It was a count like no other for an election that may well decide the fate of the United Kingdom.
While the results for the four Glasgow constituencies announced on Friday at the city’s Emirates Arena were unsurprising – huge SNP majorities for the Southside, Anniesland, Maryhill & Springburn and Pollok – there was a palpable lack of fanfare as the nationalists moved closer to demanding a second independence referendum.
However, the mood among SNP activists was nevertheless rapturous when it was announced that Nicola Sturgeon had been re-elected as MSP for Glasgow Southside with 60.2 per cent of the vote.
Easily holding off a direct challenge from Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Ms Sturgeon won the seat by 9,456 votes – just marginally less than the 9,593 she took the Southside by in 2016.
Mr Sarwar was still able to deliver a credible nine-point increase in his party’s vote share, which is likely the result of switching Conservative voters and an increased turnout. The Tories plummeted to 5.5 per cent of votes compared with 12.4 in 2016.
In her victory speech, the First Minister said that her party "appears on course for a fourth consecutive election victory and to be on course to have the privilege of forming a government again”.
"If that is indeed the outcome of this election, I pledge to get back to work immediately to continue to steer this country through the crisis of Covid, to lead this country into recovery from Covid,” she added.
She promised that "when the time is right" she wishes to "offer this country the choice of a better future" with a second independence referendum.
Thanking the Glasgow Southside electorate, Ms Sturgeon paid particular tribute to Mr Sarwar, saying they “actually quite like each other” and added it is “difficult to campaign against someone you like”.
Meanwhile, Mr Sarwar said he was “pleased” with what he had achieved in Glasgow, claiming that Labour was "back on the pitch" after increasing its vote share.
"I'm not pretending this journey is complete," he said. "I am not interested in building the opposition, I want to build the alternative."
Ms Sturgeon also took aim at “far-Right thug” Jayda Fransen, who received just 46 votes after standing for the seat. Ms Fransen, who has convictions for racially aggravated harassment, confronted the SNP leader while out canvassing in the constituency on Thursday evening.
“Yesterday the constituency was targeted by far-Right thugs, the far-Right thug that led that confrontation got 46 votes and I am proud that once again that Glasgow Southside has shown the racists and the fascists that they are not welcome in Glasgow Southside, they are not welcome in Glasgow and they are not welcome anywhere in Scotland,” she said, adding: “And let that be a note of unity.”
Ms Sturgeon’s comments were met with applause from across the political spectrum. Justice Secretary and SNP MSP Humza Yousaf later thanked activists from all parties for "collectively" telling "thugs" who "tried to intimidate ethnic minority candidates at this count" to "jog on".
His comments came after an earlier incident which saw anti-vaccination candidates, who appeared to perform Nazi salutes as they entered the Glasgow count, target Mr Yousaf by asking him about the treatment of women and children in Pakistan.
Police arrived at the scene and they were asked to leave.
And while an election count in non-Covid times would typically see major parties sending between 20 to 25 counting agents per constituency, each party hardly had more than a dozen each during this year’s muted affair.
“From a practical point of view it’s actually very difficult to get the information that you need,” said Mhairi Hunter, an SNP councillor and Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency office manager.
“It does feel a little bit flat and dead compared to a normal count,” she told The Telegraph.