The SNP will vote down a future Labour government’s Budget if it holds the balance of power at Westminster, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The SNP leader’s position, revealed just days ahead of Thursday’s general election, was immediately seized upon by her opponents as evidence that a Labour government propped up by Ms Sturgeon’s party would result in “absolute chaos” for the country.
Taking part in a live televised debate in Edinburgh with the leaders of the other three main Scottish parties, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP intended to block Labour's first Budget before negotiating a series of amendments. Polls suggest that the nationalist party is poised to win as many as 50 Westminster seats.
“If Labour puts forward a Budget that imposes more cuts on vulnerable people, as clearly they intend to do, the SNP will vote against it. We will seek to use our clout in the House of Commons to get a fairer deal,” she said.
The First Minister said that such a process would not “bring down the Government”, pointing out that when the SNP minority administration at Holyrood had its Budget voted down in 2009, it made a series of concessions before a new one was passed. “That’s what happens in minority parliaments, and it leads to better decisions,” she added.
But Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said this was further evidence that the SNP would destabilise the government if it held the balance of power at Westminster, pointing out that it had already threatened to block his party’s Queen’s Speech. “The cat is out of the bag,” he added.
Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said “absolute chaos” would ensue if Ms Sturgeon’s party found itself in a position of power. “What will the Budget negotiations be like? I think we need stability, security, safety, we need honesty and decency in the next parliament. You will not get that with the SNP – it will be absolutely chaotic,” he said.
Ahead of the live debate, which was hosted by the BBC at Mansfield Traquair in the Scottish capital, the leaders were specifically asked not to talk over one another. But it did not take long for tempers to become frayed as Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused Mr Murphy of telling viewers “an outright lie” about benefit sanctions for jobseekers.
The Labour leader had claimed there was a “deliberate policy” at Jobcentres of sanctioning benefit claimants regardless of the lengths they went to for employment. Ms Davidson accused Mr Murphy of “peddling a falsehood that he knows is fictitious”, to which he replied: “How dare you call me a liar?”
Pressed on the issue of whether a second referendum on Scottish independence would be included in the SNP’s manifesto at next year’s Holyrood elections, Ms Sturgeon again refused to answer. “The decision about whether or not there is another referendum at any point in the future is down to the Scottish people, because they would have to vote for that manifesto,” she said.
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