Nicola Sturgeon: Labour the 'stumbling block' to alliance as John McDonnell calls SNP 'Tories'

Nicola Sturgeon said that tackling inequality and climate change will be the central to her government's legislative plans for the next 12 months. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon said that tackling inequality and climate change will be the central to her government's legislative plans for the next 12 months. Picture: PA
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Nicola Sturgeon has said Labour is a 'stumbling block' to forming a progressive alliance to defeat the Conservatives at Westminster, as John McDonnell ruled out any "pact or coalition".

The First Minister said she did not believe there would be a formal coalition with Labour, but wanted the SNP to be part of a "progressive alternative" if the parliamentary arithmetic meant it could halt Boris Johnson's government.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who has sparked an internal Labour row over a second independence referendum, today described the SNP as "Tories" and said there would be "no pact or coalition".

Speaking at the official opening of a new renewable energy scheme in Stirling, Ms Sturgeon said: "I think it's even more important now that we try to build that kind of progressive alliance that gets the Tories out because they are intent on taking the country down a catastrophic Brexit path.

"I don't envisage any formal coalition with Labour, but I want the SNP to be part of efforts to get things on to a better track than they are on now.

"The stumbling block to that is Labour. Labour are still on the fence on Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn is abdicating his position of leadership by not giving that clear direction. So we need to get Labour off the fence and then we can look to stopping Boris Johnson in his tracks, hopefully."

READ MORE: John McDonnell doubles down on opposition to blocking a second independence referendum

But Mr McDonnell, speaking at an event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, said: "I have ruled out any pact, any coalition whatsoever. We want a general election - and I say to Boris Johnson - bring it on. I think we’ll go in as a majority Labour government, but if we don’t, and I’ve made this explicitly clear, we will go in as a minority government and we will lay out our programme and seek to implement it.

"If other political parties or individual MPs support our proposals that’s up to them, that’s fine. If they don’t, we’ll go back to the people and if the SNP, the Lib Dems or Change UK, if they don’t support a real living wage, if they don’t support bringing back Surestart centres, if they don't support the funding for the NHS, the funding for a national educational service, if they don’t support that well, we’ll go back to the people and let them explain why they don’t support it.

"And I think we’ll come back with a resounding majority."

Pressed on why he wouldn't do a deal with the SNP, Mr McDonnell said: "We are a socialist party, they are not. I don’t want to be derogatory, but my own view is I think they’re Tories."

During the 2015 election campaign the Conservative Party ran an effective campaign showing the then Labour leader Ed Milliband in the pocket of the then SNP leader Alex Salmond, to suggest that the parties that might form an alliance in the event of a hung parliament.

The then Prime Minister David Cameron said the billboard campaign warned voters "you could end up with an alliance between the people who want to bankrupt Britain and the people who want to break up Britain".

READ MORE: Tory poster shows Ed Miliband in Salmond’s pocket

Earlier Ms Sturgeon did welcome Mr McDonnell's remarks about a Labour government not blocking a request for a second independence referendum, which are contrary to the party's current position.

She said: "John McDonnell's comments, as far as I'm concerned, are a statement of basic democracy. He said that it should be for the Scottish Parliament to decide the timing of an independence referendum and it should be for the Scottish people to decide if Scotland becomes independent or not.

"I'm surprised that anybody thinks that is a controversial statement - it is basic democracy. Westminster governments are perfectly entitled to argue against independence and seek to persuade Scotland not to make that choice but they're not entitled to block the right of the Scottish people to choose."

She added: "If you look at the poll this week, in Scotland, Labour don't have that many voters left at all but of those they do have left, according to that poll 40 per cent or so support independence so the position John McDonnell stated seems to me to be a politically sensible one from Labour's perspective.

"The fact that Scottish Labour seems so opposed to it can only suggest that they are determined to continue their downward spiral that they've been on for the last few years. It seems to me to be inexplicable."