UK Labour leader rules out coalition with Scottish nationalists
The leader of Britain's opposition Labour party on Monday ruled out forming a coalition with the Scottish nationalists after May's general election, although Scotland's first minister raised the prospect of an informal partnership.
Labour's hopes of returning to power have been severely dented by a surge in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP), which threatens Labour's 40 seats north of the border and risks thwarting their bid for a parliamentary majority.
Prime Minister David Cameron -- whose own Conservative party also looks unlikely to secure the majority needed to govern alone after May 7 -- has used the prospect of a coalition with SNP to attack Labour for several weeks.
During a campaign speech in northern England on Monday, Labour leader Ed Miliband finally responded and ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP, saying: "There are big differences between us.
"Labour will not go into a coalition government with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead."
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday also said a coalition was "highly unlikely" -- but kept the door open to a "looser arrangement" where her party supports Labour on some issues.
"As long as there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs then we can lock the Tories out of government," she told an audience at the London School of Economics (LSE).
The surge in support for the SNP, despite its failure to secure independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom in a referendum in September, has changed the electoral map.
The party has held power in the devolved administration in Edinburgh for eight years, but it now looks set to play a decisive role in the British government in Westminster.
Cameron has criticised Labour for a potential tie-up with the SNP because of the nationalists' opposition to the UK, but Sturgeon insisted they would play a "constructive role".
"We're not secretive about the fact that we want Scotland to be independent... Until such time I want to see progressive change across the UK, because that will make life better in Scotland," she said.
© 2015 AFP