SNP could hold balance of power, claims Sturgeon

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New SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has predicted her party could hold the balance of power at Westminster after next year’s general election.

She pledged the Nationalists would never put the Tories into power.

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean

But she suggested they could use such a powerful position to force a minority Labour government to give Holyrood more powers, rethink their austerity plans and scrap Trident.

In her first keynote speech as leader, she told the SNP conference in Perth Scotland had been energised by the referendum.

And she insisted: “Scotland will become an independent country.”

She also used the speech to set out some of her priorities for the 2016 Holyrood elections, including a massive extension of free childcare, spreading the living wage to any firm winning a government contract, continuing the small business bonus and increasing NHS spending in real terms.

And she said tackling poverty and inequality would be a “personal mission”.

Ms Sturgeon also appealed to supporters of other parties to back the SNP in May’s general election, in a bid to force Westminster leaders to deliver on the vow they made of substantial new powers for Holyrood in the run-up to the referendum.

She said: “Scotland could well hold the balance of power in a Westminster parliament with no overall majority.

“My pledge to Scotland today is simple - the SNP will never, ever, put the Tories into government.

“But think about how much more we could win for Scotland from a Westminster Labour government if they had to depend on SNP votes.

“They’d have to deliver real powers for our parliament. They’d have to rethink the endless austerity that impoverishes our children.

“They’d have to think again about putting a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the River Clyde.”

And she concluded: “Our country is alive, engaged, restless for the next stage of our journey.

“1.6 million Yes votes for independence is an achievement our forebears could only dream of.

“But it becomes our base camp and from here the summit is in sight.

“The challenge is great, but our determination is even greater.

“Because the prize is prosperity, equality, opportunity - the prize is independence.”