Nicola Sturgeon questions legitimacy of UK government without Scottish MPs

Nicola Sturgeon TV interview

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the next British government could be illegitimate if it fails to include “Scottish voices” as she stepped up demands for a post-election deal with Labour.

The Scottish National party leader told a rally in Dumfries it would be wrong for it to be made up solely of English MPs, hinting that she expects David Cameron’s Tories to win the most seats in Thursday’s election.

Provoking a fresh confrontation with the Conservatives, she said: “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.”

With the SNP now expecting to take a majority of Scotland’s 59 seats and become the third largest party in the Commons, Sturgeon warned she plans to place the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, under intense pressure to agree to an anti-Tory alliance with the SNP hours after the election result.

Miliband again rejected claims that a minority Labour government would have to rely on SNP support to govern, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would not barter or strike deals with “a separatist party who wants to break up the country”.

Asked if he was planning to simply have conversations with the SNP, an option put forward by some Labour frontbenchers, he said: “I’m not planning that, no.”

The Scottish Conservatives rejected Sturgeon’s legitimacy proposition out of hand, insisting that British voters were electing 650 MPs with equal standing in the Commons, regardless of which part of the UK they came from.

A party spokesman said: “Nobody is being ignored – this is the parliamentary system. The SNP offered an alternative to this system last year when it put forward independence for Scotland. However, the people of Scotland roundly rejected their proposal and said they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. The issue was settled then – it is a pity that Nicola Sturgeon is once again seeking to stir resentment and grievance.”

The issue could come to the fore early on Friday when the first minister is in London to take part in the official commemorations to mark Victory in Europe (VE) day. She is preparing to lead SNP talks with other parties throughout the weekend before taking part in further second world war-related events at the Cenotaph on Sunday.

Sturgeon plans to call immediately on Labour to join her party in voting against any attempt by Cameron to set up a minority or coalition government, if an anti-Tory bloc is large enough. She said: “If there is an anti-Tory majority on Friday morning, we will call on Labour – even if it is not the largest party – to vote with us to keep the Tories out.

“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 that he would – 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.”

Her ultimatum is a direct challenge to Miliband after he categorically ruled out any deal with the SNP last week, and may force the Labour leader to defend the constitutional protocols which allow a sitting prime minister to first seek to form a government, even if he leads the smaller party.

It came as Sturgeon’s deputy, Stewart Hosie, warned that the SNP could press for a new independence referendum if its demands on public spending were not met by Labour.

Hosie said pressure from Scottish voters for another vote would be hard to resist if Westminster failed to implement the SNP’s spending plans.

Stoking up a simmering battle with Labour over its future dealings with the SNP, Hosie said there would be a very strong case for the SNP to “trim, change and adjust” Labour’s first Queen’s speech if Scottish voters return a large group of SNP MPs on Thursday.

He said the SNP was waiting to see how the next minority government responded to its policy demands before deciding its policy on a second referendum – described last year by Sturgeon as “once in a generation” event.

Hosie told BBC Radio Scotland: “I think the point we have to wait to see the outcome of this election [before deciding on a referendum] is absolutely correct.

“If we are in a really strong position at Westminster, to end austerity, to demand legitimately more powers for Scotland, north of what the Smith commission has proposed, we need to see how Westminster responds to that.”

Labour refused to respond directly to Sturgeon’s claims about the legitimacy test facing the next government, and stuck to the party’s position that only Labour would decide on its manifesto. Kezia Dugdale, the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party, said: “The only party big enough to beat the Tories is Labour and only a vote for Ed Miliband will secure a Labour government to deliver on those manifesto promises.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks, for The Guardian on Monday 4th May 2015 19.40 Europe/London

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