Sturgeon: SNP 'vital' to protect Scotland from dangers of Tory government

Ruth Davidson

GETTYRuth Davidson claimed the SNP had fuelled division in the election campaign

Leader Ruth Davidson said she recognises the "large amount of support" for free prescriptions in Scotland, with a commitment to maintain them now to be included in her party's manifesto for the General Election.

Scotland's First Minister made it clear that the general election would be the main focus for her party (SNP) and that she hopes it will give Scotland a "stronger voice" in formulating Brexit terms, and eventually, demanding another independence referendum.

But Sturgeon said it may have to be a "phased approach" and Scotland could initially join the European Free Trade Association along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

She said: "Labour's manifesto leak simply serves to highlight how Scotland is leading the United Kingdom - numerous policies which they believe would benefit people in England were introduced by the SNP in Scotland long ago".

"Now it may be that we have a phased approach", she added, confirming that Scotland may have to consider EFTA membership first "by necessity".

"I think people understand that if you want to make sure Scotland's voice is heard on Brexit and you want to have a real choice over the future of Scotland and the future of Scotland in the European Union then the only way to vote, is to vote SNP", she said.

"We have to set that out at the time because there are still some uncertainties, many uncertainties, around the Brexit process".

Independence is a major plank of Ms Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) campaign for the June 8 election, and anything that reinforces Scottish resentment over perceived English arrogance could play into the SNP's hands.

"Strengthening Scotland's hand in Brexit negotiations by giving the SNP a clear democratic mandate to demand a place for Scotland at the top table - with our continuing place in the single market a fundamental pillar of the UK's negotiating remit".

The SNP held 54 of Scotland's constituencies at the end of the last parliament, but Sturgeon is calling for Scots to strengthen her position.

And they claimed it destroyed the SNP's reason for demanding a second independence referendum - to keep Scotland in the EU.

She has also delayed setting out how she will press on with preparing for that referendum until after the election.

But she suggested key questions affecting a future independent Scotland such as European Union membership and currency would not be dealt with in the SNP's general election manifesto.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told the BBC News Channel: "I know they (the SNP) are screaming and shouting just now and delighting in the result, but the reality is the SNP took every single seat in that city in 2015, every single seat in 2016, they should have walked it". "People in Scotland can see through Nicola Sturgeon's contortions on Europe, which is why a majority don't want another divisive referendum".

The survey also found less than half of young teenagers could write well or very well and only 40% did well or very well in numeracy.

She described nationalism as "a state of mind which, by definition, can not tolerate plurality".

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