Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will lead a minority Scottish Government after securing a "clear and unequivocal mandate" in the elections.

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

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.

The Herald:

"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.

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"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, Ms Sturgeon will need the support of other parties to secure her place as First Minister and to pass legislation.

The Herald:

She added: "The government I lead will be an inclusive government.

"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."

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She highlighted education as an area of priority for parties across the chamber, while on the issue of independence Ms Sturgeon said the SNP's aim was "to persuade, not to divide".

The Herald:

She said: "I made clear in this election that education will be the defining and driving priority of my tenure as First Minister - and that I expect to be judged on it. I reiterate that today.

"Education is my passion and priority, but I was heartened that all parties chose to put a clear focus on it.

"I hope we can put party differences aside and work together."

Ms Sturgeon 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.

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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.

Ms Sturgeon said: "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.

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

The Herald:

"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.

"My pledge today is that I will always seek to do that."

Tory leader Ruth Davidson will now lead the official opposition at Holyrood, with Labour finishing in third with 24 seats.

The Herald:

Hailing her party's record success, up from 15 seats in 2011 to 31, Ms Davidson 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. That's what people want.''

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has vowed to continue in the job despite the party achieving its worst-ever result at Holyrood, with the loss of 13 seats.

She chose to focus on tax and spending policies during the campaign, claiming Ms Davidson had "poured petrol on the constitutional argument".

The Herald:

In an email to supporters, she said: "We fought for what we believe in at this election - for using the power of government to invest in people.

"I hope this result will act as a rallying call for everyone who shares our values to join us. Let's ask those people who we know share our principles to be part of our movement.

"We could have fought an election that was about the arguments of two years ago but we chose to stand up for what we believe in."

The Herald:

Meanwhile, with the SNP set to form a minority government, both the Greens, with six seats, and the Liberal Democrats, with five seats, could play significant roles in helping Ms Sturgeon pass her legislative programme.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the SNP must pledge to take another independence referendum within the duration of the parliament "off the table" to "get over the starting line" in terms of support from his party.

He said: "They have got to make a clear and unambiguous statement that another referendum must be off the table for the next five years in order to respect the referendum result.

"That's what they need to go just to get over the starting line and I think it's going to be pretty hard for them, but that's what they'll need to do in order to make sure that we can work in partnership."