Sturgeon: Hung parliament is best outcome for Scotland
●SNP uses launch to spell out conditions for supporting Corbyn
Nicola Sturgeon claimed another hung Parliament would be the “best outcome” for Scotland as she set out the price of SNP co-operation in a post-election deal with Labour.
The First Minister said the power to stage a second independence referendum would be the key demand if the 12 December vote fails to deliver a majority for either of the main parties, as she launched the SNP’S campaign in Edinburgh yesterday.
Other demands will include greater devolution of powers to Holyrood, an end to austerity politics and reform of the social security system.
But Labour last night ruled out the prospect of agreeing to a referendum next year in line with Ms Sturgeon’s preferred timetable.
The SNP leader said the party would seek to form a “progressive alliance” with other parties, likely to include Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. And despite the election being called in an effort to break the Parliamentary impasse of recent years in a House of Commons with no majority, the SNP leader said a hung parliament could benefit Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Can I just make clear the SNP’S position if there is a hung Parliament after this election, which in many ways is potentially the best outcome for Scotland because it gives us significant influence and power in that scenario.
“I’m no fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we have to work with what we have before us. I would never support a Conservative government.
“I can’t foresee the SNP being in a formal coalition, but we would look as we’ve said in the previous two general elections to form alliances that can keep the Tories out of power.
“We would drive a hard bargain. There would be significant issues we would want to advance for any support from
the SNP, and any party – if that’s Labour after the election – that finds itself in a minority needs the support of other parties.
“I can see that from experience because I am the leader of a minority government.
“That position gives Scotland significant influence, but the first step we’ve got to take to make sure we get there is voting in a way in Scotland that helps deprive Boris Johnson of the majority he wants.”
Holyrood needs the transfer of power, through a Section 30 order, for a referendum to be staged on independence, which Ms Sturgeon wants next year. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has categorically ruled this out.
On a visit to Scotland this week, Mr Johnson accused Ms Sturgeon and Mr Corbyn of having cooked up a “shady deal” on SNP co-operation to prop up a Labour government in exchange for a second referendum.
The SNP would not do any deal with the Tories, but could work with Labour, Ms Sturgeon has stressed.
Mr Corbyn has hinted that a second referendum could be staged in the “later years” of a Labour government. But shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer yesterday rejected the prospect of a Section 30 order coming next year.
Asked if Labour would “rule out” granting an independence referendum next year, he said: “Yes – we’re not in this to do deals.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Any party that doesn’t respect this fundamental principle, that it’s for the people of Scotland to decide the future – whether that is independence or not, it’s for the people of Scotland to decide – needn’t bother picking up the phone to the SNP to look for support.
“That is a clear principle that we have articulated. There would be many other issues that we would seek to advance.
“The end to austerity, a different position around the social security system until such times as Scotland is independent, the devolution of significant powers that we need to tackle the challenges we face here.
“[Also] greater action from UK governments on climate change.
“So there would be a significant number of things in Scotland’s interests, but in many of these issues, it is in the interests of the whole UK that we would seek to advance in any discussion that happens after the election.”
The new powers for Holyrood would include controls over migration, as well as employment law to improve workers’ rights and to raise the living wage.
The devolution of drugs laws to tackle the drugs emergency would also be a priority.
Scotland recorded the highest drug death rate in the European Union last year at 1,187 – the highest level since records began in 1996.
Ms Sturgeon appealed to all Remain voters, insisting the SNP was Scotland’s “Remain party” in the election, as she confirmed her plans to request a Section 30 order from Westminster before Christmas.
She also set out plans to introduce Uk-wide legislation at Westminster that would effectively take the NHS off the table in any future trade deal with the US.
But this came under fire from opposition parties who pointed to the SNP’S controversial record in running the NHS Scotland amid lengthy waiting times and the scandal at Edinburgh’s Royal Sick Children’s hospital, which is facing an indefinite delay in opening.
Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw also criticised Ms Sturgeon’s renewed demands for another referendum.
He said: “The NHS is our greatest national institution and we will never put it up for sale.
“The only risk to it comes from the SNP and its plan to break it up by taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom.
“The only protection it needs is from this incompetent SNP government, which has set a waiting times guarantee that’s never been met and has presided over the utter scandal of the new Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh.
“Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed here, once again, that her only priority is to take Scotland back to another divisive independence referendum.
“With Jeremy Corbyn happy to do her bidding, it is only by voting Scottish Conservative that we can stop her.
“To stop Nicola Sturgeon getting her way and taking Scotland back to more division, you have to vote Scottish Conservative.”
“I’m no fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we have to work with what we have before us. I would never support a Conservative government” NICOLA STURGEON
Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would seek a ‘progressive alliance’ if there was a hung parliament
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon poses