The next government must reflect the whole of the UK if it is to be considered legitimate and cannot “ignore” Scottish voices, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Scotland’s First Minister repeated her offer to join forces with Labour to “lock the Tories out” of power as she insisted the next government must not simply be made up of the party which has the most MPs in England.
In what has been the closest-fought election for generations, Conservative leader David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband are both aiming to win the keys to 10 Downing Street.
But with Thursday’s General Election likely to result in another hung parliament, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP – who are tipped to win as many as 50 seats north of the border – could make a “big difference” at Westminster.
Ed Miliband has insisted he will not do any deal with the Scottish nationalists, even if that means forfeiting the chance to be the next prime minister.
Ms Sturgeon said if the Labour leader “is wrong-headed enough to be reject an anti-Tory alliance and let David Cameron back into power ” a strong block of SNP MPs would work “to protect Scotland from the damage of a Tory government in a way that Labour never has”.
The First Minister has said repeatedly if there is an “anti-Tory majority” in the Commons, her party would team up with Labour to prevent Mr Cameron winning a second term – even if his Conservatives win the most seats.
She dismissed suggestions that the largest party needs to form the government to make it legitimate.
Ms Sturgeon said that while “Westminster is supposed to be the parliament and the government for the whole of the UK”, it often “hasn’t felt that way for Scotland as we have had to put up with Tory governments that we have rejected”.
She argued: “So, surely a test of legitimacy that should be applied to whatever Westminster government is formed after this election cannot simply be that it is the largest party in England.
“The test that must be applied is whether a government can build a majority and win support that reflects the whole of the UK.
“English MPs will always be the largest part of any Westminster majority but to ignore Scottish voices would be wrong.
“So, if on Friday morning there are a number of progressive voices elected to Westminster from across the whole of the UK who – with Labour – can lock the Tories out and ensure influence and representation for all parts of the UK, that would be more balanced, surely, than a party trying to take power without UK-wide support.”
The First Minister added: “If there is an anti-Tory majority on Friday morning, we will call on Labour – even if they are not the largest party – to vote with us to keep the Tories out.
“Surely, any Labour leader who turned his back on that and allowed the Tories to get back into office, rather than work with the SNP to keep them out – as Ed Miliband suggested last week that he would – would simply never be forgiven in Scotland, or indeed in many other parts of the UK.”
She also told Mr Miliband that “Labour should not take our cast-iron commitment to keep the Tories out as a free pass for them”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “A strong group of SNP MPs will not let Labour simply be a paler version of the Tories, we will challenge them to become a better version of the Labour Party.
“We will use our influence – whatever influence Scotland gives us – to make sure that the Tories are replaced with a government that is better, bolder and more progressive.”
The SNP leader, who was giving a speech in Dumfries, hailed the “power of the people in this election”, saying they could ensure a “strong voice for Scotland – a strong voice that can undo the damage of the last five years of Tory government”.
The election is “above all about giving Scotland the power and the voice at Westminster that we need to deliver progressive policies for the benefit of Scotland and for the whole UK,” the SNP leader said.
“If people in Scotland come together on Thursday to deliver a strong voice at Westminster, we can put those priorities and those values at the heart of the next Westminster parliament.
“We will do that not just for Scotland but for the UK as a whole. The fact is that ending austerity is just as important in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as it is in Scotland.”
She added: “There are three days left in this election campaign. We have three days to stop Tory cuts.
“Three days to stop Tory cuts simply being replaced by Labour cuts. Three days to deliver better-paid jobs. Three days to win greater investment in our NHS.
“Three days to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard louder than it ever has been before at Westminster.”