New SNP MPs Head For Westminster

The SNP's 56 new MPs are going to Westminster today for the first time since the party's sweeping gains in the General Election.

Angus Robertson, who is expected to be reappointed as Westminster group leader unchallenged, said the MPs "will be the strongest voice possible for Scotland''.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Robertson said the SNP  - which gained 50 new MPs in the election - could now expect to enjoy far greater influence in the UK Parliament, despite a Conservative majority.

He said: "It's hugely exciting because, of course, what the SNP is now at Westminster is the third party and that really matters at Westminster.

"It means that we will be able to stand up for Scotland with much greater regularity, both in terms of Prime Minister's Questions and in every debate, every statement.

"The SNP will be represented in pretty much every single committee that matters, and whilst of course it is hugely depressing that we now have a majority Conservative Government in the House of Commons, we will have a much stronger platform in the House of Commons than the SNP has ever had.''

Challenged on whether the party can make a difference with a majority government in place, Mr Robertson said there are "issues that they (the Conservatives) may not be able to maintain a majority''.

Referring to issues such as the proposed EU referendum, austerity and Trident, he said there were "all kinds of uncertainties for the Government, and opportunities for the SNP to play a role arithmetically''.

The group of 56 are due to be greeted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outside the House of Commons later today.

Ms Sturgeon has already issued calls for more powers for Holyrood in the wake of the SNP's election success.

She wants business taxation and control over welfare to be devolved as "priorities'', and will meet the Prime Minister in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.

Some Tory politicians are urging David Cameron to offer the SNP full fiscal autonomy.

The policy, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said would leave a multibillion-pound shortfall in Scotland's finances, was contained in the SNP's election manifesto.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, who served as Scottish secretary in John Major's government, said a White Paper on full fiscal autonomy was needed.

He insisted the big advantage of an increase in powers would prevent Ms Sturgeon producing ''fantasy manifestos'' without raising the cash to pay for it, and could quell enthusiasm for independence if the potential cost to public services is demonstrated.


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