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U.K. Elections: Conservatives Make Gains; Pro-Independence Parties Win In Scotland

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured Friday, celebrated his party's victory in a local election. Johnson's Conservatives fared well in local and regional elections.
Oli Scarff
AFP via Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictured Friday, celebrated his party's victory in a local election. Johnson's Conservatives fared well in local and regional elections.

Results from local and regional elections in the U.K. gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party a boost Saturday, while pro-independence parties won a majority in Scotland's parliament.

Voters went to the polls on Thursday to decide the makeup of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, as well as the mayors of England's largest cities, including London and Manchester. Voters also chose local councils, police commissioners and other local authorities, prompting some in England to dub it "Super Thursday."

The last time voters went to the polls in the U.K. was in 2019, as elections were postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A special election was held in the town of Hartlepool in northern England where Britain's governing Conservative Party won a parliamentary seat previously held by the Labour Party since 1974.

During a visit to Hartlepool, Prime Minister Boris Johnson commended his party's election victory. "I think what this election shows is that people want a party and a government that is focused on them, focused on delivering change," he said.

"What's happened now is they can see we did get Brexit done," Johnson told reporters. "... And I think what people want us to do now is to get on with delivering on everything else."

But for many in Scotland, Brexit brought back a desire to break away from the United Kingdom. Scotland first held a referendum on independence in 2014 and 55% of voters opposed it.

Many seem to have now changed their minds.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party emerged one seat shy of a majority in Parliament Saturday. But with allies in the Green Party, Sturgeon said she would push for another referendum on independence once the pandemic has ended.

"It is the will of the country," she said.

The British government says that Scotland needs its permission to hold another referendum — and Johnson has rejected the idea. A push for a referendum could set up a battle in the courts.

In Wales, results show that the election brought little change, with the Labour Party staying in power, according to the BBC.

In Manchester voters reelected Labour Party Mayor Andy Burnham in a landslide, according to the BBC. In an emotional victory speech, Mayor Burnham thanked his family for "your patience, your guidance, your love and your support," he said fighting back tears.

And in London, the Labour Party's Sadiq Khan won a second term as mayor of the U.K.'s most populous city. Khan became the first Muslim mayor of London in 2016.

Vote counting was slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic, with many results coming in only on Saturday.

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Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on NPR's National Desk. Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as weekend shows. Her work has covered a wide array of topics — from breaking news to feature stories, as well as investigative reports.
James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.