Nicola Sturgeon Vows Second Independence Vote Despite SNP Majority Hopes Being On A "Knife Edge"
Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to push for a second Scottish independence vote despite her party's chances of winning a majority on a "knife-edge".
The SNP leader insists the party will press ahead with plans for a second poll on Scottish independence, setting her up for a major clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has called the plans "irresponsible".
Her party are on track for a fourth consecutive term in office but hopes of an outright majority remain on a knife-edge after they failed to win several key seats on the first day of counting.
The party did make some gains across Scotland, including former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson securing victory in Edinburgh Central, the seat held by former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
But the party have claimed that failing to win an outright majority would not undermine plans for a second referendum, saying that an overall majority of pro-independence MSPs, including the Scottish Greens who are in favour of a second poll, would justify the move.
Sturgeon said she would push for a second poll "when the time is right" provided a pro-independence majority was secured after the remaining Holyrood seats had been announced.
The First Minister, who comfortably won her Glasgow constituency seat, said her party's hopes of winning a full majority remained on a "knife-edge" but indicated she would offer the country the "choice of a better future" once the pandemic was under control.
Further results are due to be announced throughout Saturday, including those MSPs who have won Holyrood seats through Scotland's regional list system.
Unionist parties are hoping to improve their tally of as a result of significant levels of tactical voting which have seen pro-UK voters lending their votes to those candidates most likely to unseat the SNP.
One senior Scottish Labour source said the initial results had shown Scottish voters had become more "sophisticated" in their understanding of the election process, with more people willing to split their votes across the two ballots to improve the chances of pro-unionist candidates.
Speaking on Saturday morning, deputy first minister John Swinney told Times Radio: "I think what that question comes down to is what's the composition of the Scottish parliament, and who tried to get elected to it.
"And I'm very confident of two things.
"One, that the SNP will be the leading party after the elections. It is very clear that's going to be the case.
"And secondly, I'm certain there will be a majority in the Scottish parliament of people who are committed to the holding of an independence referendum on the future of Scotland."
Swinney reiterated the position set out by the First Minister ahead of the vote, saying that any referendum would only be considered after the "current context" of the pandemic had passed.
But the plans have been deemed "irresponsible and reckless" by the Prime Minister who has vowed to block any further Scottish independence votes.
"I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless," he told The Telegraph.
"My impression was that [the SNP] moved away from the idea of a referendum, and I think very wisely.
"Because I don't think this is anything like the time to have more constitutional wrangling, to be talking about ripping our country apart, when actually people want to heal our economy and bounce forward together. That's what people want."