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Nicola Sturgeon to find 'common ground' as she pledges to implement SNP policies

Published 07/05/2016

Nicola Sturgeon's SNP secured a third victory in the Scottish Parliament election
Nicola Sturgeon's SNP secured a third victory in the Scottish Parliament election

Nicola Sturgeon insists she does not have to build consensus in the Scottish Parliament to implement her manifesto and stressed that a majority of MSPs still back Scottish independence.

The SNP was reduced to a minority government in the general election on Thursday, meaning members will have to strike deals with opposition MSPs to get their legislation through.

But leader Nicola Sturgeon said her opponents are divided on many issues, and said she will work to find common ground "not so much because I have to do it but because I want to do it".

She warned her opponents, who said they won't give the SNP an easy ride in the next parliament, to respect the SNP's victory in the election which gave her "a clear and unequivocal mandate to implement the policies that we set out in our manifesto".

Speaking at The Kelpies, the twin horse head sculpture near Falkirk where she unveiled her 62 fellow new and re-elected MSPs, Ms Sturgeon also warned unionists against using the election result to sound the death knell for Scottish independence.

The Scottish Greens, who called for a petition on another referendum in their manifesto, gained six seats bringing the total tally of nationalists to 69 out of 129 MSPs.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I was the deputy first minister in a minority government from 2007 to 2011. In that parliament we were genuinely a minority government. We had 47 MSPs.

"This SNP government will be in a very different position. We are just two seats short of having an overall majority.

"That's a very strong position to be in.

"We face an opposition that will not be united, I don't think, on too many issues.

"So, yes I will reach out and I was very clear yesterday that I want to lead an inclusive government, I want to find and build on common ground where I can, but I will do that not so much because I have to do it but because I want to do it.

"I have also been very clear, and I think the opposition parties in Scotland should also be clear, that the SNP won this election.

"We polled more votes than Labour and the Conservatives combined in this election, so we have a very clear and unequivocal mandate to implement the policies that we set out in our manifesto and I intend to do that, albeit I will do that in as inclusive a way as I can."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the minority will allow unionist MSPs "to ensure that a fresh SNP drive on independence can be halted in its tracks".

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Scottish Parliament, of course, has a majority of MSPs who support independence.

"The SNP, obviously, but also the Green Party who support independence. Their number of seats went up so there is an independence supporting majority in the Scottish Parliament.

"It is also the case that the SNP won the election and the Tories, although they had a good night in the election, didn't win the election so I think Ruth Davidson should perhaps be careful about over-reaching herself.

"I have been very clear that Scotland will only become independent when a majority of people in Scotland want to be independent.

"We should respect the will of the people at all times, and that applies not just to the SNP but to other parties as well."

The Greens propped up the last nationalist minority administration in 2007 and co-convener Patrick Harvie said the party now intends to push the SNP "beyond its comfort zone".

The Lib Dems, veteran coalition builders with a reputation for compromise, talked tough with leader Willie Rennie insisting the "arrogant" SNP now needs "a change of attitude".

The Scottish Conservatives won a record 31 seats, up from 15 in 2011, and are now Holyrood's second biggest party.

The T ories won a number of concessions from Alex Salmond's minority administration and leader Ruth Davidson has pledged to "work constructively where required" but "provide challenge where they do not listen".

Both the Tories and the Lib Dems insisted the one thing they will not compromise over is another independence referendum, with Ms Davidson saying the SNP had "no mandate, no majority, no cause" and Mr Rennie insisting it must be "off the table".

Kezia Dugdale has pledged to continue as Scottish Labour leader following the party's worst ever result of 24 seats, down 13 from 2011.

She said the result was "heartbreaking" but vowed to "keep fighting for Labour values".

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