NICOLA Sturgeon would be the dominant player in any post-election alliance between Labour and the SNP, the Conservatives claimed last night.
Chancellor George Osborne said the SNP leadership is “much stronger” than “weak” Labour leader Ed Miliband and that Ms Sturgeon would be “running the government” in any pact between the two parties.
In his starkest warning yet on the potential influence of the SNP, Mr Osborne spoke of a “deeply disturbing” threat to the UK as the main parties clashed over the likelihood of an anti-Tory alliance in the event of a hung parliament.
A minority Labour government dependent on SNP MPs for its survival would be forced to make policy concessions to the Nationalists in order to remain in office, the Chancellor said.
Mr Osborne stepped up the Tory attack on the prospect of such a pact yesterday after Ms Sturgeon offered a new deal to Mr Miliband to be part of an anti-austerity alliance of Labour and the SNP to “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street”.
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said the SNP was “playing political games” and wanted the Conservatives to win the election so that the Nationalists could force a second referendum. Mr Leslie said the SNP “believes in totally different things” to Labour.
Ms Sturgeon issued her fresh appeal to the Labour leader after she strenuously denied making comments contained in a leaked memo at the weekend that Mr Miliband was “not prime ministerial material”.
Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael confirmed last night that the leaked memo, which contained an account of a private meeting between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador, was written in the Scotland Office.
Ms Sturgeon’s latest offer of a deal to Mr Miliband came as polling showed the two main UK parties at level pegging, but with the Conservatives set to lose their only seat in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats also facing near electoral oblivion north of the Border.
Mr Miliband has ruled out the prospect of SNP politicians holding ministerial posts in a formal Labour-Nationalist coalition government.
However, he has failed to state whether a confidence and supply agreement would be possible, with SNP MPs supporting a minority Labour government in key House of Commons votes in exchange for concessions to the Nationalists.
The Chancellor said that such a deal would make the SNP the most powerful party at Westminster and would lead to a surge in tax and government borrowing rates.
Mr Osborne said: “The fact that the Labour Party, that was a party that campaigned for the Union in the referendum, is contemplating an arrangement with the SNP, who want to break up the country, is deeply disturbing.
“People know that Ed Miliband is weak, that the Scottish Nationalist leaders are much stronger than he is and we know who would be running that government.
“That would be bad for the entire United Kingdom, bad for the integrity of the Union but also bad for our economy because it would mean higher debts and higher taxes.”
However, Mr Leslie suggested the Conservatives were using the surge in support for the SNP to scare English voters into turning away from Labour. The shadow minister also insisted that the Nationalists were falsely attempting to portray themselves as the party of social justice to tempt Labour-leaning Scots to vote for the Nationalists.
Mr Leslie highlighted the hotly disputed leaked memo, which also suggested Ms Sturgeon would prefer a Tory win on 7 May.
He said: “The SNP and the Conservatives are playing political games with our future. A lot of people are not surprised that perhaps Nicola Sturgeon does want a Conservative government, so the SNP can get a second referendum and jeopardise the Union.
“The SNP believes in totally different things to Labour and wants to break up the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon yesterday issued a fresh denial of the remarks attributed to her in the UK government memorandum that claimed she wanted Mr Cameron to remain in power.
Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, the head of the UK civil service, has launched an inquiry into the leaking of the document.
The First Minister said she had been the victim of “dirty tricks” by an “out of control” Whitehall system and repeatedly denied she had expressed the views attributed to her by a civil servant.
Ms Sturgeon said yesterday: “This story has already been shown to be 100 per cent untrue – having been comprehensively rejected by both the French ambassador and consul general.”
Meanwhile, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said his party was striking a chord across the country because Westminster was not listening to the needs and concerns of ordinary families.
Mr Hosie said: “As the Westminster establishment kicks into panic mode, they will pull out all the stops to halt the SNP.
“Their dirty tricks and actions to promote a lie published in Tory-supporting newspapers show the lengths they will go to in order to protect the broken political system they hold dear.
“But working with other progressive parties across the UK, the SNP holding the balance of power can lock the Tories out of government, push for an alternative to austerity and work toward the fairer future we all want to see.”
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