NICOLA Sturgeon has signalled that the SNP would be prepared to prop up Ed Miliband at Westminster if there is a hung parliament after next May’s General Election.
The First Minister in waiting indicated she would work with Labour, but ruled out any form of deal with David Cameron’s Conservatives.
With opinion polls published last week suggesting the SNP could win as many as 54 seats, Sturgeon said her party could offer Labour support on an issue-by-issue basis.
Interviewed by Scotland on Sunday, Sturgeon also said it was possible the SNP might even enter a formal coalition with Labour in the Commons.
“I guess I wouldn’t rule out a coalition with Labour,” she said. “It’s a matter of record that after the last election we offered to Gordon Brown the opportunity to try to put some alternative government together that would have kept the Tories out of government. But Gordon Brown wasn’t interested back then. So I wouldn’t rule it out.
“We’d judge it on what we thought would give Scotland the best influence and the strongest voice. Something short of a coalition might be a better option – issue-by-issue support.”
But her experience of being in a minority SNP government between 2007 and 2011 at Holyrood meant she felt stopping short of a formal deal might prove the best option.
“We know the challenges of minority government, and are also big believers that it’s a really good way of governing because it keeps you on your toes. So, instinctively, we might be more inclined to go down that road rather than a formal coalition, but at the end of the day these judgments will be on the basis of what we think is right for the country.”
A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “The next General Election is a clear choice between David Cameron, who wants to cut tax for the rich, or Labour, who will tax the bankers to introduce a jobs guarantee for young people.
“Nicola Sturgeon knows every vote for the SNP is a vote to help elect a Tory government. No Scot wants to jump into bed with the SNP and wake up with the Tories.”
The prospect of the SNP holding the balance of power has become a real possibility with question marks over Miliband’s leadership and his ability to lead Labour to victory over the Conservatives. Despite referendum defeat, the SNP is buoyant in Scotland with polls suggesting Sturgeon’s party will devastate Labour north of the Border when the UK votes next year.
An Ipsos Mori survey, published by STV last week, put Labour at 23 per cent of the Scottish vote, which would leave the party with just four seats in Scotland. In comparison, support for the SNP has surged to 52 per cent, giving them a projected 54 seats at Westminster. The Liberal Democrats would have one and the Conservatives would have none.
Sturgeon was adamant the SNP would not support a Conservative government, saying: “We would never go into coalition with the Tories or prop them up in government.”
By refusing to deal with the Conservatives, Sturgeon showed she was anxious to avoid the mistakes of the past. In 1979, the SNP triggered a motion of no confidence in Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan which led to his defeat at the hands of the Conservatives, ushering in Margaret Thatcher’s era.
In the aftermath of the defeat of Yes Scotland and the SNP in the 18 September referendum, Sturgeon was asked for her views on when she thought another independence poll ought to be held. She said people would have to vote for another referendum in a Scottish election, adding that she would wait until the end of next year before deciding whether the SNP would go into the 2016 election campaign with such a manifesto commitment.
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As the SNP heads towards its autumn conference in Perth at the end of this week, senior party figures are of the view that an explicit commitment should not be included in the general election manifesto.
But when asked about campaigning for another referendum in the 2016, Sturgeon said: “I’m not ruling it in and I’m not ruling it out. We’ve got democratic party procedures to go through. We’ll make that judgment, I will make that judgment over the course of next year, probably in the latter part of next year. We just had a referendum and I’m not planning to have another one in the immediate future.
“The thing we have to understand about another referendum is it will be driven by public sentiment and opinion, and there are different things that will shape that public sentiment.”
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