Tories warn of constitutional crisis if SNP holds balance of power

Poll suggests Scottish National Party could win all 59 Westminster seats in Scotland

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said Labour leader David Miliband “can say what he likes now [about a deal post election], but he’ll have to wake up and smell the coffee on May 8th”. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said Labour leader David Miliband “can say what he likes now [about a deal post election], but he’ll have to wake up and smell the coffee on May 8th”. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

 

Claims that the Scottish National Party holding the balance of power after next week’s UK general election would cause a constitutional crisis are “a democratic outrage”, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ms Sturgeon’s criticism came on a day when the latest opinion poll in Scotland claimed the SNP – which she leads – could win all of Scotland’s 59 House of Commons seats, albeit in the unlikely event of a uniform swing in all constituencies.

The Conservative-led warnings about the SNP holding the balance of power have been a boon to the SNP’s drive to destroy Labour in Scotland, which has dominated in Scotland for decades and held 41 seats there in the last parliament.

“A vote in Paisley counts just as much as one in Preston, a ballot in Kirkcaldy as much as one in Carlisle and a cross in a box in Renfrewshire matters just as much as one in Oxfordshire,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Amid charges that the Conservatives are inflaming opinions on both sides of the border, British defence secretary Michael Fallon said: “The numbers are clear: Ed Miliband cannot possibly govern without the SNP propping him up. Nicola Sturgeon would hold him to ransom, demanding higher taxes, more debt, unlimited welfare payments and weaker defences. We’d all pay.”

Coalition ruled out

The latest opinion poll, commissioned by Scottish Television (STV), puts the SNP on 54 per cent of the vote in Scotland, with Labour on just 20 per cent, a fall even since the campaign proper began.

So far, Labour leader Ed Miliband has ruled out a coalition or pact with the SNP, but he cannot rule out deals on legislation, vote by vote.

This prospect raises memories of the last months in office of Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan’s government in the late 1970s, which was brought down by SNP votes.

Insisting deals will have to be done, Ms Sturgeon said the Labour leader “can say what he likes now, but he’ll have to wake up and smell the coffee on May 8th”.

Bargaining power

“We’ve got bargaining power on every single vote,” she declared, saying it would be illogical for a party to accept legislation it did not agree with when it knew it could change it.

The excitement provoked by the election campaign in Scotland – in contrast to elsewhere in Britain – is encouraging more people to vote.

Eighty per cent of those questioned in Scotland say they will do so – lower than last year’s independence referendum but 16 points up on the 2010 general election turnout.

The poll forecasting the SNP will win all of Scotland’s seats was seized on by the SNP’s rivals in a bid to encourage people to vote against it.

“If this poll is repeated on election day, David Cameron will be uncorking his champagne, because he might cling onto power – not because Scotland’s . . . voted Tory, but because Scotland has voted against the Labour Party and made sure David Cameron has the biggest party,” Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats candidate Danny Alexander, who faces an uphill battle to hold on to his seat in the Highlands, said the poll would “strike fear into the hearts of a lot of people around Scotland.

“We know again and again from the nationalists, and my own opponent here has been saying this, they see this election on the road to independence.”