Scottish election 2021: With SNP on course for victory, spotlight will eventually turn on Boris Johnson's refusal to allow independence referendum – Henry McLeish

Regardless of the party-political outcome of the Scottish elections, the increased turnout is a significant and positive sign of the success of the new Parliament, a boost for democracy, and a measure of the political importance of Holyrood.

Now competing with the number of Scots voting in Westminster elections, it is an endorsement of the wisdom of devolution in a still hugely over-centralised UK.

This will be the highest turnout of the six elections held since 1999, possibly ten per cent higher than the previous highest in that year.

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Early results suggest the SNP will again form the Scottish government with no overall majority, but, in some form, with the support of the Greens.

There is no doubt the high turnout will add to the legitimacy of any demands placed on Boris Johnson in the months ahead. The Green party do not figure in these early results as their efforts are focused on the list ballot. Polls suggest they are likely to do well, increasing their vote share and number of MSPs.

There appears to have been some tactical voting. Despite the efforts of the Scottish Tory leader, his pleas for a “better together” assault on the SNP and independence were understandably rejected by Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who had a good campaign on his theme of “recovery first”.

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This may result in an increase in seats or vote share. Labour’s goal is second place. Douglas Ross’s embrace of Boris Johnson’s “muscular unionism” has made little impact.

Boris Johnson should expect to come under pressure over his refusal to grant a second independence referendum (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

But clearly Scotland remains divided on the SNP’s signature issue of independence – a political split personality. The overall results in percentage share of the vote varies widely throughout Scotland with the Brexit-Leave campaign impacting on the North East.

Despite the high turnout there have been few surprises, and this reflects a campaign in which the overhang of the pandemic and the restrictions on traditional campaigning have been significant.

But this has also been a one-issue campaign. Independence has dominated the hustings. Two parties arguing for the right of Scots to decide their future in another referendum, while the traditional parties argued against.

When the dust settles after the weekend and all the results are declared, independence will continue to dominate the debate. The pandemic and recovery must come first, but afterwards, Boris Johnson will be centre stage.

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