SNP could hold balance of power in Westminster, says Nicola Sturgeon

Houses of Parliament

The SNP’s new leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has suggested that Labour’s price for being propped up by her party in a potential coalition government would be to scrap plans for a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines in Scotland.

In her first speech since replacing Alex Salmond as leader of the Scottish National party, Sturgeon said the odds of a hung parliament in next year’s general election were rapidly shortening.

She told her party’s annual conference in Perth that she would never help the Tories go into government and appeared to set down her conditions for supporting Labour in Westminster.

Sturgeon, who will also become Scotland’s first minister this week when Salmond formally stands down, said: “Think about how much more we could win for Scotland from a Westminster Labour government if they had to depend on SNP votes.

“They’d have to deliver real powers for our parliament. They’d have to rethink the endless austerity that impoverishes our children.

“And, conference, hear me loud and clear when I say this: They’d have to think again about putting a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the river Clyde.”

Sturgeon, the SNP’s first female leader, also insisted that she should be included in the televised election debates alongside Ukip’s Nigel Farage and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Claiming that the SNP had more members than Ukip and the Lib Dems combined, she said: “To include those parties in TV general election debates while excluding the SNP would be a democratic outrage.

“So broadcasters, it’s time for you to think again. And as you do, make no mistake. In this election, the SNP will be seen and Scotland’s voice will be heard.”

Sturgeon did not backtrack on her claim during the independence campaign that the referendum was a once-in-a-generation event, but she made it clear that she saw beating Labour down as a political force in Scotland as a step towards another referendum.

“With the UK hurtling head long for the EU exit door, with the unionist parties watering down their vow of more powers, with deeper austerity cuts and new Trident weapons looming on the horizon, it may be that our opponents bring that day closer than we could ever have imagined on the morning of the 19 September,” she said.

Sturgeon also made it clear that she would be seeking a mandate in the 2016 Scottish election on a left-of-centre platform.

She told her conference that she wanted Scotland to champion the living wage and that future government contracts would prioritise its payment.

”Right now, one million of our citizens, 220,000 of our children, are living in poverty.

“In the 14th richest country in the world, that is quite frankly a scandal. So let me promise you this.

“Tackling poverty and inequality, and improving opportunity for all, will be my personal mission as your first minister.”

Powered by article was written by Daniel Boffey, for The Observer on Saturday 15th November 2014 17.36 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010