Scottish Election results 2021: Nicola Sturgeon says SNP majority is 'very, very long shot'
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 was 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.
She made the comments as she held her Glasgow Southside seat, seeing off Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
The First Minister won 19,735 votes, compared to Mr Sarwar's 10,279 – a majority of 9,456.
Ms Sturgeon spoke out as she arrived at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, where votes were being counted.
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, Ms Sturgeon said: "A majority has always been a very, very long shot."
The SNP won an unprecedented Holyrood majority in 2011, under Ms Sturgeon's predecessor, Alex Salmond.
But Ms 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.
Meanwhile deputy first minister John Swinney said the SNP would be the "leading and largest party" in the new Scottish Parliament – though he too said it is still too early to say if the party will win an overall majority.
Mr Swinney, also the education secretary in the Scottish Government, comfortably held his Perthshire North seat, increasing his majority over the Tories.
His was among the first handful of seats to declare as votes were counted after polling day on Thursday.
He said: "It is an enormous pleasure to see the prospects of the return of an SNP government for a fourth historic term, given the scale of the vote that my party is experiencing the length and breadth of the country."
With the SNP having used the election campaign to push for a second independence referendum, Mr Swinney vowed he would "do all that I can" to "ensure that the people of Scotland have a choice on their future as they should have".
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