Scottish election 2021: Nicola Sturgeon celebrates 'historic' SNP election win

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Nicola Sturgeon: 'Indyref is the will of the country'

Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the SNP's "historic and extraordinary" fourth consecutive victory in the Scottish Parliament election.

The party finished on 64 seats - one short of a majority but one more than it won in 2016.

Ms Sturgeon said her priority was the pandemic but she still intended to hold an independence referendum once the crisis has passed.

Ms Sturgeon said there was no democratic justification for the prime minister, or anyone else, to attempt to block it.

But Mr Johnson said talk of "ripping our country apart" would be "irresponsible and reckless".

The prime minister congratulated Ms Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on their re-elections and invited them to a meeting "to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them".

In Scotland the SNP won 64 seats, the Conservatives 31, Labour 22, the Scottish Greens eight and Liberal Democrats four.

Ms Sturgeon said her party had won the most constituency seats and secured the highest share of the constituency vote in the history of devolution.

And she pledged that "the task of building a better Scotland for everyone who lives here will be my priority every single day."

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Ms Sturgeon said her focus in government would be on leading the country through the pandemic and keeping people safe from Covid.

She added: "It is then to kick-start and drive our recovery with an ambitious and transformative programme for government.

"And, yes, when the crisis has passed, it is to give people in Scotland the right to choose their future.

"All of that is what I promised and all of that is what I intend to deliver."

She said the result of the election meant there was "no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future."

And she insisted that holding a referendum was now "the will of the country".

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Boris Johnson says it would be "reckless" to hold a referendum right now

The prime minister congratulated Ms Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on their re-elections and invited them to a meeting "to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them".

He phoned Mr Drakeford on Saturday and plans to speak to Ms Sturgeon on Sunday.

In a letter to Ms Sturgeon published on Saturday night, he invited her to "discuss our shared challenges", adding "we will not always agree - but I am confident... we will be able to build back better, in the interests of the people we serve."

Mr Johnson said the country needed to "show the same spirit of unity and co-operation that marked our fight against the pandemic" in engineering a Covid-19 recovery.

But he warned it would be a "difficult journey", adding: "The broad shoulders of the UK have supported jobs and businesses the length and breadth of the country, but we know that economic recovery will be a serious shared responsibility."

Prior to the Holyrood election's final results, Mr Johnson wrote in Saturday's Daily Telegraph that it would be "irresponsible and reckless" to talk about "ripping our country apart" with an independence referendum at a time when people wanted to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The Scottish voting system was specifically designed to prevent any one party having a majority in the 129-seat parliament - although the SNP did manage to do so in the 2011 election.

The SNP, which formed a minority government after the last election in 2016, had hoped that winning another majority in this election would further strengthen its calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence to be held.

It would also have allowed the party to pass laws and the Scottish government's annual budget at Holyrood without having to rely on the support of any other party.

But there will be another, slightly increased, pro-independence majority in the parliament thanks to the seats allocated to the Scottish Greens through the regional list system and the additional seat won by the SNP.

However, the Alba Party - which was formed by former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond - will not win any seats.

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice said the results have seen 51% voters backing pro-UK parties in the constituency ballot - and 51% backing pro-independence parties in the regional list ballot.

Having secured a fourth term in power for the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon is not short of things to do as first minister.

She has to form a government - that could be another SNP-only administration, unless she wants to explore a more formal arrangement with the independence-supporting Greens to secure an outright majority.

She has to reshuffle her cabinet with four cabinet posts including that of health secretary needing filled as a result of retirements.

There are also important decisions that need to be taken on coronavirus - with a further easing of restrictions due on 17 May, plans to reopen international travel to consider and concern over Covid cases in Moray to address.

Ms Sturgeon has insisted that dealing with the pandemic and its aftermath will be her immediate priority — although clearly she intends to press the case for another independence referendum too.

There are also formalities - being sworn in with the other 128 MSPs on Thursday before putting herself forward in parliament for re-election as first minister the following week.

The SNP won two seats from Labour and one from the Conservatives in the constituency results that were declared on Friday.

But those wins caused the party to lose seats on the regional list, effectively cancelling out some of the gains it has made.

No other constituency seats have changed hands after Thursday's vote, which saw a record turnout for a Scottish Parliament election despite the Covid pandemic.

But the SNP's Kaukab Stewart and Pam Gosal of the Scottish Conservatives making history by becoming the first women of colour to win seats in the Scottish Parliament.

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Note: This lookup covers national elections in Scotland and Wales, the Hartlepool by-election, as well as council and mayoral elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. There may be parish council elections or council by-elections where you are. Check your local council website for full details. Last updated: May 11, 2021, 12:35 GMT

The SNP has pledged to push forward with legislation for a second Scottish independence referendum and have said they could go to the courts if the UK government attempts to block it.

Ms Sturgeon has also said she will not hold an illegal wildcat vote on the issue, arguing that it would not actually lead to Scotland becoming independent because the result would not be recognised by the UK government or the international community.

And she has repeatedly stressed that she would only want a referendum to be held once the pandemic is over.

Opinion polls suggest that voters are essentially split 50-50 on the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country.

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