Nicola Sturgeon: Government must reflect all of UK

NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that a Tory-led coalition which is built only around seats in England will not be legitimate because it would be taking office “without UK support”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in M&D Theme Park in Motherwell, Glasgow. Picture: Hemedia
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in M&D Theme Park in Motherwell, Glasgow. Picture: Hemedia

The First Minister said during a speech in Dumfries last night that a progressive alliance, including Welsh nationalists and Greens, would be “more balanced” because it meets a “test of legitimacy” by reflecting the whole of the UK.

David Cameron will today warn that a Labour government propped up by the SNP will result in “chaos” as he makes a last-ditch appeal to Lib Dem and Ukip voters.

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Ms Sturgeon insisted that neither the Tories nor Labour would win a majority in Thursday’s vote and this represented a “massive opportunity” for parties like the SNP which is still on course to make sweeping gains and take up to 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats. Even if Labour is not the biggest party on Friday morning, Ms Sturgeon called on its leader Ed Miliband to vote as part of a “progressive alliance” from all over the UK to keep the Tories out.

“To ignore Scottish voices would be wrong,” she said.

The prospect of a deal to govern between the Tories and either the Lib Dems or even Ukip remains on the cards, despite the realistic prospect of none of the three being left with any Scottish MPs on Friday. “Westminster is supposed to be the parliament and the government for the whole of the UK,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“It often hasn’t felt that way for Scotland as we have had to put up with Tory governments that we have rejected. I am sure parts of England have felt exactly the same.

“So surely a test of legitimacy that should be applied to whatever Westminster government is formed after this election cannot simply be that it is the largest party in England. The test that must be applied is whether a government can build a majority and win support that reflects the whole of the UK.

“English MPs will always be the largest part of any Westminster majority, but to ignore Scottish voices would be wrong.

“So if on Friday morning there are a number of progressive voices elected to Westminster from across the whole of the UK who – with Labour – can lock the Tories out and ensure influence and representation for all parts of the UK, that would be more balanced, surely, than a party trying to take power without UK wide support.”

Such an alliance could also include the SDLP from Northern Ireland which sits with Labour in the Commons.

Ms Sturgeon’s comments will be seen as a direct response to senior Tories who have called into question the legitimacy of SNP MPs holding the balance of power UK-wide because their only concern would be about Scotland.

Mr Miliband yesterday refused to say if Labour could form a legitimate government with fewer seats than the Conservatives, while ruling out an SNP arrangement.

The Labour leader has said he will put forward a Labour queen’s speech, which would allow him to form a government, and leave it to other parties to support this, while rejecting any deal with the Nationalists.

But Ms Sturgeon said: “If there is an anti-Tory majority on Friday morning, we will call on Labour, even if they are not the largest party, to vote with us to keep the Tories out.

“And, surely, any Labour leader who turned his back on that and allowed the Tories to get back into office, rather than work with the SNP to keep them out – as Ed Miliband suggested last week – he would simply never be forgiven in Scotland, or indeed in many other parts of the UK.

“If we can get the Tories out, we should get the Tories out.”

A big tranche of Nationalist MPs at Westminster will push for an end to austerity with modest rises in public spending, she added.

But her words came as SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie appeared to suggest that a failure to add to the new powers promised to Holyrood as part of the Smith Commission package could trigger a fresh referendum being in the party’s manifesto for Holyrood next year. He warned that if the Westminster parties do not deliver on this then the SNP would “have to respond to what people were saying” in relation to a second referendum.

Ms Sturgeon said that the party’s anti-austerity push will include a commitment to vote for £8 billion in extra health spending which NHS chiefs south of the Border say the service needs over the next four years. Labour has yet to back this, although the Tories and Lib Dems have pledged to vote it through.

The NHS is devolved to Holyrood, but Ms Sturgeon says extra health spending south of the Border would result in about £2bn more for the NHS in Scotland. “It is a real, tangible, example of how SNP MPs can make a big difference,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“It is really no surprise that, after a campaign in which both of the big Westminster parties have sought to keep from the voters what they actually plan on doing in government, neither of them is on course for a majority at Westminster.

“That might be a problem for them but the prospect of a balanced parliament is a massive opportunity for Scotland and for all who believe in more progressive politics.”

The Prime Minister will go on the offensive against the Nationalists today over the prospect of the party propping up a minority Labour government.

Mr Cameron will say: “Nicola Sturgeon is on the television all day, every day, telling us she plans to put Ed Miliband into No10 – so that she could hold him to ransom every time there’s a vote in the House of Commons. She wants to load the rest of the UK with higher taxes to pay for more welfare.”

Last night, the First Minister’s questions over the legitimacy of an English-based majority met with an angry response from political opponents.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Voters are electing 650 members of the UK parliament on Thursday. Whoever can command a majority of those members in the House of Commons will be able to form a government regardless of whether they come from Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“Nobody is being ignored – this is the parliamentary system. It is a pity that Nicola Sturgeon is once again seeking to stir resentment and grievance.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said it was an attempt to stoke up “more division” and spark a second referendum.

“This shows a high degree of arrogance and conceit, that the SNP believe they have won the election already before the polls have even opened. They wrongly argue that the SNP is for all Scotland and all of Scotland is SNP,” Mr Rennie said.