THE pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) on Monday (20) was launching its manifesto for Britain’s general election next month, after which it could play a central role in government.
Leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to say the party would fight to end austerity cuts and scrap Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent if it ends up supporting a minority Labour government after May 7.
Opinion polls suggest that the SNP is set to make huge gains inScotland, the only place in Britain where they stand for election.
The party currently has six seats in the House of Commons but is expected to sweep to victory in the majority of Scotland’s 59 seats, mostly at the expense of Labour in one of its traditional heartlands.
As neither centre-left Labour nor Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives is expected to win an outright majority, this means they will likely have to team up with a smaller party or parties in order to govern.
“Hopefully the SNP will be in a position of influence (with a) huge ability to change the direction of a government without bringing a government down,” Sturgeon told the Guardian newspaper in an interview Monday.
Sturgeon has been talking up the prospect of the SNP supporting a minority Labour government led by Ed Miliband while ruling out supporting the Conservatives.
Miliband says he would not enter a formal coalition with the SNP, which runs Scotland’s devolved government, while not explicitly ruling out a more informal alliance.
The SNP led the unsuccessful campaign for Scottish independence at a referendum last year but has since seen its membership quadruple to over 100,000 people.
Sturgeon, who has performed strongly in a series of election TV debates, has said she cannot rule out another referendum in the next parliament.
“For perhaps the first time, the SNP have proved our complete relevance to a Westminster general election,” a senior SNP campaign source said.
“If we earn people’s trust on May 7, we can be in a decisive position to help deliver a bolder programme than Labour on their own are willing to.”
The Conservatives are trying to play on the fears of some English voters about the possible role of the SNP with posters portraying Miliband as Sturgeon’s puppet.
Cameron said in a BBC interview Sunday: “This would be the first time in our history that a group of nationalists from one part of our country would be involved in altering the direction of our country and I think that is a frightening prospect.”