Ed Miliband will attempt to shore up Labour’s crumbling vote in Scotland with a speech north of the border on Monday -- the same day the SNP is launching its general election manifesto. On Sunday, Miliband promised to "end Tory austerity" as the Opposition fights Conservative charges a minority Labour administration reliant on the support of nationalist MPs would be "calamitous" for the rest of the UK.
Opinion polls suggest the SNP could win as many as 56 of Scotland's 59 seats at the election and leader Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to use that influence to "change the direction" of a Labour administration in the event of a hung parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron -- who will later promise to protect the rest of the UK from any knock-on effects of devolving extra powers to the Scottish government -- warned on Sunday that such a deal could see investment diverted from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The SNP General Election manifesto is expected to contain proposals for real-terms spending increases of 0.5% a year and will commit SNP MPs to participate in votes on major issues south of the border which impact on devolved areas in Scotland such as the NHS.
Sturgeon insisted the party would not be a disruptive force in the House of Commons, stating that SNP MPs can build alliances with anti-Tory MPs in Westminster on many issues, such as boosting spending for the NHS in the rest of the UK. ''Over the past five years, we have protected Scottish NHS spending from Westminster austerity. A strong team of SNP MPs in a hung parliament at Westminster can go further, proposing increases in health spending across the UK," she said ahead of the launch.
Deputy leader Stewart Hosie said on Sunday the party could also vote against Commons spending measures such as for the Trident nuclear deterrent which it opposes -- sparking Tory claims the entire defence budget could be scuppered and troops left unpaid.
Miliband, who is addressing the Scottish TUC, has ruled out a formal coalition with the nationalists, said: "Nicola Sturgeon is asking people to gamble on getting rid of a Tory government -- the only way to guarantee getting rid of a Tory government is to vote Labour."
Campaigning in the north west of England, Cameron will raise fresh concerns over the impact of SNP policies on the rest of the United Kingdom, pledging an annual review and Commons statement to make sure England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not "lose out" due to decisions taken in Scotland.