UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered to hold crisis talks on the state of Britain’s union after Nicola Sturgeon
The SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority in the Scottish parliament elections, securing 64 seats, but the final result still leaves Holyrood with a majority in favour of Scottish independence.
In her victory speech, Ms Sturgeon told supporters the result proved a second independence vote was the “will of the country” and that any Westminster politician who stood in the way was “picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people”.
But Boris Johnson, in a letter to Ms Sturgeon, argued the UK was “best served when we work together” and called for a conversation about “our shared challenges” in recovering from the pandemic.
In a letter shared by No 10, the Prime Minister congratulated Ms Sturgeon on her re-election and said: “I would like to invite you to join me, UK Government colleagues and others at a summit meeting to discuss our shared challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to overcome them.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick stressed that, despite the strong preference in Scotland for pro-independence parties, it would be a “grave error” to pursue another border poll.
The Cabinet minister told BBC News: “I don’t know what the future might hold but our sole focus right now must be on recovery, and I think being distracted in any way by talk of constitutional wrangles would be a grave error.”
The dispute over a follow-up referendum came as Labour recriminations began over its poor showing in local elections on Thursday.
Labour lost the Hartlepool by-election – with the northeast town voting for a Tory MP for the first time in 60 years – and incurred a net loss of six councils and more than 200 seats as voters in its traditional heartlands deserted the party.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was sacked on Saturday from her role as chairman and national campaign coordinator.
Prominent figures on the left of the party hit out at the move, with former shadow chancellor John McDonnell calling it a “cowardly avoidance of responsibility” by leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Labour fared better in Saturday’s results, producing surprise victories in the West of England and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral contests, while comfortably winning second terms in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.
In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan had to wait late into the night to find out that he had won a second term as mayor in City Hall after fending off a challenge from Tory rival Shaun Bailey.
By the close of Saturday, with results in from 129 of 143 English councils, the Tories had a net gain of 11 authorities and more than 280 seats, while Labour had a net loss of six councils and more than 220 seats.
In Wales – as in Scotland and England – the party in power was rewarded by the voters.
Mark Drakeford’s Welsh Labour avoided the kind of electoral drubbing Sir Keir endured on Friday.
With the final declarations made on Saturday, Labour ended with exactly half the 60 seats in the Senedd – one short of an overall majority – equalling its best ever results.
First Minister Mr Drakeford, who extended the majority for his Cardiff West seat by more than 10,000 votes, vowed to be “radical” and “ambitious” in government.