- Sturgeon vows to `fulfill our great national potential'
- SNP leads polls by more than 20 points before May election
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon kick-started the campaign for a third straight term in government for her nationalists, vowing to invest more in the economy, increase spending on social security and keep pressing for independence.
The Scottish National Party leader pointed to a nine-year track record in power, during which time the government implemented policies such as abolishing prescription charges and maintaining free higher education. She said she would use the powers devolved by the U.K. Parliament, including new taxation levers, while continuing to build a case for full independence following 2014’s referendum defeat by 55 percent to 45 percent.
“We will lead the debate and make the case positively and powerfully,” Sturgeon, 45, told the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Tuesday. “Over the next few years, we will build majority support for our position.”
The nationalists are trying to build on support that snowballed after the vote on independence and all but wiped out the Labour Party in the country in last May’s U.K. election. With the SNP the third-largest group in the House of Commons, the question has been when, rather than if, Scotland will seek another referendum on breaking away from England, especially should the U.K. vote to leave the European Union this year.
Scottish parliamentary elections are due on May 5, with Sturgeon fronting her party after taking over from Alex Salmond in November 2014.
The SNP led the opposition Labour Party by 34 percent to 13 percent in a TNS poll published last month. Of the 1,035 respondents, 27 percent were still undecided. Among those who had made up their mind, the SNP led Labour by more than 30 percentage points, a wider margin than before the election in 2011 that swept the nationalists to power with an unprecedented majority.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told Parliament that the SNP was simply promising more of the same failures.
“They stand for independence and we know that and respect that, but in Scotland who do they stand with? Who do they stand up for?” Dugdale said in a her speech. “They choose the easy politics of grievance over the hard politics of radical change.”