Scottish government sets stage for another independence vote

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She stated: "It looks as though it is beyond any doubt that there will be a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament and by any normal standard of democracy that majority should have the commitments it made to the people of Scotland honoured".

Referring to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's threat to stop any such moves, Sturgeon on Saturday said, "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, who comfortably defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to claim Glasgow Southside, said afterwards her initial focus would be "to get back to work to steer the country through the crisis and into recovery".

An overall majority could supercharge the Scottish National Party's push for a second referendum - also known as "indyref2" - and potentially lead to the crack up of the United Kingdom under the strains of Brexit and its deep divisions. It is the will of the country.

"If Boris Johnson or whoever is Prime Minister at the time, has any respect for Scottish democracy, they will come together with the Scottish Government as happened in the run up to 2014 and agree (to allow a referendum)", said Sturgeon, adding it would be for the United Kingdom government to make a legal challenge.

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".

Britain's exit from the European Union - opposed by a majority of Scots - as well as a perception that Sturgeon's government has handled the COVID-19 crisis well, and antipathy to Johnson's Conservative government in London, have all bolstered support for Scotland's independence movement. But that will cut no ice with the SNP.

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

"I would like to invite you to join me, United Kingdom government colleagues and others at a summit meeting to discuss 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.

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He touted government economic support during the pandemic and the vaccine drive.

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.

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There was also limited tactical voting on the pro-independence side, with the Greens increasing their seats from six to eight, meaning a majority of MSPs will still be in favour of breaking up the UK.

"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.

The electoral system - which allocates some seats on a proportional representation basis which helps smaller parties - might see the SNP fail to win an outright majority, something First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the party leader, acknowledged, saying such an outcome was "on a knife edge".

A special election was held in the town of Hartlepool in northern England where Britain's governing Conservative Party won a parliamentary seat previously held by the Labour Party since 1974.

In contrast, the Unionist vote fragments between the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, allowing the SNP to come through the middle. The result extends the party's dominance of Scottish politics since it first won power in 2007.

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