Scottish election 2021 results: Who are the winners and losers in Holyrood now that count is done?

The second day of a strange and unusual Scottish Parliament election saw little change on the overall make-up of Holyrood, but some parties will be happier than others.

SNP: Winners

The SNP will narrowly miss out on a majority, but it would be wrong to assume this counts as a defeat.

The symbolism of an overall majority goes without saying, but it would also have made life easier for the SNP in Holyrood and any negotiations with Boris Johnson more forceful.

Who were the winners and losers from the Scottish Parliamentary elections?Who were the winners and losers from the Scottish Parliamentary elections?
Who were the winners and losers from the Scottish Parliamentary elections?
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But take a step back and the SNP have had their 14 years in power overwhelmingly backed.

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It is a record number of votes, a record percentage share of the vote and a record number of constituency MSPs.

They came within a few thousand votes across the country from winning a majority solely through the constituency ballot, which would have been remarkable.

There was no rebuke for the exam results scandal, for the Alex Salmond inquiry, for failing education and health standards.

Much of this is down to the way the SNP frame elections around the constitution and then move away from it when the going gets tough on the doorstep.

In 2021, it worked a charm.

Greens: Winners

The Scottish Greens will be disappointed they did not reach double figures, but growing their representation to eight MSPs was a major success.

They will, in particular, be cursing the 1,000-odd people who chose to vote other pro-independence parties in the Glasgow region given that was all between them and a second MSP in the area.

Their aim pre-election was representation in each of Scotland’s regions and they have narrowly missed out on that in the South region.

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However, returning both Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, alongside a tight gain in the Central region, is positive.

Critically they are part of a significant pro-independence majority and will again hold the balance of power in Holyrood and most likely work with the SNP to pass major legislation.

Conservatives: Winners

Everything the Scottish Conservatives wanted to happen – bar the loss of Ayr to the SNP on Friday – happened.

The party maintained its crucial position of second overall, easily beating Labour into third, and will be able to dominate the national discussion through that position of official opposition.

They will also believe they can legitimately say that voting Conservative denied the SNP a majority, which certainly has its merits in places such as Aberdeenshire West and Eastwood where tactical voting was key to the party retaining the seat.

Despite a poor campaign, Douglas Ross has nearly matched the achievements of Ruth Davidson in 2016.

That result five years ago was impressive, and the 2021 result should be viewed through the same lens.

Labour: Losers, just.

Anas Sarwar must be cursing the fact he was not in position earlier than he was given his success in the favourability ratings during the campaign.

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Overall, it is another election where the party has lost ground on closest rival the Conservatives and lost constituency seats to the SNP once more.

The party will feel the aim of damage limitation has successfully been achieved and with new faces coming into the party, there will be a sense of a fresh start.

The battle, however, is moving the conversation on from the constitution will be challenging while in third place overall.

Without a positive case for the union based on more than simply just saying no, territory owned and unlikely to be conceded by the Tories, the party is likely to struggle to shake off the perception it is not fit for constitutionally-dominated Scottish politics.

Lib Dems: Losers

The big losers electorally is the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The failure of the party to pick up an additional seat on the regional list, despite an excellent day in the constituencies where they held on to all four of their seats, will put them below the threshold of five seats, which means the party will be given additional rights in Holyrood.

That result will see them unable to gain representation on the business bureau, where parties decide on the business of the parliament for the week, and will lose a guaranteed question at First Minister’s Questions.

It is also another election where the party has failed to make national gains and those heady days of leading the Scottish Government in coalition seem a long time ago.

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Willie Rennie may come under pressure to resign his position as leader of the party, but he is well liked by many and there is no sign at the moment of any manoeuvres to have him replaced.

His thumping majority in North East Fife will likely be viewed as an endorsement for his leadership.

Scottish People: Losers

It is hardly an election that will cheer the Scottish people because, to paraphrase a former prime minister, “nothing has changed”.

This is a Scottish Parliament that is almost identical to the one the people elected in 2016.

Despite record turnout and despite the appearance of new parties, most notably Alex Salmond’s Alba party and George Galloway’s All For Unity, there was barely any change.

What this means for Scotland is another five years where political debate is dominated and led by the constitution.

The SNP will claim victory and a mandate given the pro-independence majority, the Conservatives in Holyrood and in Westminster will claim the failure to reach an overall majority cancels this out.

Scottish Labour will attempt and probably fail to move the conversation on.

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Unless Boris Johnson has a change of heart, the question of where Scotland sees its future will likely go without an answer.

Instead we may see court cases, legal challenges, cries of sovereignty versus mandate, and little to no progress.

Should the SNP replicate their record in government again in the next five years, we may well get to 2026 in the same position as last week.

Hardly a cheering thought.

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