The future of the UK is under threat due to a “short-term and dangerous” game being played by top Conservatives who are building up the SNP to damage Labour in Scotland, the senior Tory peer Lord Forsyth has said.
In an attack on David Cameron, the former Scottish Secretary said the Prime Minister had “shattered” support for the Union in the wake of the independence referendum by immediately raising the prospect of English votes for English laws and limiting the power of Scotland’s MPs.
“We’ve had the dilemma for Conservatives, which is they want to be the largest party at Westminster and therefore some see the fact that the nationalists are going to take seats in Scotland will be helpful,” he told The Guardian. “But that is a short-term and dangerous view which threatens the integrity of our country.”
Lord Forsyth’s comments, which call into question his own party’s election strategy, came as the SNP launched its manifesto, seeking to reassure voters outside Scotland that an alliance with Labour would deliver a new era of “progressive” politics at Westminster.
At an event in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the rest of the UK was “hungry and restless” for a party like the SNP. In what appeared to be a land grab for Labour’s forgotten hard left, the SNP leader suggested Ed Miliband’s party was too close to the Conservatives politically and said her inbox was “heaving” with messages from people outside Scotland asking if they could vote SNP.
Scotland’s First Minister promised voters in the rest of the UK that if the SNP held the balance of power after the general election, it would use its influence at Westminster “constructively”. She told them: “Your views do matter to me.”
She said Mr Cameron had made a “huge tactical and strategic mistake” by assuming that people outside Scotland were frightened of the SNP, claiming that they were in fact crying out for a more “progressive”, left-wing alternative to the main parties.
“The fact that neither Labour or the Tories seem capable of winning a majority at this election… does suggest very strongly that people in England want something different from what both are offering now,” she said.
Asked whether she would encourage people south of the border to vote for Labour to ensure that the SNP could play a decisive role at Westminster, she replied that they should simply back the most progressive candidate.
During a glitzy launch at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Ms Sturgeon took almost 20 minutes to address the subject of an independent Scotland. “The SNP will always support independence – but this election is not about independence,” she stressed. The manifesto did not mention a second referendum, which is likely to feature in the party’s Scottish Parliamentary election campaign next year.
Dismissing as “irrelevant” Labour’s suggestions that her party’s demands for Scotland to be given full control of its economy would leave a £7.6bn hole in the country’s finances, she said this would not happen for a number of years.
Although she is not standing in the general election herself, Ms Sturgeon positioned herself as the UK’s champion of anti-austerity politics and attacked George Osborne’s management of the economy, which she said had lowered living standards and pushed more children into poverty. “When a policy is failing, it is time to change it,” she said.
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