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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
New pact talks under way
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Some losses, but still smiling

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have begun talks on Friday on forming a new Scottish Executive coalition.

The two Scottish party leaders, Jack McConnell and Jim Wallace, briefly discussed their post-election positions with formal talks likely to get under way next week.

With all the results in, Labour has 50 MSPs, down six; the Lib Dems are unchanged on 17 and the Scottish National Party has lost 8 MSPs, falling to 27.

The big winners are the Scottish Green Party, up from one to seven MSPS and the Scottish Socialists, up from one to six.

The Conservatives have returned 18 MSPs.

Speaking on Friday, Mr McConnell said he wanted to lead a government on behalf of all those who did not vote as well as those who did.

Final numbers (FPTP + List)
Labour: 50 (46 + 4)
SNP: 27 (9 + 18)
Cons: 18 (3 + 15)
Lib Dems: 17 (13 + 4)
Greens: 7 (0 + 7)
SSP 6 (0 + 6)
Ind: 4 (2 + 2)

Mr Wallace refused to say whether he would only lead his party into coalition with an explicit commitment to enacting PR for council elections in the next four years, but he suggested key opponents of electoral reform within Labour were "running the white flag up".

Liberal Democrat MSP Nicol Stephen, who was in the original executive coalition, said his party was well placed to make a difference in government again.

Mr Stephen said that last time round the coalition process was new and rushed.

"We need to get it right this time and it's important to lay a powerful programme for the next four years," he said.

"We'll be starting that process by having discussions I'm pretty sure with the single largest party, which is the Labour Party, and those discussions will begin next week."

BBC Scotland's political staff say that with such a small majority, that will not be easy and that this could give some comfort to the SNP.

Retired GP Jean Turner provided one of the shocks of the night when she unseated Labour MSP Brian Fitzpatrick in Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

The independent candidate was campaigning against the closure of Stobhill Hospital.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"The Nationalists lost nearly a quarter of their seats"

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