FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon was today set to reach out to people in other parts of the UK with a message of “friendship and solidarity”.
In her keynote speech to the SNP spring conference in Glasgow, she will promise her party will act as an ally in seeking to reform the Westminster system and work with people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make life better.
The move comes shortly after a study at Edinburgh University revealed a majority of people born in Scotland had voted Yes in last year’s referendum – by 52.7 per cent to 47.3 per cent – while those living here who were born elsewhere in the UK voted 72.1 per cent No and just 27.9 per cent Yes.
Ms Sturgeon was expected to say: “To ordinary people across these islands who feel just as let down by the out-of-touch Westminster system as we do, I have a very clear message.
“It is a message of friendship and solidarity. As long as Scotland remains part of the Westminster system, we will be your allies in seeking to shake up and reform that outdated and discredited system once and for all.
“Westminster needs to change. To be more responsive to the needs and demands of ordinary people, wherever they are in the UK. So to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I make this promise. The SNP stands ready to work with you in making that positive change.
“We will pursue policies that will win support from, and make life better for, people in every part of these islands.
“We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity. Responsible deficit reduction, yes, but cuts that tear at the very fabric of our society, penalise the poor, threaten our public services and stifle economic growth, let me make it crystal clear – those will not be in our name.”
The First Minister will also unveil plans to extend the Educational Maintenance Allowance scheme, raising the eligibility threshold to benefit an extra 10,000 school pupils and, for the first time, part-time college students will also be eligible, helping 12,000 more young people stay on in education.
Tomorrow, SNP delegates are due to debate a controversial move to increase gender balance among their MSPs after the 2016 elections.
The plan, backed by Ms Sturgeon, would mean every constituency being required to consider at least one woman when choosing a candidate for next year’s elections, all-women shortlists in those seats where an SNP MSP is standing down, and equal numbers of men and women on the regional top-up lists.
Toni Giugliano, a member of the party’s national executive committee, said for too long the SNP had lagged behind other parties on gender balance.
He said: “We have a record number of women candidates at the current election, but we need to consolidate that.”