The Scottish National Party will set out demands for higher spending and changes to British defence policy later on Monday ahead of a close UK-wide election it hopes will turn it into a kingmaker for a future minority Labour government.
Britain faces its most unpredictable election since the 1970s, with opinion polls showing neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party likely to win an outright majority in the May 7 vote.
Opinion polls suggest the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has rebounded after leading a failed bid for independence last year, is set to virtually wipe out Labour in Scotland.
That could see it become Britain’s third biggest party by seats. If that does happen, it hopes to hold the balance of power in the event of an inconclusive election result and to have a decisive say over which party forms the next government.
It has already said it would only do a deal with Labour.
Later on Monday, it is expected to say it would try to use any influence it gets to end state spending cuts.
“The sharp point for this election is the fact we have an opportunity to bring austerity to an end, and that will be the top priority for the SNP,” the SNP’s John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, told BBC radio.
The SNP will use its manifesto launch in Edinburgh on Monday to set out an alternative to austerity, proposing real terms public spending increases of 0.5 percent per year, saying it would invest in jobs, economic growth, and public services.
It wants to scrap the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, something it says would free up 3 billion pounds ($4.5 billion) a year to spend on health, education and childcare.
It has repeatedly called on Labour to work with it to block Cameron’s Conservatives from returning to power. Labour leader Ed Miliband has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP, but not a looser vote-by-vote arrangement.
Cameron’s Conservatives have warned a minority Labour government supported by the SNP would be dangerous, saying it would unite a party that wants to bankrupt Britain with one that wants to break it apart.
Conservative posters have portrayed Miliband as being in the pocket of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.
Writing in the Telegraph on Monday, Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson said such a partnership would be chaotic, warning it would be “nuts” to hand the SNP a position of power over the government of a country it sought to break up.
“It would not normally occur to you to interview a convicted jewel thief for the post of custodian of the Tower of London,” he wrote, referring to the home of Britain’s Crown Jewels.
“They want to end Britain … to cause a constitutional upheaval that would gravely weaken this country.”