PERTH Scotland (Reuters) - If Scottish nationalists support a possible minority Labour government after the 2015 election, they will demand it ends cuts to state spending and shelves any plans to deploy new nuclear weapons in Scotland, their leader said on Saturday.
Since Scots voted by 55-45 percent to preserve the United Kingdom in a Sept. 18 referendum, support for the Scottish National Party has surged. Polls show the SNP could become Britain’s third largest party in terms of Westminster seats.
“Think about how much more we could win for Scotland from a Westminster Labour government if they had to depend on SNP votes,” Nicola Sturgeon told activists in the Scottish city of Perth, 450 miles (730 km) north of London.
“They’d have to rethink the endless austerity that impoverishes our children,” Sturgeon said. “They’d have to think again about putting a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the River Clyde.”
The next government will have to make a decision on whether to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. Britain’s four Vanguard class nuclear submarines are based at a naval base just outside Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city.
Sturgeon, 44, ruled out any deal to prop up a government containing Conservatives, currently the senior partners in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Just days away from becoming Scotland’s first female leader, Sturgeon contrasted herself to Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister and a Conservative whose legacy remains deeply unpopular in Scotland.
“Where Mrs Thatcher divided society, I want to do the opposite,” Sturgeon said in a speech which was dominated by her plans for leading Scotland’s government, which has had devolved power from London since 1999.
Sturgeon promised to build a fairer society with an extension of free child-care as well as the protection of Scotland’s free healthcare system.
Despite losing the referendum, Sturgeon said a possible vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union had pushed the prize of Scottish independence closer.
“From here the summit is in sight,” Sturgeon said.
“With the UK hurtling head long for the EU exit door, with the Unionist parties watering down their vow of more powers, with deeper austerity cuts and new Trident weapons looming on the horizon, it may be that our opponents bring that day closer than we could ever have imagined.”
Britain’s main party leaders insist they will grant the promised spending and tax raising powers to Scots after the election.
Editing by Guy Faulconbridge