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Oct 15, 6:02 AM EDT

After loss, Scottish nationalists choose new chief

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LONDON (AP) -- The Scottish National Party says Nicola Sturgeon will be its next leader, replacing Alex Salmond, who is stepping down after failing to secure independence in a referendum last month.

The party said Wednesday that Sturgeon had been elected unopposed. Her leadership will be confirmed at a party conference next month. She will also become Scotland's first minister once the Scottish Parliament confirms the choice.

Under Salmond, the party came close to realizing its dream of making Scotland an independent country.

In a Sept. 18 referendum, 45 percent of voters backed independence, but 55 percent said no.

Sturgeon, who served as deputy first minister under Salmond, has said independence remains her goal.

Sturgeon's selection means that women now lead the three biggest political parties in Scotland.

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