Labour refuses to rule out staying on

Party hints at talks on Scots coalition

Party hints at talks on Scots coalition

Labour refused yesterday to rule out holding on to power in Scotland - even though a leading Liberal Democrat MSP insisted they would not strike a coalition deal.

Tavish Scott, who directed the Lib Dem's Scottish Parliament election campaign, ruled out such an outcome on BBC TV's The Politics Show.

When it was suggested that his party would either do a deal with the SNP or go to the backbenches, Mr Scott said: "That's absolutely the position."

A Labour Party spokesman said it was not clear if Mr Scott was giving his personal opinion or that of the Lib Dem leadership.

"But our view is that any discussion about forming the next government should take place between the parties rather than through the media," the spokesman said. "At the moment, by virtue of having the largest group in the Parliament, (SNP leader) Alex Salmond has won the toss to have the first go.

"It is now a test of the maturity and character of Alex Salmond and (SNP deputy leader) Nicola Sturgeon and we will wait to see if they can form the relationships and reach the agreements that are needed to form a government in our PR-based Scottish Parliament."

Earlier yesterday First Minister Jack McConnell said that he "stands ready" to step in should the SNP be unable to form a government in Scotland.

And despite Mr Scott's subsequent remarks, Labour is not ruling out the possibility of entering into negotiations itself.

Ms Sturgeon accused Mr McConnell of being "in denial" over the result, which gave the SNP 47 seats to Labour's 46. With Tories at 17, the Lib Dems on 16, the Greens on two and one independent, neither the SNP nor Labour could command a majority, even in coalition with the Lib Dems.

An SNP-Lib Dem-Green coalition would have a single-seat majority, but a Labour-Lib Dem-Green coalition would fall one seat short.

The SNP said it had already had a "positive and constructive" meeting with the Greens.

However, during his interview Mr Scott again repeated the Lib Dems' hostility to a referendum on independence, a central plank of the SNP's election campaign.

"It is obviously the issue that we are absolutely not going to have anything to do with whatsoever," he said.

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