SNP Launches Election Manifesto

Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP election manifesto with a pledge that her party would not only fight to "make Scotland stronger'' but would also use its influence to bring about "real and positive change'' for ordinary people across the UK.

The Scottish First Minister said her party's representatives at Westminster would seek to "make common cause and build alliances with others of like mind'' in an attempt to end austerity and herald a real change in politics.

Support for the SNP has been on the up, despite the vote against independence last year, with polls suggesting there could be a record number of Scottish nationalists at Westminster.

With the election apparently on track for another hung parliament, that could see Ms Sturgeon and her party holding the balance of power across the UK.

Today, as she unveiled the SNP's manifesto at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, she told voters north of the border that backing her party on May 7 would make Scotland's "voice heard more loudly than it has ever been heard before at Westminster''.

But she also had a message for voters in the rest of the UK, seeking to reassure them about the impact a large group of nationalist MPs could have.

The SNP leader said: "I also want to make a pledge today to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Even though you can't vote SNP, your views do matter to me. And you have a right to know what to expect of my party if the votes of the Scottish people give us influence in a hung parliament.

"So my promise to you is this: If the SNP emerges from this election in a position of influence, we will exercise that influence responsibly and constructively.

"And we will exercise it in the interests of people, not just in Scotland, but across the UK.''

Ms Sturgeon continued: "For as long as Scotland remains part of the Westminster system, we have a shared interest with you in making that system work better for all of us - for the many, not the few.

"We will not do any deals that would put the Tories into power - indeed, if there is an anti-Tory majority after May , we will vote to stop a new Tory government even getting off the ground.

"But we will then seek to use our influence to make a Labour government bolder and better.

"We will seek to make common cause and build alliances with others of like mind across the UK to deliver the progressive change that so many want to see.''

She added: "To everyone who, like me, wants this election to herald the real and positive change that will make life better for ordinary people across these islands, I hold out a hand of friendship.''

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