Nicola Sturgeon vows to go it alone in new government

Eight-year-old Naiarak Killenquinan greets Nicola Sturgeon with flowers in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

Eight-year-old Naiarak Killenquinan greets Nicola Sturgeon with flowers in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

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NICOLA Sturgeon has announced she will lead a minority administration at Holyrood after falling two seats short of an overall majority.

With 63 out of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, she will seek support for her policies from other parties on an issue by issue basis.

But opposition politicians warned there would be no easy ride for the SNP in seeking to implement its programme for government.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who now leads the main opposition, said changes to the controversial named person legislation would be among the priorities on her agenda.

And she called on the SNP to abandon any plans for a second independence referendum. 
The Tories won a record success, up from 15 seats in 2011 to 31, while Labour lost 13 seats, leaving it with just 24.

But 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.”

The Scottish Conservatives won a number of concessions from Alex Salmond’s 2007 minority administration and Ms Davidson pledged to “work constructively where required” but “provide challenge where they do not listen”.

Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier congratulated Ms Davidson on the “historic result”, saying she would “stand up to the SNP and give Scotland strong opposition”.

During the campaign, she told the Evening News an apparent rethink by Labour and the Lib Dems on the named person legislation had opened the door to changes.

She said: “I think there’s a huge opportunity when we get back into Holyrood, if I’m leading the opposition, to work with people from Labour and the Lib Dems now they’ve had a change of heart, to make the SNP see sense on it.”

Speaking yesterday at the Apex Hotel in the 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.”

Both the Tories and the Lib Dems – who have five seats – insisted the one thing they will not compromise over is another independence referendum.

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.”

The Greens, who gave some crucial support to the SNP the last time it was in minority government after 2007, indicated they would use their increased strength – up from two to six MSPs – to press for “bolder” measures from the Nationalists.

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.”

As well as congratulating Ms Davidson on the Scottish Tories’ successes, the Prime Minister also phoned Ms Sturgeon to congratulate her on achieving a third term in government for the SNP.

Mr Cameron spoke to the First Minister yesterday morning and it was agreed the 
that two governments would work together “constructively” – with a focus on the steel industry, a No. 10 spokesman said.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who is the only Conservative MP in Scotland, 
echoed Mr Cameron’s comments.

He said: “I congratulate Nicola Sturgeon on her success in the election and I look forward to working with her over the next four years.

“With the Smith Commission delivered in full, and the Scottish Parliament set to get a raft of significant new powers, we have a real opportunity for our two governments to work together for the benefit of the people of Scotland.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has pledged to continue in the job following the party’s worst ever result, and said she would “keep fighting for Labour values”.

She said: “This election was always going to be tough for the Scottish Labour Party, just a year after a painful general election defeat.

“But I am proud that our campaign rose to the challenge of offering an alternative vision of what could be done in our new, more powerful parliament.”

She said she had been “adamant” that Labour would focus its campaign on how the new tax powers coming to Holyrood could be used to make changes.

She acknowledged that for some people the constitutional argument remained the most important factor when casting their vote and her attempt to move the debate on had cost the party votes.

“But in the long run I believe our politics has to be about the future of our economy, the life chances of the children in this country, and our public 
services.”