EDINBURGH, Scotland – The Scottish National Party won a majority of seats in Scotland’s parliament and promised Friday to hold a vote on independence, while the Liberal Democrats suffered an enormous defeat in Britain, losing more than 600 local seats.
Voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland elected national legislatures Thursday. Across Britain, voters also chose hundreds of local council seats and overwhelmingly rejected a plan to change the parliamentary election system in another blow to the Liberal Democrats.
The Scottish National Party became the first party since Scotland’s regional government was formed in 1999 to win a majority of the Scottish Parliament’s 129 seats. Final results showed it had won 69 seats, while Labour had 37, the Conservatives 15 and other parties eight.
Voters apparently approved of how the SNP has led a coalition government for the past four years and also backed programs to preserve free university tuition and to give the elderly free personal care.
In Britain’s local elections, votes were still being counted, so the Liberal Democrats’ crushing loss could grow even worse. The debacle for the junior partner in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government sparked new calls for the resignation of party leader Nick Clegg, who is also Cameron’s deputy.
The Liberal Democrats lost control of nine local councils including Sheffield, Clegg’s own town.
The deputy prime minister, whose party pushed for the referendum and strongly supported voting reform, called the results “a bitter blow” but insisted the coalition would continue and the Liberal Democrats would move on from their setback.
“In a democracy when you ask a question and you get an overwhelming answer, you just have to accept it,” Clegg told the BBC.
The Conservatives gained about 80 council seats, while Labour gained 800.