Polls close in Holyrood’s strangest – and most important – election yet

The full results are not expected until Saturday evening due to social distancing requirements at counting centres.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Voting in Scotland’s strangest election since devolution has ended, with the results expected in the next few days.

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.

Counting usually begins immediately after the polls close at 10pm and continues overnight, with results declared in the early hours.

But the need for social distancing among count staff has meant votes will be tallied from Friday morning.

ballot box breaks open
A ballot box breaks open as it arrives at the P&J Live/TECA in Aberdeen (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ballot boxes began to arrive at count locations shortly after 10pm including at the P&J Live arena in Aberdeen.

One of the first boxes delivered to the venue, from an Aberdeenshire Council polling station, broke open as it was taken from the van transporting votes – but none were lost during the mishap.

Dozens of First Bus vehicles were lined up queuing into the arena at around midnight with counting not commencing until 9am.

This year’s election, while conducted under the constraints of coronavirus rules, is also considered to be one of the most important since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.

The full results of the Scottish Parliament election are expected to be announced on Saturday (Jane Barlow/PA)

On Thursday, two voters in Glasgow North West said they were temporarily turned away from a polling station because a ballot box was “too full”.

Nadeem Basharat, 37, said he and his partner Joanne Basharat, 34, went to Jordanhill Parish Church polling station at around 8.30pm and were told they could not cast their vote at the time.

He said he was told ballot box 52 was too full and he was told to “come back by 10pm”, by a steward who was “quite vague”.

He told the PA news agency: “We went home and waited and got there for about 9.30pm and managed to get in, ballot box 52 was still pretty full, like it had just been pushed down and not a new box.

“It looked like there were people there who didn’t manage to vote first time around.”

A spokesman for Glasgow’s Returning officer said: “The sheer size of the regional paper meant some ballot boxes became full. We were able to deliver replacement boxes, but in this case some voters were asked to wait outside before voting.

“The presiding officer is confident that all voters who were asked to wait were ultimately able to vote.”

With the SNP set for another five years in government, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will no doubt ramp up the pressure on Westminster to grant the powers for another vote on Scottish independence.

Her opponents in the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats have stressed the importance of focusing on Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus instead.

But the SNP leader and her party have said no referendum will be held until after the immediate health crisis is over, and they insist powers gained through independence would actually improve the recovery in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon has said another pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, including the Greens and Alba Party seats, should be enough to let Scots vote again on whether they want to leave the UK.

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