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Johnson Seeks UK/Scot Talks            05/09 08:36

   British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday invited the leaders of the 
U.K.'s devolved nations for crisis talks on the union after Scotland's 
pro-independence party won its fourth straight parliamentary election.

   LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday invited the 
leaders of the U.K.'s devolved nations for crisis talks on the union after 
Scotland's pro-independence party won its fourth straight parliamentary 
election.

   Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, said the election 
results proved that a second independence vote for Scotland was "the will of 
the country" and that any London politician who stood in the way would be 
"picking a fight with the democratic wishes of the Scottish people."

   The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern 
Ireland, with devolved governments in the latter three.

   Johnson congratulated Sturgeon on her re-election, but said to the leaders 
of the devolved governments that the U.K. was "best served when we work 
together." The letter invited the leaders to a summit to "discuss our shared 
challenges and how we can work together in the coming months and years to 
overcome them."

   Final results of Thursday's local elections showed that the SNP won 64 of 
the 129 seats in the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament. Although it fell one 
seat short of securing an overall majority, the parliament still had a 
pro-independence majority with the help of eight members of the Scottish Greens.

   Sturgeon said her immediate priority would be steering Scotland through the 
coronavirus pandemic. But she said an independence referendum was "now a matter 
of fundamental democratic principle."

   Johnson has the ultimate authority whether or not to permit another 
referendum on Scotland gaining independence. He wrote in Saturday's Daily 
Telegraph that another referendum on Scotland would be "irresponsible and 
reckless" as Britain emerges from the pandemic. He has consistently argued that 
the issue was settled in a 2014 referendum where 55% of Scottish voters favored 
remaining part of the U.K.

   Proponents of another vote say the situation has changed fundamentally 
because of the U.K's Brexit divorce from the European Union, with Scotland 
taken out of the EU against its will. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 52% of 
U.K. voters backed leaving the EU but 62% of Scots voted to remain.

   When asked about the prospect of Johnson agreeing to a second Scottish 
referendum, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said Sunday "it's not an issue 
for the moment" and that the national priority is on recovering from the 
coronavirus pandemic.

   "If we get sucked into a conversation about referenda and constitutions then 
we are diverting attention from the issues that are most important to the 
people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom," Gove told Sky News.

   "Instead of concentrating on the things that divide, let's concentrate on 
the things that unite," he added.

   The Scotland results have been the main focus of Thursday's array of local 
elections across Britain. In Wales, the opposition Labour Party did better than 
expected, extending its 22 years at the helm of the Welsh government despite 
falling one seat short of a majority.

   Labour's support also held up in some big cities. In London, Mayor Sadiq 
Khan handily won a second term. Other winning Labour mayoral candidates 
included Steve Rotherham in the Liverpool City Region, Andy Burnham in Greater 
Manchester and Dan Norris in the West of England region, which includes Bristol.

 
 
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