IT was an election which took place during a global pandemic and resulted in the fourth consecutive victory at Holyrood for the SNP.

Now one year on, a major study carried out by academics across the UK has uncovered new insights into how and why people voted as they did.

While parties talked about a range of policy issues – including the recovery from covid-19 – the researchers found it was Scottish independence that still “ultimately ruled the day”.

Nearly nine out of 10 – 85% - of voters cast their ballots according to their views on whether Scotland should leave the UK.

This benefited the SNP as the “only pro-independence game in town” on the constituency ballot, the study noted.

“Even amid a once-in-a-century global pandemic, in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, under a government plagued by substantive criticisms of its policy, it was yet again Independence Wot Won It for the incumbent SNP and, more generally, the pro-independence half of the electorate,” it added.

Here we look at some of other surprising – and not so surprising – findings of the Scottish Election Study:

Majority want indyref2 to happen

Most voters believe the results of the 2021 Holyrood election mean a second independence referendum is more likely to happen – with 32% saying it is “much more” likely and 41% saying it is “somewhat more likely”.

The majority also believe that a referendum should take place – including 15% who want one in the next 10 years, 16% who want one within five years, 22% who want one within the first half of the SNP’s term in office, and 9% who want one “as soon as possible”.

READ MORE: Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon says vote in 2023 'still realistic'

Just under one third – 32% - say they never want indyref2 to take place.

Tactical voting led to a surge in split-ticket ballots

A focus on tactical voting by supporters of independence or the Union led to the largest ever number of split-ticket ballots, where voters spread their cotes across different parties.

Despite being considered at opposite ends of the political spectrum, 60% of Labour constituency voters who cast a split-ticket voted for Conservatives on the list.

And four out of 10 who backed the Tories in the constituency vote then supported Labour on the list.

Large numbers of SNP "splitters" – 72% - supported the Scottish Greens in the list vote.

“More voters (29%) report they cast split-tickets than for any other Scottish Parliament election,” the report noted.

The National:

Voters turned off leaders’ TV debates

The appearance of leaders in TV debates might have been expected to take on a more significant role in the Holyrood 2021 election, as covid restricted normal campaign activities such as in-person hustings and street stalls.

But the study found more than four out of five voters – 81% - claimed to not have watched any televised debates.

Nearly two-thirds also said the debate had no impact on their vote as they had already made up their mind.

Less than 1% – just three people out of almost 5000 surveyed – said it had changed their mind completely.

However, the academics also note that debates have other impacts such as reassuring voters they have made the right choice or enhancing the popularity of leaders.

Making your mind up … at the last minute

The explanation for the limited impact of TV debates can be found partly in when voters make up their minds on how to vote, the study notes.

Remarkably, more than one in 10 people walked into the polling station not knowing which candidate they were going to back.

READ MORE: Elena Whitham and Gillian Mackay reflect on one year at Holyrood as MSPs

One in five said they always vote in the same way and a similar percentage said they decided in the year before the election.

A quarter of voters decided “early on” in the election campaign, while a fifth said they only made up their mind in the last few days.

Confusion over devolution

Despite 20 years of devolution, knowledge of what the Scottish Government has control over is still “patchy”, the researchers found.

Even during a pandemic, which had included high-profile daily press conferences from the First Minister and government announcements – more than a third of Scots did not know health was devolved.

However, four in five knew that education is devolved and defence is reserved.

But more than half of the Scottish electorate was unaware that policy about law and order is devolved, despite Scotland’s distinct legal system existing for hundreds of years.