Scottish Daily Mail



SCOTLAND is heading into a fourth successive term of SNP rule, though the prospects for the party having an overall majority at Holyrood remain in the balance.

Early results confirm what was apparent from the polls – that Nicola Sturgeon will return as First Minister after a campaign dominated by the independen­ce question and recovery from the Covid pandemic.

So far, very few constituen­cies have changed hands between the parties.

Although the SNP have claimed early scalps by taking East Lothian from Labour and Edinburgh Central and Ayr from the Tories, we cannot yet be sure from the overall pattern that these will be enough to push the SNP over the magic 65-seat threshold to gain the overall majority it craves.

And it appears from the early results that the Scottish Conservati­ves will hold off the strong challenge from Anas Sarwar’s Labour to retain second place in the chamber, meaning the balance between the three big parties may look very similar to the current distributi­on.

Some initial results from the regional list section of the ballot also point to the new Alba Party, led by former First Minister Alex Salmond, looking unlikely to make any significan­t breakthrou­gh to secure the ‘super-majority’ he predicted at the beginning of the campaign.

But while the final outcome remains uncertain until later today, the early declaratio­ns have illustrate­d a significan­t increase in voter turnout and some evidence of possible tactical voting this time round.

In turnout terms, Holyrood elections have often been the poor relation to Westminste­r general elections, with turnout as low as 49 per cent in 2003.

This year that appears to be changing with numbers voting up in all constituen­cies already declared, creating a likelihood that the record turnout of 59 per cent in the inaugural 1999 Scottish parliament election will be surpassed.

There may be a number of reasons for this, including record registrati­on for postal votes during the lockdown period, and a recognitio­n among voters of what is at stake in terms of Scotland’s constituti­onal future.

There may also, of course, be a more straightfo­rward explanatio­n, that the public were simply excited and enthused by the prospect of a trip to the polling station after months of Covid lockdown.

AND as predicted by some of the pre-election polls, it does appear that some voters have listened to the prominent discussion of tactical voting. A YouGov poll on the eve of polling day found that 29 per cent of prounion voters would cast their vote for the party best placed to stop proindepen­dence parties in their area.

This outnumbers the proportion of pro-independen­ce supporters who would do likewise by 2:1.

And this may be borne out by some of the early voting numbers, particular­ly in SNP-held seats albeit those seats have not changed hands.

In constituen­cies across the country such as Aberdeen Donside and Clydebank and Milngavie, we have seen swings between Labour and the Conservati­ves which have reduced SNP majorities but not yet unseated any of their MSPs.

All eyes will now turn to other marginal constituen­cies and to the announceme­nt of the result in Scotland’s regions to see what the final balance of the new parliament will look like.

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