General election 2019: SNP vote 'will send clear message on indyref2'

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Media captionGeneral election 2019: Nicola Sturgeon brands Boris Johnson ‘dangerous’

Nicola Sturgeon has launched the SNP election manifesto with a pledge to “escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.

The manifesto says that the SNP winning the most seats in Scotland would send a “clear” message that an independence referendum must be held next year.

Ms Sturgeon said the country faced a “fundamental question” over who should decide its future.

And she called for a big increase in NHS funding across the UK.

The SNP won 35 seats at the last general election in 2017, making it the third biggest party in the UK Parliament, and it hopes to hold the balance of power if there is a hung parliament after the forthcoming election.

Ms Sturgeon says she is open to forming a “progressive alliance” with other parties after the election, but has ruled out doing a deal with the Conservatives or entering into a formal coalition with Labour.

Among the key pledges in the party’s election manifesto are:

  • A second referendum on Scottish independence next year
  • Another referendum on EU membership, or the revocation of Article 50 if it is the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit
  • To call on the UK government to match Scottish per capita NHS spending, which will also deliver increased funding for Scotland
  • Demand an end to austerity and press the UK government to invest in public services and the economy
  • To call for the UK government to devolve powers over drug policy to the Scottish Parliament
  • To press for the devolution of employment law
  • To also seek the devolution of immigration powers so that Scotland can have a “migration system that works for our economy and society”
  • Scrap the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system

Ms Sturgeon accused the main Westminster parties of delivering “constant chaos” since the 2014 independence referendum, which saw Scottish voters choose to remain in the UK by 55% to 45%.

And she claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “dangerous and unfit for office” and that his proposed Brexit deal would be a “nightmare” for Scotland.

She told the manifesto launch event in Glasgow: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit, It is a vote to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, and it is a vote to deprive Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party of a majority.

“The reality of Westminster control over Scotland is this: a right-wing Tory government Scotland didn’t vote for and a prime minister in Boris Johnson who is dangerous and unfit for office.”

Mr Johnson has already ruled out granting the formal consent that Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, says would be needed to ensure any independence referendum was legal.

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Boris Johnson has given a “cast iron guarantee” that he would reject any request for consent to hold indyref2 if he wins the election

Ms Sturgeon went on to claim that a Conservative government would mean “Tory cuts to the Scottish budget, the NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal, a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, children being forced into poverty and a disastrous Brexit deal”.

And despite Mr Johnson’s campaign pledge to “get Brexit done”, Ms Sturgeon warned it was “nowhere near done” and predicted that Brexit would dominate Westminster politics for years to come.

She said: “The Tories have barely got going – they haven’t even started trade talks. Because of Johnson’s hard line position, there is every chance the UK will leave without a trade deal next year. That would be a catastrophe for jobs.

“And even if he somehow avoids that, his dream deal will be a nightmare for Scotland.

“It will take Scotland out of the single market – which is eight times the size of the UK alone – and out of the Customs Union, the world’s biggest trading block.”

Precisely nobody will be surprised to see support for an independence referendum in the SNP manifesto. To be clear, the party already believes it has several mandates for a new poll, but hopes that a big win on 12 December will really cement its case.

This is because the big question about indyref2 is how it comes about. Nicola Sturgeon wants an agreement with the UK government before holding a vote, but has seen the Conservatives rule this out completely and Labour say it wouldn’t be on the table in the “early years” of a new government.

If Ms Sturgeon is to get a referendum on her 2020 timetable, something needs to give – and she wants the result of this election to send a big message to both potential prime ministers about “Scotland’s future being in Scotland’s hands”.

Ms Sturgeon also unveiled further details of the demands the SNP would make in return for supporting Labour if there is a hung parliament.

The party says that central to this will be proposals to significantly increase funding for the NHS across the UK – with the SNP saying it is proposing more substantial funding increases than any other major party in the election.

The SNP will demand that the next UK government raises per-head health spending south of the border to levels seen in Scotland.

The party says spending is currently £136 per head higher north of the border, and that such a move would see NHS resource funding in England increase by more than £35bn between 2019/20 and 2023/24.

This would also mean an additional £4bn in Barnett consequential for the Scottish NHS.

What are the other parties pledging on Scottish independence, Brexit and Trident?

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Brexit: The Conservatives say they will deliver Brexit by the end of January 2020 under the terms of the PM’s deal negotiated with the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have vowed to cancel Brexit if elected as a majority government, or otherwise campaign for a referendum including the option of staying in the EU.

Labour wants to renegotiate the PM’s Brexit deal then put it to a referendum within six months, with the option of staying in the EU. The party has not said which side it would take in such a vote.

Trident: The Conservatives say they will maintain the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The Liberal Democrats support maintaining a minimum nuclear deterrent with leader Jo Swinson making clear she would be prepared to deploy Trident if she was prime minister.

Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent but also said it would lead multilateral efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world under the non-proliferation treaty.

Scottish independence: Labour opposes Scottish independence but has said a Labour-run UK government would agree to another referendum if pro-yes parties win a majority at the next Holyrood election in 2021.

The Conservatives are opposed to a second independence referendum with Boris Johnson claiming he could “guarantee” there will not be a second vote if the Conservatives win the general election.

The Liberal Democrats say they oppose a second independence referendum and oppose independence.

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