With 63 seats the SNP has won a historic third term in government but failed to secure another majority in the Scottish Parliament.
This is a strong victory for the SNP – the party increased its share of the vote (all the more significant given that the SNP has been the party of government for nine years) and became the first to win three successive elections in the Scottish Parliament.
However the high expectations of another majority – following stellar polls and the party securing almost all of the Scottish seats last in last May’s Westminster election – have slightly overshadowed this result. In particular, those members who were hoping for a strong mandate to press on with a second independence referendum will be frustrated the SNP don’t have this in their own right, although with the Greens there is a majority for independence in the Parliament.
The Scottish Conservatives have surpassed even their wildest hopes by more than doubling their seats and easily beating Labour into second place. The Tories now have 31 seats compared to Labour’s 24. In a strategy that has clearly paid off, the Tories very clearly set out their aim of becoming the main opposition and holding the SNP to account. In addition to adding 16 more MSPs to their ranks, Leader Ruth Davidson pulled off a shock victory in the Edinburgh Central constituency.
This result will significantly shake things up at Holyrood. After five years of majority government, where the SNP did not rely on others to pass its budgets or legislation, Nicola Sturgeon has now confirmed that she’ll form a minority government rather than seeking a formal coalition.
With six MSPs, the Scottish Greens beat the Lib Dems into fourth place and could now hold a powerful position if the SNP seeks to work with them on an issue by issue basis. Despite falling to fifth place, the Lib Dems have held steady with five seats and seized two constituency seats from the SNP. Leader Willie Rennie won in North East Fife while Alex Cole-Hamilton beat the SNP in Edinburgh Western.
The SNP will now be keen to get on with governing Scotland having faced accusations that it has let things slip while focussing on independence. Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon announced that their manifesto is their most ambitious programme for government yet – read more about the SNP’s plans over on our ScotlandVotes website.
However given that the Scottish Parliament will soon have control over income tax, the SNP will need to secure support for its tax raising plans in order to pass its budget. This will prove interesting given that the SNP may end up relying on Tory votes to pass its tax plans as the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour all support an increase in income tax rates. This is definitely not an alliance the SNP will want to make but unless they adjust their tax plans they may have to.
It’s important to remember that Nicola Sturgeon has lots of experience in managing a minority government. She was often tasked, along with John Swinney, of delivering the tough deals during the SNP’s previous minority term in 2007-2011. That said, this session is shaping up to be far more challenging for the SNP than they anticipated. With a minority government and 51 new faces at Holyrood, this session is going to be very interesting. There will certainly be far more opportunities for industry, businesses and civic organisations to effectively engage with policy makers from all parties.