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Scottish independence remains a headache for Boris Johnson

While the Scottish elections did not deliver the outright majority Nicola Sturgeon had hoped to achieve, the push for a second independence referendum is unlikely to recede.

The Scottish Nationalists secured a fourth term in last week's election and only fell just short of its 65 seat target.

The reality is that with 64 representatives plus eight from the Greens, there is already a substantial pro-independence majority in the new 129-seat parliament.

Even so, it is expected that Boris Johnson will firmly resist any calls for another poll on this issue. The 2014 referendum resulted in 55 per cent voting against independence with 45 per cent in favour which seemed decisive at the time.

Since then, of course, Brexit has changed the political landscape. In the 2016 referendum, Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of Remain, 62 per cent against 38 per cent.

The British government's withdrawal from the European Union against the expressed wishes of the Scottish electorate has undoubtedly fuelled the debate over a fresh independence referendum.

However, the road to Indyref2 is complicated and the outcome far from certain.

For one thing, both Mr Johnson and Ms Sturgeon both agree it is irresponsible to hold a referendum in a pandemic.

The British government will do its best to play for time, hoping the issue will fade somewhat, although the Scottish first minister insists it is a matter of 'when, not if' another vote will be held.

There is also the prospect that this issue could end up in the courts, which would have far-reaching implications.

All this is being played out against the backdrop of a significant election successes for the Conservatives last week with humiliation for Labour in the first major electoral test for its new leader Keir Starmer.

It appears that Boris Johnson's questionable judgment, from the high toll of Covid deaths following delays in calling a lockdown to the lavish redecoration of the Downing Street flat, has had little impact on voters.

With Labour in disarray and lacking a clear and compelling alternative message, there is every likelihood that the Tories could be in power for years to come.

The issue for Mr Johnson is whether he can maintain the union in its present form.

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