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Sturgeon defiant, but halts campaign

SNP manifesto launch delayed after terror attack

Sturgeon defiant
Sturgeon: Defying opposition demands

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon today suspended campaigning and the launch of the party’s manifesto following the suspected terror attack on Manchester.

Ms Sturgeon was expected to defy those claiming she is ignoring other issues because of her “obsession” with independence.

She was  expected to attack the Tories’ Brexit plans and austerity and resist calls to drop her demand for a second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon believes that a vote for the SNP on 8 June will send a message to Westminster that Scotland has the right to determine how it should be governed.

Ms Sturgeon has faced sustained demands from opposition parties to abandon her calls for another poll on independence.

She was expected to use today’s launch of the party’s election manifesto to ram home the message that Scotland must have the right to choose its own future.

Concerns were raised by the audience in Monday’s televised leaders’ debate that she is not focused on the health and education agendas.

Nurse Claire Austin: needs food banks

One notable contribution came from a nurse, Claire Austin from NHS Lothian, who said she could not manage on her salary and had to visit food banks.

She challenged Ms Sturgeon to say where the “millions” invested in the NHS was going. “Nurses are seeing none of it,” she said.

Ms Austin asked Ms Sturgeon at least four times how many years the 1% pay cap has existed.

Eventually the First Minister answered: “Too many, I accept that. We have had it since about 2008.”

The nurse challenged Ms Sturgeon “to come in and see what we are up against”.

Ms Sturgeon said she was supportive of the public sector but said the government’s hand was being forced by Westminster’s squeeze on spending.

SNP parliamentary candidate Johanna Cherry claimed Ms Austin was married to a Tory councillor but was forced to retract her statement when she found that Ms Austin is in fact single.

Sturgeon pondering
Sturgeon: facing criticism over nurses pay

Yesterday the Labour leader Kezia Dugdale urged Nicola Sturgeon to respond to her party running a “smear campaign” and muck-raking.

Before the overnight events in Manchester Ms Sturgeon had intended to use today’s launch of her manifesto to put the incident behind her and move the agenda back on to independence and the Tories’ policies on Brexit and austerity.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP “will step up its opposition to Theresa May’s hard Brexit plans and urge voters to send a strong block of MPs to Westminster represent Scotland’s interests.”

Ms Sturgeon argues that the SNP has stood up to the Conservative government on a range of issues including changes to women’s pensions and cuts to services.

“With the prospect of a re-elected and increasingly hard-line Tory government at Westminster, it is more vital than ever that Scotland’s voice is heard,” she said.

“In the last few years, the strong block of SNP MPs has shaken up the Westminster establishment and provided the only effective opposition to the Tory government.

“On issues as diverse as tax credit cuts and the appalling rape clause, cuts to women’s pensions and Tory austerity, the SNP have led the way in standing up for a fairer society. 

“A vote for the SNP in this election will strengthen Scotland’s hand against further Tory cuts and ensure that progressive polices, like those pursued by the SNP government in Scotland, are firmly on the agenda at Westminster. “

At the heart of the SNP’s plans is a fiscal plan aiming to end austerity and free up resources to invest in public services, protect family budgets and call a halt to cuts in social security support for working families and the disabled.

“A vote for the SNP will also strengthen Scotland’s hand against an extreme Brexit that will put tens of thousands of Scottish jobs at risk,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“Labour can’t win this election in Scotland and a vote for them will risk letting Tory MPs in the back door – while the Lib Dems, with their history of propping up the Tories, simply cannot be trusted.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland and preventing the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster.”

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