First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Saturday to push ahead with another Scotland independence referendum after her party gained a strong showing in Scottish Parliament elections, setting up a potential clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Sturgeon said that an independence referendum was the "will of the country,," with her Scottish National Party and pro-independence allies taking a majority of the 129 seats after all the votes were counted.
That will probably boost calls to redo a 2014 independence referendum — dubbed "indyref2" — which could lead to the crackup of the United Kingdom under the strains of Brexit and its deep divisions.
Sturgeon's SNP won 64 seats, one seat short of a majority. But she said that, along with the Green Party, there would be overall support in the Parliament to again bring the independence question back to voters.
“Given that outcome,” she added, “there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future.”
Britons went to the polls Thursday for a number of regional elections, but the counting has been slower in part because of pandemic-related restrictions.
The SNP wants another swipe at an independence plebiscite, which its side lost in 2014 by 45 to 55 percent. But the SNP insists that views have changed since the 2016 referendum to break with the European Union, which 62 percent of Scottish voters opposed.
Many are calling this past week’s elections the most consequential in Scottish Parliament history. The Scotsman newspaper said that turnout looked set to smash that of previous elections.
Many Scots tell pollsters they want their regional government to get the economy back on track from the brutal pandemic losses before they begin to wave the blue-and-white flag for independence.
The British government says that legally, Scotland needs permission from the British Parliament to hold a referendum.
But even if the SNP has to rely on support from the Green Party, it would probably have enough votes to push through referendum legislation. Many analysts expect the Scottish government to then take its case to the courts, where it would argue that the power to call a referendum should rest with the Scottish Parliament.
“The Scottish problem is Boris Johnson’s biggest single political headache,” said Jonathan Tonge, a politics professor at the University of Liverpool.
There are also reasons to think that the Scottish quest for independence won’t simply fade away.
Demographic trends show that young people are overwhelmingly in favor of Scotland breaking free. One recent poll found that 72 percent of voters ages 16-34 would vote in favor of an independent Scotland.