Nicola Sturgeon insisted there is “every chance” the SNP will hold the balance of power at Westminster after the General Election, as she set out billions of pounds worth of demands as the price for her party’s support.
The First Minister has already made clear she will insist on the right to hold a second vote on Scottish independence as part of her party’s conditions.
But as she launched her party’s manifesto in Glasgow on Wednesday, she also demanded extra cash for the NHS and an end to austerity.
Ms Sturgeon wants NHS spending south of the border to grow so it is at the same level as in Scotland, where it is currently £136 per person higher.
With additional spending in England resulting in more cash coming to Holyrood under the Barnett formula – which is used to determine spending across the parts of the UK – the SNP calculates the NHS budget in Scotland would rise to more than £17 billion by 2024-25.
The SNP leader went on to demand the next UK government also “makes right” the cuts she said Scotland has suffered, if it wants her party’s support.
These amount to £13.9 billion over the “decade of austerity”, she claimed, adding: “That is how much investment in our communities and public services Scotland has lost.
“That must be put right. Parties seeking our support must be prepared to set out how they would repair the damage of a decade of austerity and put back the money that has been lost.”
In addition, SNP MPs at Westminster would push for more powers to be devolved to Holyrood, including over drugs laws and employment rights, as well as the scrapping of “immoral” Trident nuclear weapons, which are currently housed on the Clyde.
While the First Minister said she is open to forming a “progressive alliance” after December 12, she was clear her party will not help put Boris Johnson and his Conservatives into power.
She branded the PM “dangerous and unfit for office” as she declared: “Unlike the Liberal Democrats, the SNP will never, ever help the Tories into government, but we will be prepared to talk to other parties about forming a progressive alliance.”
Although she said the SNP would be prepared to have talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on such an alliance, she accused him of a “woeful lack of leadership” on Brexit, after he said he would adopt a position of neutrality in a second EU referendum.
Arguing voters have a choice “between the devil and the deep blue sea” over who the next prime minister will be, she was also clear: “It is time to take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “People are becoming increasingly sick of hearing Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson talking about not allowing Scottish people to choose their own future.
“I’ve got news for them: it’s not up to you.
“It is a decision for the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament. The democratically-elected Scottish Parliament has agreed the people should be given a choice over their future. An unelected Tory Westminster government has no right to overturn that decision.
“So an SNP victory in this election would be a clear instruction from the people of Scotland to respect Scottish democracy.
“There must be no Westminster veto over the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.
“And the SNP’s message to any Westminster party seeking our support is this – if you cannot support this most fundamental of democratic principles, the SNP cannot and will not support you.”
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said the First Minister had “confirmed that every vote she wins in this election, she’ll take as a mandate for another independence referendum”.
He added: “It could not be clearer therefore that every voter who wants to stop Nicola Sturgeon taking us back to another referendum, perhaps within a year, needs to lend their vote to the Scottish Conservatives. That is the only realistic option.”
He also questioned Ms Sturgeon’s willingness to do a deal with Mr Corbyn, despite her concerns about how he has tackled anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
Mr Carlaw said: “Despite saying she shares the deep concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to act on anti-Semitism, Nicola Sturgeon has made clear she will still prop him up in Number 10. In effect, she is turning a deaf ear.
“The only conclusion that can be reached is that Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to ignore everything about Mr Corbyn because he offers the only thing she really wants – a second referendum on independence.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Lesley Laird said: “If anyone was under any illusion that the SNP were a progressive party, today’s launch in Glasgow will have opened their eyes to the truth.
“The spectacle of Nicola Sturgeon threatening a potential Corbyn-led Labour government with the prospect of yet another Tory government if it does not bow to her demands demonstrates yet again that the SNP’s priority is separatism, not socialism.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat General Election chair Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Nicola Sturgeon has learned nothing from Brexit. Breaking up is hard to do. This manifesto is a recipe for chaos and uncertainty.”