In Depth

Scottish election results: the repercussions for the future of the UK

SNP majority will boost Sturgeon’s calls for second independence referendum

The people of Scotland will cast their votes tomorrow to elect the 129 members of the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have the power to pass laws on health, education, transport and some aspects of taxation and welfare in Scotland. But tomorrow’s vote is being eagerly watched in Westminster because of its potential impact on a second Scottish independence vote.

Win a majority – as the Scottish National Party (SNP) is on course to do – and party leader and first minister Nicola Sturgeon will claim a mandate for a second referendum, “paving the way for another showdown with Downing Street over independence”, The Courier reports.

Independence games

According to a survey of 1,008 voters for The Courier, Sturgeon’s SNP “appears to be far enough ahead to pick up three more seats than in 2016”. Those three seats would give SNP 66 MSPs in total, just over the threshold for an overall majority in Holyrood.

Research conducted by Survation for the paper suggests that “the Conservatives could cling on as the largest opposition group – but only just at a reduced 24 seats”, while “Scottish Labour could slip back again by one seat to 23 despite signs of growing popularity for new leader Anas Sarwar”.

The Scottish Green Party is also in favour of a second referendum, meaning that an overall majority of pro-independence MSPs is all but guaranteed if it secures 11 seats as the Survation polling suggests.

Such an outcome would be “vital in deciding the constitutional future of both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom”, ITV says, boosting “calls from nationalists” for the government in Westminster “to allow a second independence referendum”.

Sturgeon’s plan

Appearing during a Scottish leaders’ debate last night, Sturgeon denied that she would hold a wildcat referendum if the SNP secures a majority, the BBC reports. “I will be responsible about that and I will build, and ultimately I think win, the case for independence through patient persuasion of people across the country,” said Sturgeon.

Responding to claims by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross that the SNP would pursue an “illegal” referendum, the SNP leader added: “What I have said consistently all along – sometimes to criticism from people on my own side of the argument – is that I would not countenance an illegal referendum, not least because it would not deliver independence.”

Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that “he will refuse any such demand, as the government has the right to do”, The Times says. But ignoring the tide of opinion north of the border risks “fuelling grievances, thereby deepening the rift between Westminster and Edinburgh”, the paper adds.

Any referendum on Scotland’s independence would “reverberate across the Irish Sea, impacting on Northern Ireland's future as part of the United Kingdom”, ITV reports. Journalist Neil Mackay told the broadcaster that “if the trajectory in Scotland is one of an exit trajectory, away from the gravity of the union, then that will play very strongly in the minds of unionists in terms of scaring them about their future”.

And the memory of Brexit could also come into play, with polling expert Professor John Curtice adding: “If Scotland indeed as an independent country is going to go back into the European Union, what do we do about the border between Gretna and Berwick?”

Sturgeon appears to have successfully “tapped Scottish resentment over Johnson and Brexit”, the Financial Times says, with polls suggesting that “despite concerns over economic cost of independence, the SNP leader is on course for victory”.

The stakes in Scotland “could hardly be higher”, The Times says, with a second vote on independence potentially unleashing “destabilising consequences across these islands”.

With the UK “just emerging from a five-year slump” triggered by the “uncertainty created by Brexit”, a second referendum “would plunge the country into another prolonged bout of inward-looking uncertainty”, the paper adds.

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