The SNP will set out its alternative to austerity and position the party as a force for UK-wide change when it launches its manifesto today.
It is expected to contain proposals for real-terms spending increases of 0.5 per cent a year, and will commit SNP MPs to participate in votes on major issues south of the border which impact on devolved areas in Scotland such as the NHS.
Our preference would be no tuition fees in England either, but we will certainly vote for a reduction.”Stewart Hosie
The manifesto will be unveiled in Edinburgh with the party aiming to be in a “decisive position to help deliver a bolder programme than Labour on their own are willing to” after the votes are counted.
The document is expected to include a pledge to back Labour’s promise to reduce English tuition fees from £9000 to £6000, and a commitment to back new powers for the energy regulator Ofgem.
SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie said: “A strong team of SNP MPs at Westminster would support the reduction of tuition fees for students south of the border, giving more young people the chance to go to university.
“Our preference would be no tuition fees in England either, but we will certainly vote for a reduction.”
Opinion polls suggest the SNP will win up to 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats at the General Election, and some members of the party believe it has proven its “complete relevance” to a Westminster election for the first time.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out how the SNP’s MPs can build alliances with anti-Tory MPs in Westminster on many issues, such as the NHS.
She said: “The NHS is so vitally precious to us all – and we rely on it to be there for us when we need it. In government, the SNP has shown wholehearted commitment to protecting and improving Scotland’s NHS – and we have made clear that we are prepared to support a bill at Westminster to restore the National Health Service in England.
“We can end the Tory agenda of cuts, privatisation and patient charging . . . threatening the future of the NHS south of the border, which will also protect Scotland’s budget and NHS.
“Over the past five years, we have protected Scottish NHS spending from Westminster austerity. A strong team of SNP MPs in a hung parliament at Westminster can go further, proposing increases in health spending across the UK.”
The SNP plans were criticised by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, who said: “Their plans would drop a £40.5 billion bombshell in Scotland’s finances, a bombshell that would only get bigger over time.”
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said she could not give Ed Miliband a guarantee that there will not be a second independence referendum during the lifetime of the next parliament because such a decision would be taken by the Scottish people.
The First Minister said she was “not planning” for another vote on independence but she did not have the right to categorically rule one out.
Sturgeon all at sea over indy, claims Kez in Porty
Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale took the campaign trail to the seaside as she met voters in Portobello.
She took the opportunity to hit out at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for refusing to rule out a second Scottish independence referendum in the next parliament.
Ms Dugdale said: “The referendum just 213 days ago was supposed to be a once-in-a-generation deal.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s refusal to rule out a second referendum in the lifetime of the next parliament, let alone the generation she promised the people of Scotland, makes it clear the SNP have gone back on their word.
“In every UK and Scottish Parliament manifesto the SNP has produced since 1999 they have backed a referendum. Tomorrow [Monday] the SNP must address this issue again.
“It’s their last chance before the election to rule out another referendum for a generation like Scots were promised just a few months ago.”
Ms Dugdale shared her chips with supporters and was joined by Labour peer George Foulkes.
STAKES HIGH FOR PUNTER
A PUNTER has gambled £50,000 on a hung parliament – in a bid to win £6000. The bet was placed with William Hill in London at odds of just 1/8. It comes after another £200,000 bet on the same outcome was placed online.
TRIBUTES TO SCOTLAND’S FIRST MSP
Tributes have been paid to Tom McCabe, Scotland’s first MSP, who has died at the age of 60.
The former Labour MSP represented Hamilton South between 1999 and 2011 and served for a time as finance minister.
Mr McCabe’s constituency was the first to declare just over an hour after polls closed at the historic 1999 Scottish Parliament election, giving him a place in Scottish political history.
He also had spells as minister for parliamentary business and deputy minister for health and community care but lost his seat as the SNP swept to power in 2011.
Mr McCabe died at home after a short illness.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said he will be “hugely missed”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Tom McCabe’s death.”