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No easy ride for legislation, potential allies warn Sturgeon

Published 06/05/2016

Ballots from the Scottish Parliament election are counted at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh
Ballots from the Scottish Parliament election are counted at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh

Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will lead a minority administration at Holyrood - but her potential allies have warned she will not get an easy ride implementing the SNP's programme for government.

Ms Sturgeon will ask MSPs to re-elect her as First Minister after her party won 63 seats at Holyrood, two short of a majority.

With no overall majority, Ms Sturgeon will need the support of other parties to secure her place as First Minister and to pass legislation.

The Tories won a record success, up from 15 seats in 2011 to 31, while Labour lost 13 seats.

With the SNP minority, both the Greens - with six seats, and the Liberal Democrats - with five seats, could play significant roles in helping Ms Sturgeon pass her legislative programme.

The Scottish Greens, who propped up the last SNP minority in 2007, said it intends to push the SNP "beyond its comfort zone".

The Liberal Democrats, veteran coalition builders with a reputation for compromise, insisted the "arrogant" SNP now needs "a change of attitude".

The Scottish Conservatives, who won a number of concessions from Alex Salmond's minority administration, is now Holyrood's second biggest party and leader Ruth Davidson 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.

Nicola Sturgeon said she will continue "to persuade, not to divide" on independence and urged other parties to "respect the opinion of the people".

Kezia Dugdale has pledged to continue as Scottish Labour leader following its worst ever result, and said she will "keep fighting for Labour values".

Speaking on the steps of Bute House, Ms Sturgeon said: "We won a clear and unequivocal mandate, and I secured the personal mandate I sought to implement the bold and ambitious programme for government that I asked the country to vote for.

"So, I can confirm that when it reconvenes in the coming days, I will ask the Scottish Parliament to formally re-elect me as the First Minister of Scotland.

"It will then be my intention to lead an SNP government. With such a large group of MSPs elected, I don't intend to seek any formal arrangement with any other parties."

She pledged to "govern with conviction and determination, but also with humility and a willingness to listen and to learn from the ideas of others".

She added: "On the question of independence, the SNP will make our case with passion, with patience and with respect. But our aim is to persuade, not to divide.

"We will always respect the opinion of the people - now and in the future - and we simply ask that other parties do likewise."

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "There are real opportunities in the next session for the Greens to push the government beyond its comfort zone.

"Whether it's been facing a Labour-Lib-Dem coalition, a minority government or a majority government, we've always been willing to be constructive where there is genuine common ground, we find this far more productive, and where necessary challenge where there are disagreements."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The SNP needs to have a change of attitude.

"They increasingly got arrogant in the last parliament and that expressed itself in just rejecting proposals from other parties without much consideration.

"In the last budget round talks they never even bothered to invite us in where in previous years they had made the effort.

"We will work where we can with them, we'll hunt out agreement, but we're not interested in coalitions. That's off the table.

"What is also off the table is any idea of another independence referendum."

Speaking at the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, Ms Davidson said: "Majority government has not worked well - too often over the last five years the SNP pushed through its agenda not on the strength of its case, but simply on strength of numbers.

"As a minority administration, I believe the SNP will be forced to listen, to learn and to improve.

She added: "The SNP manifesto does not give Nicola Sturgeon a mandate for a second independence referendum.

"Now that she has failed to win a majority, whatever claims the SNP were pursuing with regard to constitutional brinkmanship over the next five years have now been utterly shredded.

"No mandate, no majority, no cause - the SNP must now let Scotland move on."

Kezia Dugdale has written to Scottish Labour members saying they "must continue to fight for what we believe in" after she vowed to keep leading the party despite its "heartbreaking" result in the Holyrood election.

In an email, Ms Dugdale said: "We could have fought an election that was about the arguments of two years ago but we chose to stand up for what we believe in.

"We will keep standing for our belief that we can choose to be better than this. Despite the disappointment of the final results, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens stood with us. I'll keep fighting for our values."

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