What happens after the polls close on Thursday?

The counting will look a little different this year, but there's still lots to look out for.

Counting will take longer than normal. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Counting will take longer than normal.

There will be no election night this year. When the polls close at 10pm on Thursday the broadcasters will not hit the airwaves with through-the-night live declarations and instant analysis of what it all means.

This has been the Covid campaign and, in the aftermath, the traditional overnight count is delayed until Friday morning at 9am.

Here, STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby answers all your questions about what happens after the polls close.

Why is the count delayed?

Social-distancing requirements at count centres and a limit on the number of people that can tally ballots safely from each venue means that the results for the 129-seat Scottish Parliament will be staggered over two days.

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It could be well into Saturday before the final shape of Scotland’s new parliament is known.

That means, as well as live rolling online coverage, STV will be on air at the key points in the day on both Friday and Saturday with a full post-results analysis show on Sunday as we ask, what now?

Is there an exit poll?

There is no exit poll for a Holyrood election. I’m actually glad about that as an exit poll, if correct, makes the marathon broadcast an exercise in bringing you, not the drama of election night, but the confirmation that the exit poll is correct.

Or not, as the case may be.

What should we look out for?

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There are 73 individual constituencies in Scotland and last time around the SNP won 59 seats, the Conservatives seven seats, the Liberal Democrats four seats and Labour three seats.

When the 56 ‘additional members’ elected in eight regions were added to ensure a closer relationship between a party’s vote and seat share, the SNP ended up with 63 seats, the Conservatives 31 seats, Labour 24 seats, the Greens six seats and the Liberal Democrats five seats.

We can see from the above that the SNP are overwhelmingly dominant in the individual constituencies with Labour and the Conservatives relying on additional members from the regional areas to make up their parliamentary representation.

As the individual constituencies declare first, what should we look out for? Well, as 59 out of the 73 seats are held by the SNP, Friday will be an exercise in SNP victories if the polls are correct. If the SNP lose any seats it will suggest they could perform below their 2016 level of support, in which their case indyref2 hopes could take a bashing.

If they hold their seats it will be useful to see if their share of the vote is higher or lower than five years ago. Although the result in an individual constituency is not an exact barometer in how electors in other constituencies will behave, a number of results may well establish a pattern on whether the SNP are polling better or worse than in 2016. We should know this after the first dozen declarations.

What about the other parties?

These results can also tell us how the other parties are performing and whether there is any evidence that would suggest, for example, that Labour might overtake the Conservatives in the race for second place.

As more results come in and the national share of the vote amasses, we will have some clues as to how the election is going without having a definitive picture.

Where are the key seats?

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There are number of ‘battleground seats’ which are particularly interesting to watch. There are no fewer than 37 seats that would change hands if there is a swing of 10% or less against the incumbent party.

Technically, many seats are very marginal with 16 constituencies falling on a swing of 5% or less. The polls, however, predict a comfortable SNP lead, so the more pertinent question would appear to be: which seats might the SNP gain rather than which of their marginal seats might they lose?

The nationalists have Dumbarton in their sights. A swing of 0.2% would unseat Labour’s Jackie Baillie. And a swing of just over 1% from the Conservatives to the SNP would see Edinburgh Central, Ayr and Aberdeenshire West fall. A swing of 1.5% from Labour to the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon’s party would pick up Edinburgh Southern and East Lothian.

In all of the above seats, however, there is the possibility that unionist voters cast their vote tactically for the party most likely to prevent the SNP from winning. And there are local factors that might nudge the arithmetic against a national trend.

In East Lothian, for example, Labour’s Iain Gray is standing down. At the 2019 general election, the corresponding Westminster seat was won by Kenny MacAskill for the SNP. He has, however, defected to the Alba Party. And the Labour candidate he defeated has now succeeded Iain Gray as Labour’s standard bearer.

With a sizeable Conservative vote in this seat, all three parties will argue they can win. Tactical considerations could hold the key in deciding which party wins in East Lothian. The pattern of support in this ultra-marginal might not be replicated elsewhere.

Tell me about the regions

The Scottish Greens are contesting 12 constituencies and like Alex Salmond’s Alba Party are contesting all of the eight regional areas where 56 MSPs are elected.

It will be impossible to say exactly how these parties are likely to do until the first regional area declares and that will only happen when all of the individual results within that region are known.

We will, however, get a ‘sense’ of where it might be headed as we will get access to ‘list’ votes in individual constituencies.

No regional area will declare on Friday so it will be Saturday before those parties only contesting list seats will know how they are performing.

Any other seats to watch?

We are expecting 48 constituencies to declare on the Friday from all areas of Scotland, including the two Labour marginals of Dumbarton and East Lothian.

Of course, all seats are interesting particularly if it’s where you happen to live. In Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon’s Southside seat will declare on Friday. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is trying to unseat her. He faces an uphill task as it is the safest SNP seat in Scotland.

Look out too for Rutherglen. It is normally one of the first to declare and it will be interesting to see if there is any evidence of a backlash against the SNP.

Local MP Margaret Ferrier, who broke Covid rules, has been disowned by the SNP but refuses to resign, a factor Labour’s James Kelly will be hoping works in his favour, especially as his ranking on the Glasgow list suggests his parliamentary career is in danger of coming to an end.

In the Capital, Edinburgh Central is one to watch. It was held by Ruth Davidson for the Conservatives in the last parliament but she has quit Holyrood for the more genteel pastures of the House of Lords. Former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson is attempting to win and book his place at Holyrood.

How can I follow the results?

STV News will provide live rolling coverage online throughout the counting, while on TV we’ll broadcast three election specials.

We will be on air on Friday from 4pm-7pm and then again from 8pm-8.30pm. On Saturday we broadcast from 4.40pm until 6.30pm and then again on Sunday from 5.35pm until 6.30pm to digest what is all means.

The team are ready to bring you all the key highlights and interviews from the sixth sets of elections for Scotland’s Parliament. Do join us.


Glasgow Covid cases rise is ‘red flag’, says health expert

Professor Linda Bauld said the surge in coronavirus cases in Glasgow 'needs to be dealt with'.

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Warning: Rise in coronavirus cases in Glasgow.

The rise in coronavirus cases in Glasgow is a “red flag that needs to be dealt with”, a senior health expert has warned.

It comes after a third of the 345 new cases of Covid-19 recorded in Scotland on Wednesday were found to be in the city.

Pollokshields, in the southside of Glasgow, has the highest transmission rate in Scotland – 575 per 100,000, which is just slightly higher than in Easterhouse, in the east end of the city.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the situation in Glasgow is being monitored “very closely”, amidst concern over the so-called Indian variant.

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Lockdown restrictions are set to be eased for most of Scotland from Monday, with Glasgow due to be moved into level two.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that a “robust response” is needed to the rise in cases.

Asked if she would advise the Scottish Government against moving Glasgow to level two, she said: “I’m not privy to all the information that they are, it’s for them to make that decision.

“But we do need a robust response and I suppose we’ll hear from them in the next few days what that decision is.”

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Professor Bauld continued: “We need to benefit from the progress that we’ve made and not put it at risk.

“And in the past, and this is just a historical point, we perhaps have not acted early enough to get on top of outbreaks.

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Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh.

“So, as I say nationally, I remain optimistic, but I think this is just a red flag that needs to be dealt with.”

Professor Bauld said that a local approach to identify cases should be the first step in tackling cases in the city.

“I would say it’s for policy colleagues to decide what happens,” she explained.

“There’s over 600,000 people living in Glasgow City local authority, it seems perhaps premature to say – once again remember Glasgow has been hard hit with restrictions in the past – okay the whole city can’t move.

“I think a localised approach really, as I say, concentrated identification and support of cases is the first step.

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“But obviously others will be making those decisions.”

Professor Bauld indicated that her message to people would be to use caution as more is opened up from next week.

She said: “We’re moving completely in the right direction, we want to keep moving in that direction.

“We don’t want to take a step back and that means that we all need to try and follow the guidance and when more things open next week, do that really, really cautiously and just make sure that we don’t have more community transmission.”


Protesters block van in bid to stop immigration removals

Around 200 protesters are at the scene in Pollokshields, with chants of 'these are our neighbours, let them go'.

Protesters have gathered in Glasgow to demonstrate their opposition to a raid by the Home Office.

Immigration officials for the UK Border Agency had moved on a property on Kenmure Street in Pollokshields on Thursday morning before protesters blockaded an enforcement van.

Police were called in to provide support and surrounded the van, while the gathered crowd could be heard chanting: “These are our neighbours, let them go.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Around 9.55 am this morning, Thursday, 13 May, 2021, police were called to support colleagues at the UK Border Agency at an address in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow.

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“A number of protesters are now at the location. Officers are at the scene and enquiries are continuing.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is the MSP for Glasgow Southside, wrote on Twitter that she is “deeply concerned” by the action taken by the Home Office.

She said: “As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.

“My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”

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SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who represents Glasgow Central, tweeted that she would be taking the matter up with UK Government ministers.

She wrote: “This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours and refusing to accept the brutality of the @ukhomeoffice.

“I am taking this matter up with Ministers. Not in our name.”

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was one of what he said were hundreds of neighbours protesting against the action.

The 54-year-old said: “We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.

“The same people who run from the British and American bombs put at the back of the van right now. And they are about to be deported.

“And it’s on Eid you know… the guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It’s a sad day.”

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Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere amongst the protesters was peaceful.


Party leaders sworn in at start of new Holyrood term

Returning and new members are being sworn in following last week’s Scottish Parliament election.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland’s other party leaders have been sworn in as MSPs.

Returning and new members of the Scottish Parliament were sworn in on Thursday morning following last week’s Holyrood election.

Outgoing Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who decided not to stand in the election, ran proceedings, which require MSPs to pledge their allegiance to the Queen before they are allowed to undertake any parliamentary duties or receive their MSP salary.

If the oath or affirmation is not taken within two months, they will lose their seat.

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The First Minister made an affirmation, followed by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar taking the oath.

Beforehand, Sturgeon said the SNP “pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people”.

Ahead of his affirmation, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he wanted to reassert that his party’s “allegiance lies with the people of Scotland who elected this Parliament and who are sovereign, and we look forward to the day when they can choose their own elected head of state”.

His fellow Greens co-leader Lorna Slater also chose to affirm.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was the last party leader to be sworn in and he took the oath.

The rest of the MSPs are being sworn in in alphabetical order.

Ariane Burgess, who gave her affirmation in Gaelic, said beforehand she believes “the people of Scotland are sovereign”.

A number of MSPs will take their oath in a language other than English, including Scots, Gaelic, Urdu, Orcadian, Doric and even, in the case of Zimbabwe-born North East Green MSP Maggie Chapman, Zimbabwean Shona.

The oath will be followed by the election of the new Presiding Officer, who will take charge of proceedings in Parliament for the next five years.

No MSP has yet signalled their intent publicly to stand for the position, which requires elected members to renounce their party affiliation and act cross-party for the duration.

Parliamentary arithmetic could prevent some MSPs from putting themselves forward for the position, given the SNP is just one seat short of a majority.

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If the SNP puts someone forward, it would drop further away from the 65 MSPs needed to pass legislation on its own – whereas the chamber would be tied if an opposition MSP takes the role.

Friday will see the election of deputy presiding officers, who do not have to relinquish their party affiliation.


Footballers ‘suffer in silence to save their careers’

David Cox has suffered abuse on and off the pitch since first talking about attempts to end his life.

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Footballers won’t talk about their mental health problems in case it damages their careers, a striker who suffered abuse following suicide attempts has warned.

David Cox says many professional players are suffering in silence because they fear being released by their clubs or left unable to secure new contracts.

Cox recently announced his retirement after accusing a fellow player of mocking his mental health issues during a game.

He left the match in question at half-time, with an investigation ongoing into the alleged comments, which are strongly denied by the other player.

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Speaking to Scotland Tonight before quitting the game, the 32-year-old said: “If someone feels like they want to come out and speak, it’s going to be in the back of their mind that it will affect their life in football.

“Unfortunately, there are always going to be managers, clubs or staff who look as that as a problem.”

Cox first spoke about his mental health issues in a newspaper interview seven years ago.

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David Cox in action for Cowdenbeath last year.

He revealed he had made attempts to end his life and, since then, has received horrific abuse on and off the pitch.

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“I heard a few things from the stand after I told my story,” he said. “I remember one of the shouts was to ‘do it properly this time’.

“I’m no angel on the park and I’ll say things, but when it comes to personal stuff there needs to be a line.”

The well-travelled striker has played for a number of Scottish clubs and believes some have refused to renew his contracts because of his health issues.

“Some clubs have been absolutely amazing with me, really good,” he said. “But I’ve also been at clubs where I’ve been pushed out because of my mental health.”

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David Cox celebrates scoring against Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 2019.

Scotland Tonight – on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday – will take a closer look at the darker side of the beautiful game, asking what’s being done to help players who are struggling to cope.

Last week, a charity told STV News that it had helped five players who considered ending their lives over the past year.

Libby Emerson, from BackOnSide, said: “The abuse players get if they talk about their mental health is wrong and it needs to change.”

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She said it was “hard” for the charity to gain access to players, adding: “A lot of clubs don’t realise there is a mental health issue going on.

“If a player broke his leg on a pitch, they’d get support in an instant and doctors to look after them.

“But when someone says their head’s a bit broken, it’s just ignored.”

One Scottish Premiership club told Scotland Tonight that football as a whole was getting better at dealing with mental health, but accepted that more needs to be done.

Allan Burrows, chief executive of Motherwell FC, who have experienced suicide among former players and fans, said: “I think we’ve made improvements, but we’ve got a lot of work still to do.

“We need to continue to talk about it and raise it as an issue. It needs to constantly be the message; you need to constantly push it all the time.

“We will continue to do that as a club. I hope other clubs will continue to do so as well and other sports and other outlets will continue to do it.

“And if we all do that, and we all try and take it more seriously, then hopefully we can stop this other pandemic that is going on in Scotland at the moment.”


Rangers ask fans to follow Covid guidelines when celebrating title

The club has urged supporters to be "safe and sensible" this weekend.

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Rangers will lift the Premiership trophy on Saturday at Ibrox.

Rangers have asked their supporters to make sure that they follow Covid guidelines and restrictions when they celebrate the club’s league title win this weekend.

Steven Gerrard’s side will lift the Premiership trophy on Saturday after the conclusion of their match against Aberdeen at Ibrox, and the team could complete an unbeaten league season.

Police Scotland has already warned against large gatherings after a fan group organised a title day march from Ibrox to George Square, while justice secretary Humza Yousaf urged Rangers fans to celebrate at home this weekend.

In a statement on the club’s website, Rangers warned that the dangers of Covid-19 were still present despite some restrictions being lifted across the country, and asked the team’s fans to behave accordingly.

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It read: “It’s a day to enjoy and to celebrate the achievements of our club, and the title win by Steven Gerrard and his team. However, we are cognisant that the battle against Covid-19 is far from over and that the virus is still live. It hasn’t gone away.

“Please celebrate this historic day for our club in a safe and sensible manner, respecting public safety- adhering to the current government guidelines and restrictions which are still in place.

“In particular, please be mindful of the government guidelines regarding gathering in large numbers. If possible, please celebrate within your own community.”

The request comes a day after Police Scotland launched an investigation into the lighting of fireworks outside Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Arena while Rangers played there on Wednesday night.

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A group of 200 fans gathered to watch Steven Gerrard’s team from a hill just outside the ground in West Lothian.

Sergeant Jim Gowling said: “An investigation is under way after several pyrotechnics were let off during the Livingston v Rangers game. 

“The inquiry will involve officers reviewing extensive CCTV footage to identify those involved in this reckless and dangerous behaviour.” 


Woman in critical condition after attempted murder bid

The 45-year-old was rushed to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary with life-threatening injuries.

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Critical: Woman in hospital after being struck by car.

A woman is in a critical condition in hospital after being hit by a car in an attempted murder bid. 

On Wednesday around 8.15pm, the 45-year-old was struck by a car on Whitesands, Dumfries. 

Emergency services attended and the woman was taken to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary with life-threatening injuries, where she remains in a critical condition.

A 26-year-old woman was also struck by the car but did not sustain any serious injuries.

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A 35-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information or dash-cam footage that could assist the investigation is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 3169 of May 12.


Painter and decorator caught with £2m of cocaine in van

Richard Eadie was caught with the drugs on the M74 near Abbington, Lanarkshire in 2019.

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Drugs haul: Cocaine worth £2m seized from van.

A painter and decorator was caught with £2m of high-purity cocaine after a motorway swoop by police.

Richard Eadie was caught with the drugs on November 15, 2019 on the M74 northbound near Abbington, Lanarkshire.

Prosecutor Lindsey Dalziel told how police were “suspicious” when they clocked boxes in the front of the hired Ford Transit van given the space in the back.

They had already received a tip-off that drugs were on board.

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Police went on to discover 20 taped blocks inside each holding 1kg of cocaine.

The drugs had a purity as high as 76% with a potential value of between £1.6m and £2m.

On Thursday, Eadie of Garthamlock, pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

His QC Thomas Ross told the hearing: “In terms of the value, he understands that prison is inevitable.”

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Eadie had been on bail, but, deferring sentencing for reports, judge Lady Stacey told him: “You will be remanded in custody.”

The case was adjourned until next month.


Appeal after man found seriously injured near busy road

The 56-year-old was discovered at around 5.45am on Thursday in Grangemouth

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Injured: Man rushed to hospital after being found near busy road.

A man is in a critical condition in hospital after being found seriously injured in Grangemouth.

The 56-year-old was found on Abbots Road at the junction with Newlands Road and Newhouse Road in the town at around 5.45am on Thursday. 

He was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he is in a critical condition. 

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 5.45am on Thursday May 13, we received a report that a 56-year-old man had been found with injuries on Abbots Road at the junction with Newlands Road and Newhouse Road, in Grangemouth. 

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“He was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he is described as being in a critical condition.

“Enquiries to establish the full circumstances are ongoing. Anyone who was walking or driving in the area and saw the man between 4pm yesterday and 5.45am this morning is asked to contact police with information on 101, quoting reference number 0417 of May 13.”


Voters go to the polls in Airdrie and Shotts by-election

Polling stations will open on Thursday for the North Lanarkshire seat to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

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Vote: Public go to the polls.

Voters are going to the polls in a by-election to choose a new MP for the Airdrie and Shotts constituency.

Polling stations will open on Thursday morning in the North Lanarkshire seat in the race to replace incumbent SNP MP Neil Gray.

Gray stepped down to contest the same seat in the Scottish Parliament election, and became an MSP last week.

The two elections were not held on the same day due to concerns about coronavirus and the possibility of voter confusion because of the different ballot systems used in Westminster and Holyrood elections.

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Gray held the seat for the SNP in the 2019 general election, taking 45% of the vote, with Labour coming second on 32%. This gave the SNP a majority of 5201 votes.

Modern studies teacher Anum Qaisar-Javed is the SNP candidate, facing Labour councillor Kenneth Stevenson.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigned in Airdrie and Shotts with Ms Qaisar-Javed on Wednesday, alongside the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was also on the campaign trail on Wednesday with Mr Stevenson.

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The other candidates standing for the seat are Stephen Arrundale, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Ben Callaghan, Scottish Conservatives, Martyn Green, Reform UK, Donald Mackay, UKIP, Neil Manson, Social Democratic Party and Jonathan Stanley for the Scottish Unionist Party.


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