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Minority Scottish government may step down

Jan. 29, 2009 at 4:49 PM

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The minority Scottish government will step down if Parliament doesn't approve its budget following a rejection by lawmakers, the government's head said.

The Scottish Parliament vote on a $47 billion budget was deadlocked 64-64 late Wednesday, prompting a tie-breaking vote for the financial status quo by Presiding Officer and Conservative and Unionist Party politician Alex Fergusson, The Times of London reported.

The vote was the first budgetary defeat in the 10 years since "devolution," when Scotland was granted powers from England to govern areas such as education, transportation, justice and health, while London managed macroeconomic issues, foreign policy and defense.

"If the budget can't pass next time, then the government couldn't stay in office," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who heads the pro-independence Scottish National Party, said on his party's Web site.

"I think it's wise and sensible to put the SNP on an election footing," he said.

If Salmond fails at the second attempt and resigns, Scottish Parliament members would have 28 days to elect a new first minister and administration, the Times said.

If they do not agree on who that should be, another election would be triggered automatically.

This would happen 18 months after the last election, which brought the Scottish National Party into minority power.

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