THE SNP has fallen narrowly short of a majority victory in the Holyrood election - despite a commanding win which will see Nicola Sturgeon returned as first Minister.
The nationalists claimed 63 seats as the final results from the North East list emerged this morning.
The election has proved a major triumph for Ruth Davidson’s Conservative party which overtook Labour with 31 seats to become the official opposition.
Labour suffered another disastrous Scottish election result, losing 13 seats to end up with just 24 seats across Scotland
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The Greens claimed seven seats but fell short of their target of winning seats in all eight Scottish regions, while the Liberal Democrats stayed on five seats but notched up significant constituency wins in Fife and Edinburgh
There are many results to be declared this evening, but what is now beyond doubt is that the SNP has won a third consecutive Scottish Parliament election. That has never been done before in the history of the Scottish Parliament. We have tonight made history.Nicola Sturgeon
Speaking after her victory in Glasgow Southside, Ms Sturgeon said: “If you had told me when I was a teenager, starting out in politics, that one day the SNP would win every constituency in the city of Glasgow, not just in one election but in two elections, I would scarcely have been able to believe it.”
She added: “What is now beyond doubt is that the SNP has won a third consecutive Scottish Parliament election.
“That has never been done before in the history of the Scottish Parliament. We have tonight made history.”
Ms Davidson capped a fine night for the party by taking the Edinburgh Central from the SNP with a majority of 610.
She had campaigned on the message of providing a “strong opposition” to the SNP.
The Tory leader said: “I hope the message that was resonating was of being a strong opposition, to hold the SNP to account, to saying no to a second independence referendum, to respect the decision that our country made, and to really focus on the things we’re paying a government to focus on, on schools, on hospitals, on public services.”
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said she was “heartbroken” by the result.
“You can see from the reaction of the Tories that they are indeed surprised about how well they’ve done tonight.”
Ms Dugdale 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.”
But with the constitution now a key issue in Scottish politics, she said her “determination to try to move the Scottish debate on” from the arguments of the 2014 independence referendum had cost Labour votes.
She added: “There’s no doubt that our defeat for the Labour Party is painful, but it is not the end of our campaign. We will continue to argue for Labour values, Labour ideas and Labour principles.
“The work to renew the Scottish Labour Party so it is fit to serve the people of Scotland continues.”