Sturgeon pledges to fight for gender equality

NICOLA Sturgeon will pledge to fight for equality for women across the UK as political leaders in Scotland hit the campaign trail again after two consecutive TV debates.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Devlin

Scotland’s top politicians have faced each other in television clashes over the last two evenings, with First Minister Ms Sturgeon last night pledging there would have to be a change in public opinion before a second independence referendum could be held.

While she has already said an SNP win in the May 7 election in Scotland would not trigger a further vote on independence, Ms Sturgeon said a large number of SNP MPs at Westminster could help progress the cause of female equality across the UK.

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Ms Sturgeon, who is Scotland’s first female first minister, will set out how her party’s plans to boost public spending by £180 billion over the next five years could help women.

She said: “As First Minister, I have been clear that I will work to ensure there are no limits on women’s ambitions. Tory cuts have consistently hit women hardest - and ending austerity can help us to invest in the economy, create jobs, services and improve the provision of childcare so more parents can work.

“Our plans for a modest increase in public spending will allow us to invest in new and better jobs in Scotland - and our call to boost the minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020 will ensure these jobs deliver a fair day’s pay.”

With Westminster heading for another hung parliament where no one party has overall control, and with the SNP apparently on track to win a record number of seats, Ms Sturgeon said that if her party held the balance of power they would “push for action on equality at UK level”.

The SNP leader stated: “With more SNP MPs at Westminster we can make progress on equality for women all over the UK.”

While Ms Sturgeon is focusing on the female vote Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy will set out his plans to invest £1 billion in Scotland’s young people.

He said: “So many Scots are counting on a Labour government in May; the vulnerable, the sick and the poor, but none more so than our young people who have been completely failed by Tory austerity.

“Under the Tories, parents are worried that their kids will not have the same opportunities to get on in life that they did. Labour has a better plan which would see a £1 billion package of investment in our young people, including our apprentices.

“I want to see more Scots learning a trade, but it can be a tough few years financially as an apprentice. I want to give young people every advantage possible, that’s why I want to deliver free bus travel for Scotland’s apprentices.

“That’s the clear difference between Labour and the Tories. The Tories tell young people to get on their bike to look for work; Labour gives them the means to take the bus to get to their job.”

He added: “Scotland succeeds when working people succeed, and Scotland’s future is brighter when our young people have the opportunity to do well. A UK Labour government will unlock those opportunities for all of our young people, not just a select few.”

The Tories will be out to woo the rural vote north of the border, with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson visiting a farm in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire to promote new policies to help the countryside.

Meanwhile UK Business Minister Jo Swinson and Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute Alan Reid will seek to highlight the work their party has done in government to help businesses across Britain.