Jim Murphy says Labour could govern in minority

Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Murphy arrive for last night's debate. Picture: Getty
Nicola Sturgeon and Jim Murphy arrive for last night's debate. Picture: Getty
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SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy has said his party is ready to form a minority government, present its policies to parliament and let others support them or not.

And he said it would not “ask permission” from the SNP or consult them beforehand.

During a final televised debate between the four main Scottish party leaders from Edinburgh’s Mansfield Traquair church, Mr Murphy insisted Labour would never put the Tories into power.

He said: “If we don’t win a majority we are determined to govern as the biggest party. We will put our manifesto, our Queen’s Speech and our budget before the House of Commons. If other parties want to support that that’s up to them.

“We are not going to seek their permission and we’re not going to ask or consult them before doing it.”

But Nicola Sturgeon rejected the suggestion the SNP would be obliged to back a minority Labour government on all 
crucial votes to avoid the Conservatives getting into power.

She said: “Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, you can defeat a government, you can change a government’s mind, you can change a government’s direction, the government doesn’t fall but you get better policies as a result.

“If you’re a minority government you can’t get your policies through parliament unless you build a majority.”

She said the SNP’s priority was to end austerity and it would seek to build alliances to achieve it.

She said: “If Labour puts forward a budget that imposes more cuts on vulnerable people, the SNP will vote against it. The red line on the budget is you don’t impose more 
austerity.”

Ms Sturgeon was challenged by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie over the possibility of a second referendum and whether a decision by Westminster to renew Trident could trigger a fresh vote for independence.

Ms Sturgeon, who has previously said there would have to be a “material change” before another referendum took place, said: “I’m not going to give a list because I can’t see into the future. I want to use whatever clout the SNP has to stop the renewal of Trident because I want £100 billion to be spent on health and education, not on nuclear weapons.”

The debate also saw an angry exchange over benefit sanctions. Mr Murphy told Tory leader Ruth Davidson: “Your government, as a deliberate policy, has a target that no matter what your behaviour you will get sanctioned by the Jobcentre and won’t find out about it until you go to the hole in the wall to get your cash and find out that you have got no money.

“You then go to a high street money lender that you can’t afford, or you go to a food bank when you can’t feed your kids.”

Ms Davidson said she had heard his claims before. And she hit back: “That is an outright lie. It is a falsehood. It is made up. He is peddling a falsehood that he knows is fictitious. I went and checked when he first started talking about this before and it turns out it is utter nonsense.”

Mr Murphy retorted: “How dare you call me a liar. Your government has sanctioned tens of thousands of Scots who are doing their best to find work.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com