The SNP Says It's the Only Party That Can Stand Up to the Conservatives

  • SNP plans to resist austerity and seek fresh independence vote
  • Party took 56 of Scotland’s 59 electoral districts in 2015

Scottish nationalists may have failed in their 2014 bid for independence, but that wasn't the end of the story. They've grown in strength and numbers, and now have another chance to push for a split from the United Kingdom. This QuickTake video explores the resilience of the independence movement, how Brexit's boosted its case, and why some say it's is bad thing. (Source: Bloomberg)

The Scottish National Party vowed to oppose further spending cuts by the U.K. government and challenge Prime Minister Theresa May’s aim to leave the European Union’s single market, saying her opposition to another independence referendum was unsustainable.

Presenting the party’s election manifesto, which was postponed after the terrorist attack in Manchester last week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sought to broaden support to include voters who opposed independence in 2014 and people who voted for Brexit last year. She said the SNP was the only party that can stand up to May’s Conservatives in Scotland.

Sturgeon, 46, who runs the semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh, said her lawmakers in the U.K. Parliament will oppose all further welfare cuts, support a rise in the top rate of income tax and no decrease in corporation tax. She didn’t discuss independence until the latter stages of her 30-minute speech on Tuesday, instead joking that it was the Scottish Conservatives who were obsessed with the separation debate.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks on May 30.

Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

“Only the SNP can provide the strong opposition that Scotland needs to protect our schools, hospitals and vital public services from deeper Tory cuts and further damaging austerity,” Sturgeon said in the central Scottish city of Perth. “There is just too much at stake for Brexit simply to be imposed on Scotland, no matter how damaging it turns out to be. Our future must be decided by us, not for us.”

The nationalists took 56 out of Scotland’s 59 electoral districts in 2015 and the Tories are aiming to win some of them on June 8 after the Labour Party’s widespread loss of support in what used to be one of its heartlands. The SNP is seeking to build on its narrative that Scotland has a different political dynamic to the rest of the U.K. when it comes to welfare, care for the elderly, tax policy and, most crucially for the future of the union with England and Wales, its relationship with the rest of Europe.

Europe’s Shadow

All of Scotland’s districts voted to retain EU membership, but with the U.K. as a whole opting for Brexit, Sturgeon has been pushing for another independence vote after the negotiations are completed. May has rejected the proposal for now. With Labour also opposing another plebiscite, the SNP says it’s the last real bulwark of resistance to an "extreme Brexit" that would damage Scotland’s key industries from energy to universities.

“At the end of the Brexit process, not now, but when the terms of the deal are known, Scotland must have a choice,” she said.

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In the Conservative package of election proposals, May reinforced her vision of Brexit, promising British voters she would deliver a clean break from the EU and reiterating her warning that no deal is better than a bad one.

Polls in Scotland show the SNP will win big in Scotland, though it will be hard to replicate the scale of its victory last time around. In the U.K. as a whole, surveys over the past week have shown the Conservatives leading Labour by between five and 14 percentage points.

In her speech, Sturgeon also presented policies that weren’t just aimed at Scotland, where the SNP has run the administration in Edinburgh for the past decade. In a pointed remark about the National Health Service, she said her lawmakers would support raising per-capita spending in England by 7 percent to the level in Scotland.

“We already have a pledge to increase the NHS budget by the end of this Scottish Parliament,” she said. “But our alternative plan for the public finances would allow a further increase in front-line health spending across the U.K.”

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