Nicola Sturgeon has suggested Theresa May called a snap general election before the alleged Tory expenses fraud in 2015 “catches up with her”.
The First Minister said the Conservatives should not be allowed to escape accountability for any “misdemeanours” in a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Aviemore in the Highlands.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We are, of course, at the start of a general election campaign.
“A campaign called by the Prime Minister last week for one purpose and one purpose only: to strengthen the grip of the Tory party and crush dissent and opposition, and to do so before possible criminal prosecutions for alleged expenses fraud at the last general election catches up with her.
“Whatever else happens in this election, we should not allow the Tory party to escape the accountability for any misdemeanours that may have led to them buying the last general election.”
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Ms Sturgeon said the Tory vision for the future of the country “should be ringing alarm bells loudly and clearly across Scotland right now”.
She said: “Because, make no mistake, and I think it’s obvious to see, the hardliners have taken over the Tory party and now those Tory hardliners want to take over the country as well.
“It’s no surprise that Ukip right now is losing support to the Tories because the Tories are now threatening to take the UK in a direction that a few years ago Ukip could only have dreamed about, but it should alarm all of us.
“Whatever our politics, we should all stand up against that rightward drift of the country that the Tories are determined to effect.”
Ms Sturgeon continued: “Scotland knows, we know from long experience, that there has always been a cost to voting Tory but the price at this election has never been higher, and it will be those that are least able to pay that price who will bear the biggest burden.”
The SNP leader said the Tories would impose a “double hit” on Scottish families and communities by making the country “poorer” and society “more unfair and unequal”.
“The truth is the Tories are starting to think that they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She argued that too many “hardline” Conservatives saw Brexit as a means to “a low-tax, low-wage, low-regulation UK”.
“Now the Tories are threatening to walk away entirely and, in their words, change our economic model, and we should be in no doubt about what that means.
“A changed economic model is presumably what the former chancellor Lord Lawson meant when he said ‘Brexit gives us the opportunity to finish the job that Margaret Thatcher started’. That would be a catastrophe for Scotland’s communities.”
She added: “The fact is that it’s never been more important for people across Scotland to think clearly and ask ourselves this question ‘how can we best protect Scotland from the hardline Tories?’
“That’s why the next few weeks and the next two years as the Brexit process completes will be so important for our future.
“Indeed, faced with the prospect of a Prime Minister who, in her own words, wants to strengthen her own hand to deliver the kind of Brexit that she wants, it’s more important than ever that we have strong voices in Westminster and then once the terms of Brexit are clear, the people of Scotland, not the Tory party, should have a choice about our own future.”