In Depth

Sturgeon’s £180bn splash threatens SNP-Labour pact

First Trident, now public spending: SNP leader says she’ll smash cosy consensus of ‘cut at all costs’

The Mole

Nicola Sturgeon has raised the stakes on any pact to put Ed Miliband into power in the event of a hung parliament by demanding that Labour spend an extra £180 billion over the next five years.

The SNP leader told Radio 4’s Today programme she intends to smash the "Westminster cosy consensus of cut at all costs" between the Tories, the Lib Dems and Labour. “I am not going to support governments that plough ahead with austerity measures and damage the poorest in our society.”

Sturgeon added: “A Labour government that looked to the SNP for support would have to moderate its position in that regard. That would be popular not just with SNP supporters but I am sure a lot of traditional Labour supporters as well.”

All three major parties at Westminster have signed up to a pledge to eradicate the deficit – but with not-so-subtle variations.

The Tories want it done by by 2017/18, promising to go into surplus by the time of the next general election in 2020. But they won’t raise taxes and so the burden will be on the working poor who will lose benefits.

The Lib Dems have signed up to the same timescale, although they say they would cut less and raise more from taxes.

Labour would take longer (2020 is their target), making shallower cuts and potentially borrowing more. But Sturgeon’s demand for a big splash in public spending would make it far harder – if not impossible - for Ed Balls to deliver on his deficit pledge. 

Sturgeon was not denying that the deficit had to be reduced - but looking at it in isolation was "far too narrow", she said this morning. 

“As an illustration, if over the life of the next parliament we were to allow modest, sensible increases in spending - say half a per cent in real terms - then debt and the deficit would still be falling as a percentage of GDP but it would free up something like £180bn to invest in infrastructure, innovation and growth in the economy.”

Many observers have pointed out that Sturgeon's left-wing politics might be hard even for 'Red Ed' Miliband to take - and that Labour would be far more comfortable doing a power-sharing deal with the Lib Dems than with the SNP.

The trouble is, the SNP surge in Scotland is threatening not only the 41 Scottish Labour seats but also the 11 Lib Dem-held seats north of the border: there may not be much of a Lib Dem party left on 8 May with which to strike a deal.

Sturegeon's previous demand – that Labour abandon the costly replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent - has already been rejected by Labour.

Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, said Trident would be excluded from any negotiations with other parties if there is a hung parliament: “defending this country”, he said, would not be the subject of political horse-trading.

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