Alex Salmond has revealed that the SNP would back a future UK Labour government on a “vote by vote” basis as he appeared to rule out a formal coalition with Ed Miliband’s party.
The former First Minister said Labour would struggle to find other parties to back it in the event of a hung Parliament after next May’s UK election.
Mr Salmond announced that he will stand as an MP in the 2015 general election and insists that the SNP will be in a “powerful position” along with its allies the Plaid Cymru and the Greens.
The SNP has already ruled out supporting a Tory Government, but Mr Salmond said yesterday that “other options are open”.
“You can do that two ways,” he said. “You can either be part of an administration – I think that’s unlikely. Or alternatively you can vote on a vote by vote basis where your votes are needed to ensure a Parliamentary majority.”
Mr Salmond said his experience as leader of the minority SNP administration from 2007-11 meant he knows what “all the other parties did” to secure concessions from Government which could be utilised in a similar scenario at Westminster.
“Some were successful and some weren’t – it was a learning experience,” he said.
Nationalists have pledged to use their influence to secure a stronger devolution package than the powers set out in the Smith agreement.
The SNP has been riding high in the polls since the referendum defeat, with some estimates suggesting they could end up with 20-30 MPs.
Labour and the Tories remain neck and neck in the polls, meaning a hung Parliament looks increasingly likely and the former SNP leader suggested Ed Miliband’s party would have to deal with the Nationalist contingent under such a scenario. “I don’t who they’re going to get,” he said. “I doubt very much if the Liberals will have much MPs but if they do they won’t go into Government because they’ve been so scarred by their current Coalition experience.”
The Democratic Unionist contingent have been “tied up” by the Tories as the price of devolving corporation tax to Northern Ireland, Mr Salmond added.
“We’ve got a very powerful position if the people of Scotland decide to put us in that.”
Mr Salmond is contesting the seat currently held by Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce.
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Sir Malcolm, whose party has been in the UK Coalition government with the Tories for four years, said a vote for the SNP is a vote for “chaos – multi-party inability to make decisions”.
Mr Salmond said the Coalition’s austerity policies have “led this country to disaster”, but said Scotland has had “the best economic performance for many years”. “There has been so much enthusiasm from people, not only Yes voters who want to keep hope alive in Scottish politics but also No voters who want to see the promise, the vow, the commitment that was made to Scotland for real power, implemented,” he added.
“If you get that level of political engagement and enthusiasm I think it’s very difficult for political representatives not to be part of that and to rally to that standard.”
He attacked the “arrogance” of last week’s autumn statement, which included an oil fund for the north-east of England despite 40 years of oil extracted from the North Sea without an oil fund.
Mr Salmond contrasted his 15,295 majority in the overlapping Holyrood constituency of Aberdeenshire East with the Liberal Democrats’ 8 per cent of the vote in the Donside by-election, their “very poor third” in the European elections, and their fourth place in last month’s Aberdeenshire Council by-election in which the SNP overturned a former Tory seat.
He said the Lib Dems are now a “busted flush” but he expects “strong competition” from the Conservatives in Gordon.
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