Miliband Steps Up Scotland Battle

20 April 2015, 08:36 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Ed Miliband will seek to shore up Labour's support in Scotland as the SNP formalises its push for a "progressive'' alliance at Westminster by launching a manifesto committing it to public spending increases.

Ahead of a speech north of the border, he promised to "end Tory austerity'' as the Opposition fights Conservative charges a minority Labour administration reliant on the support of nationalist MPs would be "calamitous'' for the rest of the UK.

Opinion polls suggest the SNP could win as many as 56 of Scotland's 59 seats at the election and leader Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to use that influence to "change the direction'' of a Labour administration in the event of a hung parliament.

Prime Minister David Cameron - who will later promise to protect the rest of the UK from any knock-on effects of devolving extra powers to the Scottish government - warned yesterday that such a deal could see investment diverted from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The SNP General Election manifesto is expected to contain proposals for real-terms spending increases of 0.5% a year and will commit SNP MPs to participate in votes on major issues south of the border which impact on devolved areas in Scotland such as the NHS.

Ms Sturgeon insisted the party would not be a disruptive force in the House of Commons, stating that SNP MPs can build alliances with anti-Tory MPs in Westminster on many issues, such as boosting spending for the NHS in the rest of the UK.

''Over the past five years, we have protected Scottish NHS spending from Westminster austerity. A strong team of SNP MPs in a hung parliament at Westminster can go further, proposing increases in health spending across the UK," she said ahead of the launch.

Deputy leader Stewart Hosie said yesterday the party could also vote against Commons spending measures such as for the Trident nuclear deterrent which it opposes - sparking Tory claims the entire defence budget could be scuppered and troops left unpaid.

Mr Miliband, who is addressing the Scottish TUC, has ruled out a formal coalition with the nationalists, said: "Nicola Sturgeon is asking people to gamble on getting rid of a Tory government - the only way to guarantee getting rid of a Tory government is to vote Labour.''

A Labour government would "make radical choices to change the lives of working people across Scotland'' and introduce a Home Rule Bill within 100 days enshrining additional powers for Holyrood "while the SNP still won't say in their manifesto whether they rule out calling for another referendum''.

Campaigning in the north west of England, Mr Cameron will raise fresh concerns over the impact of SNP policies on the rest of the United Kingdom, pledging an annual review and Commons statement to make sure England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not "lose out'' due to decisions taken in Scotland.

During another hectic day of campaigning, the Conservative leader will insist he will honour the vow made during the Scottish referendum to devolve more powers north of the border.

"But as we go further in devolving powers to Scotland, we need to make sure devolution works for all the other all parts of this country too,'' he will say, pointing to fears that plans to cut air passenger duty north of the border could have a huge impact elsewhere.

"Today I want to set out a new principle - you could call it the Carlisle Principle - that we will make sure that there are no unforeseen detrimental consequences to the rest of the country from Scottish devolution. For either England, Wales or Northern Ireland.''

Labour said the Smith Commission proposals for Scottish devolution already made arrangements to ensure the rest of the UK did not lose out.

Mr Miliband will also use his speech to launch a week of intensive election campaigning on the NHS by declaring the Conservatives are guilty of a "double deceit'' of "not being straight'' about the depth of planned cuts or how they would fund a pledge to find the £8 billion extra a year extra funding by 2020.

Labour has refused to commit to providing the same amount but insists it will do "what is necessary'' and says its £2.5 billion spending plans are the only fully-funded proposals put forward so far.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will take his campaign tour to a school in Cornwall where he will promise to "get politics out of the classroom'' by establishing a new independent Educational Standards Authority to restrict ministers' ability to interfere with curriculum contents and examinations.

It would stop the "farcical situation of Michael Gove handwriting lists of medieval kings'' for children to study, a senior source said.

And the Green Party will launch a "Youth Manifesto'' with a pledge to invest an extra £1.1 billion to create 2,000 new young people's centres.