NICOLA Sturgeon has vowed to continue to make the case for independence “with passion, with patience and with respect” despite not getting a majority government.

The SNP leader said it was her aim “to persuade, not to divide” people as she announced she would lead a minority administration after securing a “clear and unequivocal mandate” in the Holyrood elections.

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

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“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,” she said on the steps of Bute House in Edinburgh.

“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.”

With no overall majority at Holyrood, the SNP leader will need the support of other parties to secure her place as First Minister and to pass legislation. “The government I lead will be an inclusive government,” she said. “It will be firm on our determination to deliver on the commitments we made to the Scottish people, but it will also reach out and seek to work with others across the parliament to find common ground and build consensus.”

She highlighted education as an area of priority for parties across the chamber and said that she expected to be judged on it.

“Education is my passion and priority, but I was heartened that all parties chose to put a clear focus on it,” she said. “I hope we can put party differences aside and work together.”

She also cited climate change, transforming the economy and mitigating austerity as areas of common cause between the parties.

“We will govern with conviction and determination, but also with humility and a willingness to listen and to learn from the ideas of others,” she said.

While the SNP fell short of a majority, the Scottish Conservatives beat Scottish Labour into second place with 31 seats after standing on a platform of strongly opposing a second independence referendum.

The SNP’s election manifesto stated the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is “clear and sustained evidence” that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people.

“We will always respect the opinion of the people – now and in the future – and we simply ask that other parties do likewise,” said Sturgeon yesterday.

“It is the greatest privilege imaginable to be elected as the First Minister of our country.

“To those who voted for me yesterday, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have given me a precious opportunity to change this country for the better and I promise to seize it with both hands.

“To those who did not vote for me, I promise I will never stop striving to earn your trust and support.”

She added: “I have a duty to rise above party politics and to govern in the best interests of all of our country.

Ruth Davidson called on Sturgeon to rule out another referendum on independence after the Scottish Conservatives became the second-largest party at Holyrood.

At a press conference in Edinburgh, she said the SNP leader now had “no mandate, no majority and no cause” to hold another vote on the issue, and that any claims to the contrary had been “utterly shredded”.

Davidson was speaking after the Tories recorded their best-ever Holyrood result by securing 31 MSPs to overtake Labour, who won 24, while the SNP took 63 of the 129 seats.

Speaking at the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, Davidson said: “As I said during the election campaign, 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.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also called on Sturgeon to take a second independence referendum in the next five years “off the table” if she wants support from his party.

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