© Reuters. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, attends Prime Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh
LONDON (Reuters) – Scottish nationalists are on track to win a record majority in elections to Scotland’s decentralized parliament that would start a new push for independence, an opinion poll published on Thursday showed. Nicola Sturgeon, Prime Minister of Scotland and head of the Scottish National Party for Independence, will claim a mandate for another independence referendum if her party performs well in the elections scheduled for May 6. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who would have to accept a new referendum, has said there is no need for a new vote after Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014. The SNP is expected to win 71 of 129 seats in the Scottish parliament, eight more seats than it won in the last elections in 2016, according to the survey conducted by Savanta ComRes and published in The Scotsman newspaper. The only other time the SNP won a majority was in 2011 when it won 69 seats under former leader Alex Salmond. If Scotland were to vote for independence, it would mean the UK would lose around a third of its territory and almost a tenth of its population, just as the world’s sixth-largest economy is grappling with the impact of Brexit. Johnson’s Conservative Party may lose 14 seats in the Scottish Parliament and the opposition Labor Party may lose three, according to the poll, leaving the Conservatives with 17 seats and the Labor Party with 21. Scots voted 55-45% against independence in a referendum in 2014, but Brexit and the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for the SNP, with most polls showing that the majority are now in favor of the rupture. The Savanta ComRes poll found that 57% of people would vote for Scottish independence in a new referendum, close to a record. The survey was based on responses from 1,016 people in Scotland between January 8-13.