NICOLA Sturgeon has used a TV debate to insist Labour must be better than “Tory-lite” before the SNP will help Ed Miliband become prime minister.
The Nationalist leader said Labour’s economic plans would still mean cuts to public services and accused Mr Miliband of being “thirled to austerity” and “scared to be bold”.
A snap Survation poll following debate had 35 per cent of respondents naming Mr Miliband the winner, with Ms Sturgeon in second with 31 per cent.
In the five-way debate, which also involved the leaders of the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Ukip, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think it’s time not for a pretend alternative to austerity; it is time for a real alternative to austerity.
“If Labour won’t be bold enough on its own, I think people should vote for parties who will hold Labour to account and make them bolder.
“I don’t say there’s no difference between Ed Miliband and David Cameron; I say there is not a big enough difference between Ed Miliband and David Cameron.”
And she told Mr Miliband: “We share a desire to see the back of the Tories but surely we do not want to replace the Tories with ‘Tory-lite’; we want to replace the Tories with something better.”
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood accused Labour of “letting the Tories off the hook by committing to the Tories’ spending plans” and the Greens’ Natalie Bennett also attacked austerity.
But Mr Miliband said although Ms Sturgeon claimed she wanted a Labour government, she seemed to be advising “anything but Labour” because she was urging people to vote Green in England and Plaid Cymru in Wales as well as SNP in Scotland.
He told her: “You want to gamble on getting rid of Tory government. I can guarantee we get rid of a Tory government if you vote Labour.”
He also claimed the SNP was planning £7.6 billion of cuts by pursuing devo max.
And he insisted there was a “huge difference” between Tory cuts and Labour’s deficit reduction plans, which also included a mansion tax to help fund the NHS, ending the so-called “bedroom tax” and a bankers bonus tax to fund jobs for young people.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage, meanwhile, attacked the audience for being too left-wing. After some of his comments about pressure on housing due to immigration were greeted with mutters, he said it was “a remarkable audience even by the left-wing standards of the BBC”.
Mr Miliband used his closing statement to challenge the Prime Minister to a head-to-head. He said: “If you think this election is about leadership, debate me one to one.”
SNP make pledge to create jobs
DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has set out SNP plans to end austerity, increase investment and support job creation.
Publishing his party’s “jobs manifesto”, he also promised SNP MPs would stand up for the principles of fair work, including a minimum wage of £8.70 by 2020.
Campaigning in Edinburgh, he said Nationalists elected to Westminster would “force an end to Tory-Labour austerity cuts” and support a “modest” public spending increase of 0.5 per cent to enable investment in jobs and public services.
He said: “Austerity cuts have stopped our economy reaching its full potential for too long – holding back job creation and stifling growth. It couldn’t be clearer that we need to take a new direction and invest in the economy and jobs.
“But we are absolutely clear that creating jobs is only the first challenge – and that we need to do everything we can to ensure that work always pays. Hard working people have been paying the price for Westminster’s failures for far too long.”
PM says Tories are ‘the party with plan’
PRIME Minister David Cameron has claimed the Tories are “the party of real devolution”.
Launching the Scottish Conservatives’ election manifesto in Glasgow, he said they were “the party with a plan that is turning Scotland around”.
He said: “Conservatives are not just about balancing the books, we are head, heart and soul passionate about helping people get on in life, passionate about our United Kingdom.
“We are the party of real devolution, the party of a strong union and the party with a proper plan.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said her party was on the side of the “quiet majority” of Scots.
She said: “This manifesto includes our plan to transfer tax powers to the Scottish Parliament with a Bill in the very first Queen’s Speech.
“It heralds a radical new era for Scotland, a new era at the Scottish Parliament where MSPs will need to show not just how they spend money but how they raise it too.”
Davidson claimed that Tories at Holyrood would reinstate the right to buy council houses, bring back prescription charges – using the money to fund 1000 extra nurses – and create more apprenticeships.