond was a leading champion of tactical voting, the anti-independence camp appeared to have used it more effectively.

“It looks like unionists have done the tactical voting thing better than us,” the official said. 

Source : Politico EU More   

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Pro-union tactical voting frustrates Scotland’s nationalists

Labour and Conservative voters have been willing to lend their votes to stop the SNP from making gains.

Pro-union tactical voting frustrates Scotland’s nationalists

EDINBURGH — In Scotland’s parliamentary election, tactical voting by pro-union supporters is proving a powerful force that could well deprive Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party of an overall majority.

With counting ongoing following Thursday’s election, Sturgeon is seeking a mandate to hold a second independence referendum. An overall majority of seats for her party in the Scottish Parliament would pile pressure on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to grant one, though nationalists argue a simple majority of pro-independence MSPs from multiple parties should be enough.

The party is on course to remain comfortably the largest party with a slightly improved position thanks to a handful of constituency gains so far. But hopes for an SNP majority look increasingly thin after Sturgeon’s party failed to pick up several key target seats from unionist incumbents.

Sturgeon argued Friday that winning an overall majority was “always a long shot.” Her party points to the semi-proportional electoral system that makes single-party majorities very difficult to achieve — though the SNP did manage the feat in 2011.

Organized tactical voting efforts by unionist voters appear to have played a key role. In the SNP’s top target, Labour-held Dumbarton, a big swing from the Conservatives translated into a larger majority for the incumbent, as Tory voters held their noses and backed the party most likely to defeat the nationalists.


For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.

In Eastwood, a three-way marginal between the two unionist parties and the SNP turned into a relatively comfortable win for former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw. The Labour vote there dropped by around 4,000, with the Tories the main beneficiary.

A similar story emerged in constituencies across Scotland. In two different seats in Edinburgh, Labour and Liberal Democrat incumbents saw huge rises in their vote at the expense of the other unionist parties, helping them hold off the SNP in contests the nationalists had high hopes of winning. In Galloway and West Dumfries, the Conservatives held off the SNP challenge with an increased vote share at Labour’s expense. The nationalists did manage to pick up Edinburgh Central from the Tories, however.

Though it looks like a long shot, the SNP could still pick up the seats they need for a single-party majority from the separate — and unpredictable — regional list vote. The list rewards parties who do less well in constituencies, making it difficult for the SNP to pick up the extra seats it needs.

But tactical voting is also a factor on the regional list, and that might benefit those in favor of independence. The Scottish Greens are likely to do well thanks to the list votes of independence supporters who understand the SNP is unlikely to pick up many seats this way.

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party aimed to take tactical votes on the list from independence supporters who voted SNP on the constituency ballot, but it looks unlikely to win any seats. The former Scottish first minister blamed his successor, Sturgeon, for deciding not to encourage her supporters to vote Alba or Green on the list and therefore letting unionist opponents in “through the back door.”

Full results from the regional list and remaining constituencies are expected later Saturday.

Source : Politico EU More   

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