Hosie Rules Out Tory Support

Deputy SNP leader Stewart Hosie has insisted his party does not want a Tory government - and he could see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister.

His comments came in the wake of a leaked memo suggesting Nicola Sturgeon would prefer the Conservatives to remain in charge at Westminster.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael confirmed the memo, containing an account of a private meeting between the First Minister and the French ambassador, was written in the Scotland Office.

Mr Carmichael denied the leak was embarrassing for the Government department, stating "this is the middle of an election campaign, these things happen".

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has ordered an inquiry into how the note got into the public domain.

The First Minister described the allegation as "100% untrue", while French officials said Ms Sturgeon did not express a preference for Prime Minister.

Mr Hosie said: "We are an anti-Tory party, we are an anti-austerity party. We have offered Ed Miliband a deal.

"We would not prefer to see a Tory government. The damage Tory governments do to ordinary people is so bad."

Asked about the argument that a Tory government for another five years would boost support for a second referendum, he replied: "The arguments for and against independence stand on their own merits.

"This is definitely not a re-run of the referendum. This is about holding Westminster to account."

He was asked a number of times whether he thought Mr Miliband was prime minister material. Mr Hosie first responded: "He is leader of the Labour party and therefore he potentially could be Prime Minister.''

He later added: "Of course one could see him as Prime Minister. He is leader of the Labour party and therefore quite conceivably could be.

"Of course I could see him as prime minister."

He refused to speculate on whether another Labour MP would be better as leader, saying that was a matter entirely for the Labour party.

But he said he hoped there would be a large number of SNP MPs in the Commons after the election to keep Labour "honest" and ensure it does not continue with the Tory cuts.

Asked what form an SNP-Labour deal could take, he said a coalition was the "least likely option" that had "effectively" been ruled out.

It would either be a confidence and supply arrangement or on a vote by vote basis, he added.

Mr Carmichael confirmed the memo was written in the Scotland Office during a tv interview.

Asked if the "buck stops with him when it comes to the Scotland Office", he said: "Of course - as Secretary of State for Scotland I am responsible for the Scotland Office, but you know you seem to be making some fairly substantial presumptions about the role of the Scotland Office in this.

"That's why we're having a proper inquiry conducted by the Cabinet Office."

Asked if the incident was embarrassing for him and for the Scotland Office, he replied: "No, look this is the middle of an election campaign, these things happen.

"I understand that the memo in question did actually come from the Scotland Office, but these things are circulated within government."

The memo was written by a British civil servant following a conversation with consul-general Pierre-Alain Coffinier regarding a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and ambassador Sylvie Bermann, who was on her first visit to Scotland in February.

According to a copy published on the Daily Telegraph website, it said: "Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn't want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats... that she'd rather see David Cameron remain as PM."

The note went on to say that Ms Sturgeon had said she did not think Mr Miliband was "prime minister material".

Ms Sturgeon has said the incident suggests "a Whitehall system out of control - a place where political dirty tricks are manufactured and leaked".

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