The Scottish National Party (SNP) have launched their manifesto for the general election, urging voters to reject the “cuts agenda” of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
The SNP Leader, Alex Salmond, who is First Minister of Scotland, said that a balanced parliament (also known as a hung parliament) would be the best outcome of the election, as both Labour and Conservative majority governments had failed the Scottish people.
The SNP focused on its commitment to scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system and using the money saved for spending in such areas as healthcare and free personal care for older people.
“It should be Trident nuclear submarines that are cut, not local hospitals [or] local schools,” said the SNP's John Mason, who won Glasgow East from Labour in a 2008 by-election and aims to be re-elected this year.
He said that “many people have lost faith in politics, in politicians and in the discredited Westminster system”, but that the SNP offers voters a real alternative.
The party focused heavily on the concept of its MPs as “local champions”, who would promote their constituents' needs and interests at Westminster, while committing to regular surgeries and consultations to keep them in touch with local people.
Salmond also spoke of his party's commitment to environmental policies and green jobs creation, suggesting that Scotland could become the “green energy powerhouse of the European continent”.
Salmond encouraged people in Wales to vote for Plaid Cymru, but said that he would “not presume” to try to influence voters in England.
Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru have said that they would not join a coalition government in a balanced parliament, but they would negotiate over support for particular policies to secure the best for the Scottish and Welsh people.
The two parties are currently appealing against the BBC's decision to exclude them from the UK-wide televised Leaders' Debates. Salmond said today that had the party been allowed to participate in last week's debate – which triggered a steep rise in support for the Liberal Democrats – then the SNP would be “winning by now” in Scotland.
The SNP is contesting every constituency in Scotland at the general election, and is aiming to take at least twenty seats, which would be their record. Since 2007, the SNP has been the largest party in the devolved Scottish Parliament and has formed a minority government in Scotland.