THE Scottish group of Labour MPs has demanded that Ed Miliband rules out any deal with the SNP after the general election, The Scotsman has learned.
With the Labour leader due to deliver a keynote speech at the Scottish Labour conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, his Scottish MPs used their weekly group meeting yesterday to insist he kill off speculation about the prospect of a deal with the Nationalists.
The move came as Lord Ashcroft’s latest constituency polls caused more alarm for Scottish Labour last night, suggesting the SNP is poised to storm to victory in Gordon Brown’s Kirkcaldy and Alistair Darling’s Edinburgh South West seats.
At yesterday’s meeting, attended by about 30 of the 41 Scottish Labour MPs, the shadow foreign secretary and election chief Douglas Alexander was told to relay the message to Mr Miliband that he needs to send a clear indication to voters north of the Border.
Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore, who chaired the meeting, is understood to have then delivered the same message to Mr Miliband personally at the Labour parliamentary committee meeting.
The Scotsman was told that, while no vote was taken, there were “no dissenting voices” at the Scottish group meeting when the issue was first raised by Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, who was supported by a number of other senior figures.
While a few of the Scottish group have questioned whether ruling out a deal is the right strategy, a senior Scottish Labour MP said the message to Mr Miliband “represents the overwhelming majority of the group”.
One MP said: “This is now being constantly raised on the doorstep so we need to have a response.”
Another senior figure said: “The worry is that it may be too late already and the damage has been done but Ed [Miliband] needs to say something before it really is too late.”
Another MP added: “We have to rule it out on policy terms alone. The SNP are not a progressive party, they would not restore the 50p [income tax] rate or any of the other redistributive policies we want.
“By not ruling out a deal, we allow the SNP to keep on pretending they are a progressive party when they are not.”
However, one Labour MP warned: “I think it would be a mistake to pre-judge what the electorate say so I disagree with most of my colleagues on this.”
It is also understood that shadow chancellor Ed Balls is still pressing Mr Miliband to rule out an SNP deal.
According to reports from MPs at the meeting, Mr Alexander said that the leadership “wants to rule out a deal” but “is waiting for the right moment”.
However, MPs were also told that some senior figures are blocking ruling out a deal and it was claimed Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was one of them.
However, a source close to Mr Murphy said: “It will be a cold day in hell before Scottish Labour agrees to a deal with the SNP, especially as they will demand we get rid of the Barnett Formula.”
Ms Gilmore confirmed that “the issue was raised at the meeting” of Scottish Labour MPs and “strong views were expressed” but refused to comment further.
A spokesman for Mr Miliband would not comment on the demand. He said: “We are working for a Labour majority and we won’t say anything further.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman added: “We need to do everything we can to stop the Tories being the largest party.
“Any seat the SNP take from Labour in Scotland makes it more likely David Cameron will lead the largest party across the UK and return to Downing Street by the back door. If people want to get rid of the Tories, they need to vote Labour.”
However, the SNP warned last night that Labour “will not be forgiven by the people of Scotland” if they refuse to work with the Nationalists. SNP Westminster leader and general election campaign co-ordinator Angus Robertson said: “People in Scotland would not forgive Labour if they refused to work with the SNP and ushered in another five years of Tory government, attacking hard-working and vulnerable people in Scotland.
“Left to their own devices, Labour would continue with Tory austerity. With a strong group of SNP MPs holding the balance of power at Westminster, we can ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard and use our influence positively to end austerity economics, free Scotland of Trident nuclear weapons, and secure the powers we need to build a fairer, more prosperous country.”
The issue of an SNP/Labour pact was also raised in Prime Minister’s Questions as Mr Cameron urged Mr Miliband to rule out “a grubby deal” after May’s election.
Mr Cameron said he was “concerned” about reports that three-quarters of Labour’s general election candidates oppose renewing Trident.
He also characterised a potential coalition between the parties as an alliance “between the people who want to break up the United Kingdom and the people who want to bankrupt the United Kingdom”.
Mr Cameron spoke after Tory former defence secretary Liam Fox warned Mr Miliband could do a “shabby deal” with the SNP and scrap the nuclear deterrent “simply to get the keys to No 10”.
Mr Fox said to Mr Cameron: “In a dangerous world, experience as a statesman is one of the many advantages you have over any alternative prime minister.Will you agree that in such a dangerous world the ultimate guarantee of our security is our nuclear deterrent?
“And will you confirm that he would never be involved in any shabby deal to give away our nuclear deterrent as part of a deal with the unilateralist party simply to get the keys to No 10?”
Mr Cameron replied: “You are absolutely right, the ultimate guarantor of Britain’s security is our independent nuclear deterrent and that is why we support it and will make sure it is properly renewed beginning in the next Parliament.
“I think it’s important that everyone in this House makes that clear pledge.
“But it is concerning that almost three-quarters of Labour candidates oppose the renewal of Trident and I think now is the time for Labour to rule out any agreement with the SNP.
“Because no-one wants to see some grubby deal between the people who want to break up the United Kingdom and the people who want to bankrupt the United Kingdom.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS