The First Minister hit the campaign trail in the key Nationalist target seat of Glasgow East yesterday, which became the focal point of Scotland’s 2015 General Election launch.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown was also in the constituency which is held by Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran.
Mr Brown set out Labour’s plan to “end austerity faster than any other party”.
The former Labour leader also insisted that only Labour has a “practical plan for social justice.”
But Glasgow East is among the swathe of Labour heartlands poised to fall to the Nationalists, with polls showing that the SNP is riding high in Scotland and poised to make sweeping gains.
The party is expected to take between 40 and 50 seats and could well hold the balance of power if no party wins a majority on 7 May, resulting in a hung parliament. Ms Sturgeon, who was joined by SNP candidate Natalie McGarry, insisted that a vote for the SNP is a vote to deliver a “powerful voice” for Scotland at Westminster.
“A strong team of SNP MPs means real power for the people of Scotland – and the ability to make our voice heard like never before,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“We can and will be stronger for Scotland.
“By holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, SNP MPs can work with others to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street – and ensure that Scotland’s priorities become priorities at Westminster.”
Of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, Scotland has 59.
In the 2010 election, Labour won 41, the Liberal Democrats secured 11, the SNP came out with six and the Conservatives won one.
Ms Sturgeon was also joined by other SNP Glasgow candidates as she campaigned at the city’s Fort shopping centre.
Ms Curran enjoys a majority of more than 11,000 in the constituency which is one of the most deprived in the UK, but the SNP seized it in a dramatic by-election victory in 2008. With polls consistently putting the SNP on about 43 per cent support in Scotland and Labour trailing about 16 points behind, the seat seems poised to fall.
It crystallises the different political picture in Scotland where Labour seems powerless to stop the surge of Nationalist support, while at UK level Ed Miliband’s party is neck and neck with the Tories.
The SNP is likely to spearhead a “progressive” alliance of parties, such as the Greens and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, to push for an end to austerity cuts.
The SNP will also demand more powers for Holyrood than the current post-referendum deal provides.
Ms Sturgeon added yesterday: “We can achieve an end to the austerity cuts – implemented by the Tories and backed by Labour – which are causing so much damage in our communities, and holding our economy back.
“Rather than wasting £100 billion on useless, immoral nuclear weapons of mass destruction, based just 30 miles from the city of Glasgow, we can instead invest in public services like our NHS.
“By electing a strong team of SNP MPs, the people of Scotland can hold real power and deliver real change.”
The SNP has already ruled out any kind of deal with the Conservatives and an informal “issue by issue” deal with Labour looks likely. Ed Miliband ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP, but has failed to rule out an informal agreement.
The Nationalists formally announced their backing for Labour’s proposal for a 50p top rate of tax at its weekend conference, along with the price of a deal with Mr Miliband.
Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy admitted yesterday the election will be won or lost on Scotland’s doorsteps and insisted that only a vote for his party can oust the Tories from Westminster.
“Scotland will decide the outcome of this election,” Mr Murphy said yesterday.
“If Scotland votes Labour, then Britain will have a Labour government and we can start the job of rebuilding our country. Only Labour is big enough and strong enough to beat the Tories.”
Mr Murphy will today pledge to end the need for food banks in Scotland by establishing a £175 million Scottish anti-poverty fund. He will prepare a food parcel on a visit to an Edinburgh distribution centre.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS