"There is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for PM Boris Johnson or indeed for anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future," says SNP leader after her party won a fourth term in power.
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon has said there were no grounds for Westminster to block a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom devolved parliament after her party won a fourth term in power in the devolved parliament.
Sturgeon gave a televised victory speech on Saturday as the total count for Thursday's vote gave the SNP 64 seats in 129-seat parliament at Holyrood, one seat less of an outright majority.
"There is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for [PM] Boris Johnson or indeed for anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our own future," she said.
Sturgeon said in her victory speech that if Westminster refuses permission for a referendum, this would place it "in direct opposition to the will of the Scottish people".
The UK voted in local and regional elections on "Super Thursday" in its first major polls since Brexit and the pandemic.
The count is much slower than usual due to virus safety measures.
Johnson's Conservative Party has performed strongly in England, outdoing Labour in its traditional heartlands although the main UK opposition party held onto power in the devolved parliament in Wales and won several high-profile mayoral races.
But the focus remained on Scotland, where a vote for the devolved parliament in Edinburgh saw the ruling SNP seek a parliamentary majority as a mandate for a fresh referendum on independence, or "indyref2", that could reshape the UK.
The SNP would need 65 seat s in the 129-member parliament to claim a majority at Holyrood for the first time since 2011, while the BBC projected it will win only 63.
Sturgeon brushed off this setback, saying that the SNP along with the Scottish Greens, will now form a larger pro-independence majority in the parliament, giving it a democratic mandate to push for the referendum.
Scots voted twice, once for a constituency MSP and once for a party, with those votes allocated regionally.
The proportional representation system is designed to prevent a single party like the SNP dominating.
The BBC predicted that the Scottish Greens would win nine seats through the regional vote now being counted.
Johnson in an interview with The Daily Telegraph indicated that he would not agree to a referendum even if the SNP won a majority.
"I think a referendum in the current context is irresponsible and reckless," Johnson said.
"There's no case now for such a thing ... I don't think it's what the times call for at all."
Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a legal referendum after the virus crisis is over and not before the end of 2023.
Previous First Minister Alex Salmond fielded a new pro-independence party called Alba which he said would push the SNP to take immediate steps towards a referendum, but so far it has not won any seats.
Salmond stood down as first minister after the first referendum in 2014 saw 55 percent vote "no".
Recent polls suggest "no" would win again in an immediate referendum, as many fear further upheaval post-Brexit.
The SNP pledges that an independent Scotland would seek to rejoin the European Union after most Scots opposed Brexit.
UK (Scotland) election:— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) May 8, 2021
Regional (proportional) votes, 5/8 regions declared
SNP-G/EFA: 42.1% (+0.4)
CON-ECR: 22.2% (-0.7)
LAB-S&D: 18.4% (-0.7)
SGP-G/EFA: 7.5% (+0.9)
LDEM-RE: 4.4% (-0.8)
ALBA-*: 1.8% (new)
+/- vs 2016 election
Live blog: https://t.co/9yl3tAekXg#SP21 pic.twitter.com/bMx43Bw8mm
In England, the Conservatives registered significant gains in council elections and mayoral races in England, embarrassing Labour.
On Friday Johnson's Tories won a landslide in the northeast parliamentary seat of Hartlepool, in a bitter blow for Labour and its leader of just over a year, Keir Starmer.
Johnson said the vote was "very encouraging" for his government, while Starmer said he was "bitterly disappointed".
Bucking the trend, Labour equalled its best ever result in Welsh devolved parliament Senedd Cymru after First Minister Mark Drakeford took a cautious approach to the pandemic.
In London, Labour mayor Sadiq Khan was predicted a narrow victory over Conservative Shaun Bailey, with the declaration due Saturday evening.
Labour has won high-profile mayoral races including Western England and Greater Manchester and Liverpool city, where Joanne Anderson has became the UK's first directly elected black woman mayor.
The Tories' strong showing continued the trend from the last general election in December 2019, when Brexit was the dominant issue and Conservatives grabbed a string of seats across Labour's so-called "Red Wall" heartlands in northern England.
This time, Johnson has benefited from Britain's successful vaccine rollout – despite the country also suffering one of the world's worst Covid-19 death tolls.
Sky News suggested the Tory results were down to a "Boris bounce".
Dogged by scandals in recent weeks, Johnson also campaigned on his record of finally having "got Brexit done".
He touted government economic support during the pandemic and the vaccine drive.