Alex Salmond has claimed the Scottish National party could win more than 30 seats in the Commons in May’s general election after a record surge in support.
Salmond said the SNP was poised to topple Labour as Scotland’s largest party at Westminster as it approached a membership of 100,000 and hit 52% support in opinion polls despite losing the independence referendum.
He endorsed a plan to allow prominent yes campaigners to stand for the SNP or on a joint SNP ticket in May, calling them “the shining stars of the yes movement who awoke the national spirit”.
Setting a target for the SNP to win more Scottish seats than Labour next year, Salmond said the UK parties had to be held to their promises to give the Holyrood parliament greater tax and welfare powers.
Electing a record number of SNP MPs, surpassing the 11 seats it won in October 1974, would allow the party to become power brokers to prop up a minority Labour government and force through greater power for Holyrood, he said.
“If the Westminster gang reneges on the pledges made in the campaign, they will discover that hell hath no fury like a nation scorned,” Salmond told a rapturous audience at Perth conference hall as he handed over power to his successor as party leader, Nicola Sturgeon.
In her first full speech as SNP leader on Saturday, Sturgeon is expected to accuse Labour of offering voters “the biggest con-trick there ever is” if it tries to claim in May’s election campaign that only Labour can keep the Tories out of power.
While emphatically ruling out any post-election coalition with the Tories at Westminster, Sturgeon will say the last time Scotland voted Labour, in 2010, the Tories still took control of the UK government because of English votes. “What we need are strong SNP MPs who will stand up to the Tories, challenge the despicable politics of [Ukip leader] Nigel Farage, and fight Scotland’s corner,” she will say.
A number of prominent new SNP members are being tipped to fight Labour seats in May, including the arts promoter Tommy Sheppard and the former Manchester United and Hearts footballer Michael Stewart.
A plan voted through unanimously by SNP delegates on Friday to find well-known yes campaigners who are not party members to stand on a joint ticket with the SNP has already run into trouble.
Independence activists including Jeane Freeman, from Women for Independence, and broadcaster and Guardian columnist Lesley Riddoch are being tipped as likely candidates. But they are understood to be unhappy about the SNP proposals for a joint ticket, and have not yet agreed to the proposal. Party officials confirmed they would be expected to have the SNP under their names on the ballot paper.
SNP sources say other new candidates being tipped are John Nicolson, a former BBC Breakfast News presenter and Capitol Hill speechwriter, and pro-independence blogger Kate Higgins.
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