Nicola Sturgeon hailed the SNP’s “record-breaking” victory in the Holyrood elections as she warned Boris Johnson not to block a second independence referendum.
The first minister said her party had secured an “emphatic” win and Johnson’s continued resistance to a second vote would be “picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people”.
It came as the SNP was on course to win a fourth consecutive term in control of the Scottish Parliament. Though an overall majority looked unlikely for Sturgeon, she was set to continue governing with the support of the pro-independence Scottish Greens.
She said: “It looks as though it is beyond any doubt that there will be a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament and by any normal standard of democracy that majority should have the commitments it made to the people of Scotland honoured.
“So to any Westminster politician that tries to stand in the way of that, I say two things: firstly, you are not picking a fight with the SNP you are picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.
“And secondly, you will not succeed. The only people who can decide the future of Scotland are the Scottish people and no Westminster politician can or should stand in the way of that.”
The SNP failed to capture Aberdeenshire West from the Tories and the key target seat of Dunbarton, after Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Bailie hung on.
But the party also made key gains, such as Edinburgh Central, which was captured by former Westminster leader Angus Robertson.
The SNP leader said: “We have won more constituency seats than we did in the last election, we have won a higher share of the vote in the constituency ballot than in 2016, and actually we have won more votes and a higher share of the vote than any party in the history of devolution.
“By any standard this is a historic achievement, a quite extraordinary achievement for the SNP – our vote share is up, the vote share of the other main parties is down.
“So the SNP has won this election emphatically, the message we took to the people has been endorsed, and I now intend to get back to work to deliver on all of what we put to the Scottish people.”
The SNP has pledged to hold a second independence referendum, with Sturgeon having already said she wants this vote to be held before the end of 2023.
The prime minister has however insisted it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to have such a ballot as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis.
He told the the Daily Telegraph his impression was that Scottish voters had “moved away from the idea of a referendum”.
And when asked what he would do if Sturgeon attempted to hold one without a Section 30 order from Westminster granting permission, Johnson insisted there was “no case now for such a thing”.
Meanwhile Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens co-leader, told BBC Scotland: “Certainly we can see that with the Scottish Greens we clearly have a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, and that is something we are very excited about.
“We think it is a clear mandate to at least go back to the Scottish people and ask the question, to have an actual conversation about what kind of country we want to be.”
Her comments came as the regional list seats started to be declared, with the Scottish Greens picking up a seat in Central Scotland for the first time ever.
Earlier on in the day, the Tories had held the key seats of both Aberdeenshire West and Galloway and West Dumfries.
And while Sturgeon’s party made other gains in the constituency votes at Holyrood on Friday, their success in gaining Ayr and East Lothian, from the Tories and Labour respectively, will see them lose MSPs from the South of Scotland regional list.
The coronavirus pandemic meant traditional overnight counts were abandoned after Thursday’s Scottish Parliament election, with counting instead taking place on Friday and Saturday.
Sturgeon, who comfortably defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to claim Glasgow Southside, said afterwards her initial focus would be “to get back to work to steer the country through the crisis and into recovery”.
She added: “That remains the case. But once the crisis is over, and if there is a majority in the parliament for an independence referendum, people should have the right to choose our future. Scotland’s future should always be in Scotland’s hands.”
Meanwhile, former first minister Alex Salmond conceded it is unlikely his new Alba Party will take seats in this election.