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Nicola Sturgeon concedes Holyrood majority for SNP is a ‘very long shot’

First minister and SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon arrives at the count for the Scottish parliamentary elections at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow - Credit: PA

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is “extremely confident” the party is heading back into power at Holyrood – although she conceded winning an overall majority of MSPs there is a “very, very long shot”.

As early results started to come in from Thursday’s Scottish parliament elections, the Scottish first minister downplayed the prospect of winning a majority.

However, she insisted it was an “extraordinary achievement” for her party to win an historic fourth term in power.

The first minister spoke out as she arrived at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, where votes were being counted.

Sturgeon was able to retain her Glasgow Southside constituency in the Scottish parliament election.

The coronavirus pandemic means that traditional overnight counting was abandoned, with the results of seats instead being announced over Friday and Saturday.

Speaking about the prospect of the SNP winning 65 seats or more in the Scottish parliament, Sturgeon said: “A majority has always been a very, very long shot.”

The SNP won an unprecedented Holyrood majority in 2011, under Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond.

But Sturgeon said: “The Holyrood system is a proportional representation system, in 2011 we effectively broke that system.

“So it would be good to do, but I have never taken that for granted.

“That has always been on a knife edge, a small number of votes in a small number of seats.

“So we will wait and see how the votes pan out over today and tomorrow.

“But at this stage in the results, and there is a long, long way to go, I am feeling extremely happy and extremely confident that we are on track in the SNP for a fourth consecutive election victory and to have the ability to form a government.

“And that is an extraordinary achievement for any political party.”

Her comments came as the SNP made the first gain of the Holyrood campaign, winning the East Lothian seat – which had been held by Labour’s Iain Gray.

The first seat to be declared in the race for Holyrood was Orkney, with Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur holding on to the constituency for Willie Rennie’s party.

Minutes later, the SNP held Aberdeen Donside, with councillor Jackie Dunbar taking the seat previously filled by Mark McDonald – who resigned from the party after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Early results suggest turnout among voters is up from the last election in 2016.

The SNP went on to hold the Western Isles seat, with sitting MSP Alasdair Allan returned for Sturgeon’s party, polling 7,454 votes.

It also held the Clydebank and Milngavie seat, with newcomer Marie McNair elected to replace Gil Paterson, who stepped down from Holyrood.

McNair was successful after securing 17,787 votes.

The SNP narrowly held the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency, with candidate Karen Adam winning 14,920 votes, just ahead of Conservative Mark Findlater on 14,148 votes.

Previously held by Stewart Stevenson, the SNP had a majority of 6,683 in the seat in 2016, but that has been cut to just 772 after a 10.3% swing to the Tories.