Sturgeon refuses to rule out working with Tories on councils

Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly refused to rule out SNP councillors working with the Conservatives at a local level when she launched her party's manifesto for next month's local elections.

Nicola Sturgeon joined candidates in Edinburgh to launch the SNP's manifesto for the 2017 local government election.

Despite claiming that voting SNP was the best way to keep Tories away from power in councils, the First Minister declined to say that she would ban her councillors from forming coalitions with Ruth Davidson’s party.

At her manifesto launch in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said there was a “danger” of Tories being propped up by Labour in local authorities, but stopped short of ruling out SNP/Tory deals.

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In the past Ms Sturgeon’s party has worked with the Tories in local government with a Conservative/SNP coalition running East Ayrshire.

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is a danger either through people voting Tory or Labour potentially looking at coalitions with the Tories to keep themselves in power in the council chambers that we do in this election see local services slipping into Tory hands and I think that would be disastrous for the services that local councils are responsible for.

“My message is a very clear, straight message, if you want to vote to protect local services then vote SNP.”

But when asked if she was going to ban East Ayrshire SNP from going into coalition with the Tories again, Ms Sturgeon said: “I want to see SNP councils and with the greatest of respect, I am going to campaign for the remainder of the campaign to get as many votes for the SNP and as many SNP councils.”

When pressed further on whether the SNP would countenance coalition with the Tories, the First Minister again declined to answer the question directly.

“I don’t want to see the Tories in council chambers,” she said. “I don’t want to see the Tories with their hands on local services. My message is crystal clear - vote SNP we have got an election in under two weeks time and the way to keep Tories out of local councils is to vote SNP.

“Anybody that looks at the relationships between the SNP and the Tories right would think that is hugely unlikely. My main message is to vote SNP to make sure that you get SNP councillors running councils.”