SNP seeks second term as Scots vote

It is unclear whether Nicola Sturgeon's SNP can seal a majority in the Scottish parliament.
It is unclear whether Nicola Sturgeon's SNP can seal a majority in the Scottish parliament.

Voters in Scotland have cast their ballots in regional parliamentary elections that could help determine the future of the United Kingdom.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), donned her party colours of all yellow as citizens across Scotland headed to polling booths on Thursday.

In a final campaign message to voters, the pro-independence leader urged people to vote for her party to deliver "strong leadership through the COVID crisis" and "a better future for Scotland".

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the counting of votes for the 2021 Holyrood election will take place over a number of days, with all results expected to be declared by Saturday evening.

Final opinion polls published on Wednesday showed the SNP was likely to win the election again for a second term.

However, it was unclear whether they can seal a majority in the Scottish parliament.

If they win an outright majority, Sturgeon has previously stated she will give citizens the chance to have a say on whether Scotland should break away from the UK.

She would, however, wait until after Scotland has turned the corner on the coronavirus to hold the referendum.

Scotland held a referendum on independence in 2014, when 55 per cent of people voted to remain part of the UK while 45 per cent voted against.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been dismissive of a second referendum for Scotland, saying the 2014 vote still holds.

That vote however came before the UK exited the European Union, which the majority of Scots did not vote for, raising the tensions over the independence question.

Separately on Thursday, Sturgeon was confronted by a man and a woman in Glasgow while speaking to voters.

A video posted on Twitter on Thursday showed the pair criticising Sturgeon for her policies regarding immigration in Scotland, stating she was an "absolute disgrace" for "flooding" Scotland with "people from other countries".

"You're a fascist, a racist and the Southside of Glasgow (the seat Sturgeon is battling for) will reject you," she told the man and woman before walking away.

Wales has also held voting for its regional parliament, with Mark Drakeford, of the left-wing Welsh Labour, hoping for a second term in office as first minister after taking office in 2018.

This could see him forming a coalition with fellow left-wing party Plaid Cymru, whose leader Adam Price is calling for an independence referendum within five years if his party wins a majority.

A British parliamentary by-election has also been held in the northeast English constituency of Hartlepool.

It has historically been held by Labour since the 1970s. However, a recent opinion poll showed Johnson's right-wing Conservative party could win it.

Australian Associated Press