The Telegraph

As election day arrives, Nicola Sturgeon downplays Indyref2 plans

Nicola Sturgeon has downplayed her plans to hold a second independence referendum as she urged Scots to re-elect her based on her experience and leadership during the pandemic. In an election day message to voters, the First Minister claimed the SNP was the only party with a “serious programme for Government” and claimed her “overriding priority” if re-elected would be to keep people safe. On the final day of campaigning on Wednesday, she sought to exploit anger at the UK’s Brexit deal within the fishing industry during a trip to Aberdeen, and then travelled to Alford, in the Aberdeenshire West constituency, which the nationalists are hoping to win from the Tories. She also made trips to Dumbarton, where the SNP is vying to take Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie’s seat, and her own Glasgow Southside constituency, where she is deafening a majority of more than 9,000 against Anas Sarwar. She said: “As First Minister I haven’t got everything right over this past desperately difficult year but I have worked my hardest every day and brought total commitment to the task of keeping Scotland safe. “If I am given the privilege of being re-elected as First Minister my promise to Scotland is to continue to bring all my experience and focus to the overriding priority of keeping you and your family safe. “Thanks to the people of Scotland who have given up so much to tackle the pandemic, the incredible work of our NHS, and the brilliant vaccination programme we can be optimistic that better times lie ahead. “In this election, only the SNP is offering a serious programme for government for these serious times.” She highlighted a string of SNP manifesto pledges, including free NHS dental care, before launching an attack on Boris Johnson and the Tories, warning that despite over the health service being fully devolved, “our NHS is definitely not safe in their hands”. She only briefly mentioned her plan to hold a new independence referendum by 2023 in her plea to voters, saying Indyref2 would be held only “once the Covid crisis has passed”. Meanwhile, Alex Salmond made a final appeal to independence supporters to help him back to Holyrood to deliver a “supermajority” of MSPs in favour of separation. Polls have suggested that his new Alba Party may not win a single seat. However, he has claimed it is on course to win representation at Holyrood and has set a target of winning at least eight seats. He urged members of the “independence family” to back his party with their second votes, claiming supporting the SNP with regional ballots was a waste of time as Ms Sturgeon’s party would get “nothing at all on the regional list”. The SNP won four regional MSPs in 2016, with Holyrood’s voting system meaning the better a party does in constituencies the harder it is to win regional seats. He said: “An SNP vote is sometimes described as a wasted vote. It’s actually worse than that, an SNP vote on the second ballot paper actually lets unionist Labour and Tory MSPs in by the back door.” Key seats to watch in the 2021 Scottish election

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