Sturgeon ready to ask permission for second referendum after SNP wins 80% of Scotland’s seats

Conservative absolute majority makes it easier for Boris Johnson to ignore demand

Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon. Author: SNP
The electoral map of the United Kingdom has shown once more the differences between the four Home Nations after the vote held yesterday, 12 December. While in England the Conservative Party has achieved a comfortable majority, in Scotland the SNP has won a new and ample victory while in Wales left-wing parties have captured almost the double of seats that the conservatives have. In Northern Ireland, Irish nationalists have outnumbered the Democratic Unionist Party.

The SNP has won its second largest victory in a UK election. With 48 seats out of a total of 59, the pro-independence party breaks the figure of 35 won in 2017, and only stands below its historic achievement of 2015, when it captured 56 seats.

The result strengthens the argument of Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on the convenience of calling a second independence referendum. First, because the proposal has received a broad endorsement (80% of the seats and 45% of the votes for the SNP); second, because Scotland has voted again in a very different way to the rest of the United Kingdom; and third, because the victory of the Conservative Party makes it more likely that Brexit —which in Scotland is widely rejected— will be delivered.

Sturgeon is expected next week to formally ask UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to transfer to the Scottish Parliament powers to organise the referendum. Johnson is likely to reject that. An eventual blocking could lead the UK into a new constitutional crisis.

Largest conservative majority since Thatcher

Johnson has reason to feel strong as his Conservative Party has won 364 seats out of a total of 650. With a 163-margin over Labour, it is the Conservatives’ biggest since the 1987 election under Margaret Thatcher.

In a campaign polarised around Brexit, the result is interpreted as an endorsement —especially from England, where the Conservatives have won 65% of the seats— to the agreement on the British withdrawal from the European Union reached between Brussels and London this October.

Majority for left parties in Wales

Labour (22 seats) and Plaid Cymru (4) have won almost half of the seats at stake in Wales, the remaining 14 in the hands of the Conservative Party. In percentage vote, the figures are more balanced, but also with an advantage for the left. However, both Labour (-8% of votes) and Plaid (-0.5%) have lost ground as compared with the 2017 election.

Plaid wants a referendum on Welsh independence to be held by 2030. To reach that goal, the party says it will seek to be forming the next government of Wales, after the 2021 Welsh election.

Record number of seats for Irish parties

The two parties supporting reunification of Ireland (Sinn Féin and SDLP) have achieved for the first time the figure of 9 seats (7 and 2, respectively) out of a total of 18. Until now, their maximum combined was 8. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has won 8, down from 10 in 2017. The remaining seat of Northern Ireland has been held by the Alliance Party.

This is the first time that the parties of the Irish nationalist bloc have won more seats than the parties of the British unionist bloc.

However, as regards vote percentage, Irish nationalist parties have fallen from a combined 41% in 2017 to 39% now. The British unionist bloc has also fallen, from 48% two years ago to 42% now.

This is explained by the rise of the Alliance Party, from 8% to 17%. Alliance ran for election under a liberal manifesto, opposed to Brexit.

The party is officially defined neither as Irish nationalist nor as British unionist. It supports maintaining Northern Ireland’s autonomy in the UK while demanding that Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s common market and customs union, even if the rest of the UK withdraws.

Political debate on how Brexit is implemented is likely to be focused again on the issue of the Irish border, once voters in Northern Ireland have lent a clear support to parties (Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance) that reject the reinstatement of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Quite the opposite of what the DUP wants.