THERESA May will win the general election in June and voters opposed to her should focus on curbing the size of the Conservatives’ majority, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
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The comments, made during First Minister’s Questions, represent a flip-flop on Ms Sturgeon’s previous position just 24 hours earlier, when she suggested Labour might scrape into power.
Standing alongside her MPs at Westminster, she said: “If the parliamentary arithmetic lent itself to the SNP being part of a progressive alliance to keep the Tories out of Government, then the SNP would seek to be part of that.”
Mr Corbyn ruled out any kind of coalition with the SNP later the same day.
Denied one of her key arguments in the 2015 election - that the SNP might be part of a Labour-led Westminster government - Ms Sturgeon shifted gear, and repeatedly attacked Labour as “unelectable” and no kind of defence against a rampant Tory party.
Earlier, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had mocked Ms Sturgeon’s support for Labour.
She said: “What about the SNP’s plans? The First Minister’s very first intervention in the election has been to say that she would put Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.
“Is that because, uniquely, the First Minister sees in Mr Corbyn the wisdom, the foresight and the leadership skills that are needed in a Prime Minister?
“Or could it possibly be because, in his own words, Jeremy Corbyn is “absolutely fine” with another referendum on independence?
“Is that the alliance that she was really seeking when she was down in London?”
Accusing Ms Davidson of “pretty tired stuff”, the First Minister said it was clear Mr Corbyn would not finish the election anywhere near power.
She also rejected Ms Davidson’s argument that people could vote tactically for the Conservatives in order to register their opposition to a second independence referendum.
She said: “I think that the key issue is: who is going to stand up for Scotland against an increasingly hardline Tory Government?
“People across Scotland have to be clear: there is no safe tactical Tory vote at this election.
“We have seen the damage that Tories do with a small majority.
“The Tories have cut Scotland’s budget, have imposed the bedroom tax, the rape clause and cuts to disabled support and have robbed women of their pension entitlement.
“Let us think about the damage that a Tory Government could do with a bigger majority.
“If the thought of a one-party Tory stranglehold at Westminster horrifies, and if we want effective opposition in Scotland, that opposition can come only from the SNP.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the SNP wanted the Tories in power as they saw it helping to advance independence, and criticised SNP MPs for abstaining on holding a snap election, rather than voting for a chance to elect a new government.
"It suits the SNP for the Tories to stay in power because the only thing the SNP have ever cared about is independence,” she said.
She added: “If Jeremy Corbyn was prime minister, there would be no rape clause, there would be no more housing benefit cuts and there would be no more austerity, and I will proudly campaign for that over the next six weeks as she campaigns for independence."
Ms Sturgeon replied: “The idea that in this election Labour will replace the Tories is, frankly, pie in the sky. The threat at this election is that, due to Labour’s complete unelectability, we face an unfettered, out-of-control Tory Government.
“We know that the Prime Minister wants to silence opposition, so the question for Scotland is this: if people want a strong opposition to the Tories, if they want MPs who will stand up and be a voice for Scotland, then the only party to support at this election is this one, the SNP.”
Ms Sturgeon read back one of Ms Dugdale’s own quotes to her about Mr Corbyn.
“Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable and will leave Labour carping from the sidelines - how do we know that? Because that's what Kezia Dugdale said about Jeremy Corbyn.
"I agree with Kezia Dugdale about how awful and how damaging this Tory government is. That is why it is so utterly shameful and disgraceful that Labour has allowed itself to get into a position where the Tories are 20 points ahead of them.... That is Labour’s failure and it is an utter disgrace."