First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, launches the SNP's general election manifesto in Glasgow, November 27 2019. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/JEFF J MITCHELL
First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, launches the SNP's general election manifesto in Glasgow, November 27 2019. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/JEFF J MITCHELL

Glasgow — First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged on Wednesday to seek new referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence and an end to the Trident nuclear weapons programme in Scotland, as she launched her party’s general election manifesto.

Sturgeon, who leads the left-leaning Scottish National Party (SNP), aims to hold the balance of power in Britain after the December 12 UK  snap general election.

She accused the main UK parties of delivering “constant chaos” since the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, when 55% backed staying in the UK.

 “It is time to take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands,”  Sturgeon said in Glasgow.  She is seeking a second independence referendum in 2020.

• Read the SNP manifesto here

Of the 650 seats in the British parliament’s lower House of Commons, 59 represent Scottish constituencies and the SNP is defending 35 of them. Some polls suggest that  could increase in December, giving it potentially greater influence in a hung parliament, reports said.

Sturgeon has said that while she would not align with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, she could back a Labour government if it met certain demands — notably on another independence referendum and the removal of  Trident nuclear weapons programme from Scotland.

“The SNP demand, for our support, will be the removal of Trident from Scotland and the saving of billions of pounds to be invested instead in our precious public services,” she said. 

“There is every chance that the SNP could hold the balance of power,” she said. “We will be prepared to talk to other parties about forming a progressive alliance.”

Johnson’s Conservatives lead the polls across Britain but a Panelbase survey in Scotland on November 20-22 put the SNP on 40% — 12 points ahead of the Tories. Labour trailed on 20% with the smaller Liberal Democrats on 11%, when undecided respondents were removed.

The poll of 1,009 Scottish residents put support for independence on 45%, with those against on 47%. Sturgeon also said the bulk of future oil and gas receipts should be put into a “net-zero fund”, focusing on measures to battle climate change.

She described Johnson as “dangerous and unfit for office”.

Sturgeon said the reality of Scotland being part of the UK meant budget cuts, “a power grab on the Scottish parliament; children forced into poverty; and a disastrous Brexit deal, which will hit jobs, living standards and workers rights”.

Scotland voted in favour of staying in the European Union at the 2016.

Sturgeon said there would be “worse to come” if Johnson remained in office, adding: “This is just the start.”

AFP