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SNP pledges fresh independence talks if it gains majority of Scottish seats

SNP pledges fresh independence talks if it gains majority of Scottish seats

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John Swinney has pledged to open negotiations for a fresh independence referendum if the Scottish National party wins a majority of seats north of the border in next month’s general election.

“This election gives people the chance to intensify the pressure to secure independence,” the first minister of Scotland said at the SNP election manifesto launch in Edinburgh on Wednesday. “The obstacle to a democratic referendum is the intransigence of the UK government.”

He dodged questions about whether a failure to win more Scottish seats than a resurgent Labour would mute calls for a second referendum, however.

The country voted against independence in a 2014 referendum — with 55 per cent against and 45 per cent for — but about half of the Scottish population is now thought to be in favour.

The SNP is seeking to shore up support in the populous central belt where Labour is eyeing dozens of seats to act as a bulwark in a parliamentary majority at Westminster.

Swinney focused on the threat to public services from Labour, accusing it of signing up to austerity by accepting the Conservative party’s fiscal rules. “That’s a terrible conclusion for the Labour party to arrive at,” he said.

The SNP called for an additional £16bn in funding for the NHS — generating an extra £1.6bn for Scotland a year — in what Swinney described as the “only leftwing” manifesto of the campaign.

“We are the only party arguing for an end to spending cuts,” he said. “Arbitrary fiscal rules baked in £18bn of cuts — the SNP manifesto argues for new, sensible fiscal rules, an end to cuts and investment in public services, starting with the health service.”

He also criticised Labour for refusing to commit to ending the two-child cap on benefits. “It’s beyond me that the Labour party isn’t prepared to take the necessary steps on the two-child limit,” he said. “We are not going to resign ourselves to more kids being in poverty.”

Swinney said he hoped for more collaborative progress “to make things happen” with any new administration in Westminster, adding that relations had deteriorated since Brexit and the premiership of former prime minister Boris Johnson.

“Since 2019, the relationship has been characterised by total and utter disrespect from the UK government,” he said.

The SNP manifesto called on the UK government to invest $28bn a year in the green economy — adopting the same level of investment previously pledged and then dropped by Labour.

Labour has instead proposed an $8bn, public-owned renewable energy companyGB Energy, to be based in Scotland as a primary offer to Scottish voters.

Kate Forbes, deputy first minister, also pledged to work with any incoming administration but called for clarity on how Scotland would benefit from the development of its natural resources by GB Energy.

“It still seems like an offer that isn’t particularly fleshed out,” she said after the manifesto launch. “That’s the challenge for us: big promises during an election but what does it actually mean for Scotland? I reserve the right to be sceptical.”

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