Ed Miliband has categorically ruled out forming a coalition government with the Scottish National Party after the general election.
The Labour leader has been under pressure to be clear about what, if any, deal he would do with Nicola Sturgeon in the event of another hung parliament. "Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead," he said today.
Miliband's statement leaves the door open to a looser arrangement, that would see the SNP supporting a minority Labour government. And a formal coalition modelled on the current Tory-Lib Dem deal was always unlikely - as the SNP has frequently said.
Earlier on Monday morning, Sturgeon told an audience in central-London that a coalition with Labour was "highly unlikely". The Scottish first minister has always maintained she would prefer to do a deal on a "case-by-case" basis.
Miliband rules out a formal coalition no one was proposing! Fact remains if more anti Tory than Tory MPs in HoC, we can lock Tories out.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 16, 2015
Also today, SNP Angus MacNeil repeated that a coalition was "not needed" for Miliband to become prime minister. "Replacing SNP MPs for Lab MPs does not affect PM arithmetic," he tweeted. "No SNP MPs had any plans to be in any government of Ed's or anyone else."
The mechanics of a Labour-SNP deal have come under the microscope in recent weeks after a series of polls suggested the nationalists were on course to win almost all of the seats in Scotland - most of which are currently held by Labour.
Speaking at the LSE today, Sturgeon saud Labour should relish the chance to "lock the Tories out of government" through a deal with the SNP in the event of a hung parliament. "I can't see for the life of me why Labour wouldn't want to contemplate the possibility of working with the SNP to keep the Tories out of office," she said.
"As long as there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs, we can lock the Tories out of government, there is no question about that. So I won't rule out those other working relationships. In fact, I think they may have many things to commend them."
However she ruled out any pre-election talks over the detailed terms of any deal. "What happens after the election will be dictated first and foremost by how people vote in the election and all of us have got to be mindful of not taking people for granted," she said.