Scottish nationalists offer to help Britain's Labour to power

8th April 2015, Comments 0 comments

The Scottish National Party leader offered to help British Labour party leader Ed Miliband become prime minister on Tuesday, while raising the possibility of seeking another independence referendum after 2016.

In a lively debate between the leaders of the four main Scottish parties, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon outlined her aim to help the centre-left Labour party into power to prevent Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron winning a second term.

"I don't want David Cameron to be prime minister, I'm offering to help make Ed Miliband prime minister," Sturgeon said in a televised debate on Tuesday.

"Even if the Tories are the biggest party we will work with Labour to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street," she later added.

Labour and the Conservatives are deadlocked in polls ahead of the May 7 vote, eroded by the advance of smaller parties and with neither of Britain's long-dominant forces likely to win an outright majority.

Sturgeon's SNP may have a kingmaker role, as the party has surged in support since a referendum on Scottish independence in September and is predicted to win between 35 and 50 seats of Scotland's total of 59, compared to six in the last election.

The SNP has said in the past it could back a Labour minority government on a vote-by-vote basis, and the parties share some policies including opposing a referendum on European Union membership Cameron has promised by 2017 if he is re-elected.

- Another referendum? -

The 44-year old Sturgeon, who took over from former SNP leader Alex Salmond as head of the Scottish government in November, is not herself seeking a seat in the Westminster parliament but would be key to any negotiations.

Pressed on whether her party might seek another vote on splitting up the 300-year-old union with England in Scottish parliamentary elections in 2016, Sturgeon left the possibility open.

"Well, that is another matter. We will write that manifesto when we get there. I will fight one election at a time," she said.

Some members of the studio audience groaned in response to her answer, and one member told Sturgeon that Scotland had already voted against independence.

Voters rejected independence by 55 percent to 45 percent in the September 2014 referendum, and the SNP had previously said it would not soon seek another vote on the matter.

Nevertheless the referendum transformed the Scottish political landscape, with SNP support surging at the expense of Labour, which had long relied on Scotland as a stronghold and will struggle to form a majority without it.

In the debate, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy did not give a clear answer when pressed on whether Labour would work with the SNP, but insisted that his party did not need the nationalists' "help".

No clear winner emerged in media analysis following the debate, which included Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie, and underscored the uncertainty of one of Britain's most unpredictable elections in decades.

© 2015 AFP

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