Give SNP balance of power, Sturgeon asks voters

The SNP hopes to turn the green benches of Westminster tartan with the help of 'home rule' No voters
The SNP hopes to turn the green benches of Westminster tartan with the help of 'home rule' No voters
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NICOLA Sturgeon today publishes an open letter urging Scots to unite behind the SNP in this year’s Westminster poll as she sets out the battle lines for the general election.

The First Minister claims the SNP can unify Yes and No voters by holding the UK parties to account in the House of Commons. In a challenge to her main opposition, Sturgeon claims Jim Murphy’s ­argument that only Labour is capable of keeping the ­Conservatives out of power is “an insult to the intelligence of the Scottish people”.

She flags up the possibility of English votes delivering a Conservative/Ukip government and argues that under such a scenario the SNP is best placed to act in the interests of Scotland.

Despite the highly divisive nature of last year’s referendum, Sturgeon argues that an SNP vote could put Yes and No voters on the same side at Westminster.

“The referendum campaign of 2014 was energising and empowering – but because it was a debate within Scotland, it inevitably put us into Yes and No camps,” Sturgeon says.

“The general election of 2015 is different. It provides an ­opportunity for us to unite as a country. In this campaign, we can all be on the same side – the side of making Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster like never before.”

Sturgeon claimed that voting for Labour, the Conservatives or Lib Dems would let the UK parties “off the hook” when it came to the promises of more powers they gave during the referendum campaign. “They will go back to taking Scotland for granted and the vow we got during the referendum of ‘extensive new powers’ for our parliament will be ­watered down. On the other hand, if Scotland votes SNP, there will be no going back to business as usual. Westminster will not be able to ignore Scotland and the promise of a powerhouse ­parliament that can create more jobs and protect our ­public service will have to be delivered.”

Sturgeon’s letter, which is published alongside its first general election advert, ­attempts to reach out to the No supporters whose votes ­ensured the SNP’s plans for ­independence were defeated.

The SNP advert appearing in newspapers tomorrow (Monday) shows tartan-clad benches at Westminster to promote the idea that the SNP could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

“Our message in this ­election reaches beyond those who ­normally vote SNP and those who voted Yes last year,” ­Sturgeon says.

“If you voted No but support a home rule Scottish Parliament – a vote for the SNP is the only way to deliver it. Even if you don’t normally vote SNP at Westminster, lend us your vote this time so that we can hold Westminster to account and make Scotland’s voice heard. An empowered and ­assertive Scotland threatens the vested interests of the Westminster parties.

Sturgeon accuses Labour of taking Scotland “for granted for too long” arguing that it will do so again. “They will trot out the same old mantra about voting Labour to keep the ­Tories out. That argument is an insult to the intelligence of the Scottish people.

“Scotland voted Labour at the last general election and we still ended up with the ­Tories – just as happened for four elections in a row in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. And ­instead of standing up to the Tories, Labour went into ­partnership with them in the referendum campaign.” Sturgeon says that if enough people in England vote Con­­servative in May, the result will be a Tory government “or worse” – a Tory/Ukip government.

“If that happens, what Scotland will need are strong SNP MPs who will stand up to the Tories and fight Scotland’s corner. Of course, perhaps this time Scotland’s votes will count. A hung parliament is a real possibility. Scotland could well hold the balance of power in a Westminster parliament with no overall majority.

“If that happens, you won’t need to have voted Labour to keep the Tories out, because that’s what the SNP will do. The SNP will never put the ­Tories into government.”

Sturgeon promises a strong group of SNP MPs would force Labour to deliver more ­powers, rethink austerity and turn back on plans to renew nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

“Whatever the outcome of the general election, we know one thing for certain. Scotland only wins when the SNP wins,” she says.

“The stronger we are, the louder Scotland’s voice will be and the greater influence this nation will have.” Sturgeon’s is a sign of general election campaigning stepping up a gear. Tomorrow Murphy, the recently elected Scottish ­Labour leader, will make his first speech of the year to announce an election pledge.

His speech will take issue with the SNP idea that Sturgeon’s party could play an ­influential role at Westminster.

“This year’s general election isn’t about sending a message to the Tories; it’s about sending the Tories packing.”

He will argue: “If 2015 is to be the year when change ­becomes real then the most important change for Scotland must be voting David Cameron out of Downing Street.”

Murphy will recall that the 2010 UK elections, the then SNP leader Alex Salmond told voters “rather than electing Gordon Brown as prime minister, they should deny Labour an overall majority”.

He will add: “That was exactly what happened, but it was the Conservatives who formed the largest party and the right to lead a coalition.”