Stur­geon: Hung par­lia­ment is best out­come for Scot­land

●SNP uses launch to spell out con­di­tions for sup­port­ing Cor­byn

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SCOTT MACNAB Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

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

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