General election 2019: Sturgeon says Scotland’s future at stake

Media captionNicola Sturgeon: SNP ‘will protect the NHS’

Nicola Sturgeon has said a vote for the SNP will be a vote to put Scotland’s future “firmly in Scotland’s hands”.

Speaking as she launched her party’s election campaign, Ms Sturgeon said the vote on 12 December would be the “most important in our lifetime”.

And she said the outcome would determine the future of the country for “generations to come”.

Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence next year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a visit to Scotland on Thursday that he would fight to “keep our fantastic United Kingdom together and prevent another referendum next year”.

The Liberal Democrats are also firmly opposed to another independence referendum – while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said indyref2 is neither “desirable or necessary” and has indicated he would not support one in the “formative years” of a Labour government.

Ms Sturgeon told the campaign launch event in Edinburgh that Scotland had been on a “journey” in the two decades since the creation of the devolved Scottish Parliament.

But she claimed that “many of the gains of the last 20 years and the promise of a better future” were now under threat from what she described as “hardline Brexit ultras” within the Conservative Party.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU has been ignored.

“The Conservative Party has ridden roughshod over the Scottish Parliament. For the first time ever the UK government has chosen to legislate on devolved matters without the consent of Holyrood.

“With so-called ‘moderate’ Conservatives in full retreat and the hard-line Brexit ultras on the march, that is surely only a taste of what is to come.”

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The prime minister insists that the NHS is not in any way “up for sale”

Ms Sturgeon said a vote for the SNP was therefore a vote to “escape Brexit” and to “take Scotland’s future out of the hands of Boris Johnson and a broken Westminster system”.

She added: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to put Scotland’s future firmly in Scotland’s hands.”

The first minister said her party would drive a “hard bargain” with other parties seeking SNP support in the event of a hung parliament – but ruled out doing any deal with the Conservatives.

And she repeated her insistence that other parties “need not bother picking up the phone” to her unless they are willing to support an independence referendum being held next year.

She also said other issues such as austerity, devolution and climate change would be important.

And she said the SNP already had a “a cast iron mandate” for another independence referendum” and warned the prime minister that he has “no right to block the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland”.

Ms Sturgeon also unveiled plans for the SNP to launch a bill at Westminster aimed at protecting the NHS across the UK from privatisation and future trade deals.

The NHS Protection Bill would block any UK government from using the NHS as a “bargaining chip” in trade talks.

If passed it would also give devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a veto on any deal, she said.

Ms Sturgeon claims that despite health policy being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the UK government could still “sell off” the NHS in trade negotiations.

She said the NHS should not be for sale “at any price”, and challenged the other parties at Westminster to back the bill to “stop the Tories trading our NHS for trade deals with Donald Trump”.

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Ms Sturgeon addressed a pro-independence rally in Glasgow at the weekend

Other opposition parties have also expressed concern about the possibility of the NHS being opened up to American healthcare companies in a trade deal, after Mr Trump said “everything was on the table” during a joint press conference with then prime minister Theresa May.

But the UK government has insisted the NHS is “not on the table” for trade talks and is not in any way “up for sale”.

Labour has claimed a Conservative trade deal with the US after Brexit could cost the NHS £500m a week by driving up the price of medicines.

But the prime minister has pledged to bring forward the “biggest programme of NHS investment in a generation” if the Conservatives win the election.

In a visit to Scotland on Thursday, Mr Johnson also hit out at Ms Sturgeon’s goal of holding a new independence vote in 2020, saying the Tories would “prevent another referendum”.

He added: “We are the party that is saying come on, let’s get together as a whole UK, let’s get Brexit done, get this thing over the line and then get on with bringing our great country together and unleashing the potential of the whole UK.”

Meanwhile Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson is also taking her campaign in Scotland on Friday with a visit to Fife.

She has promoted her party as “the home of Remain” and also backers of the UK, saying: “The four nations of the United Kingdom are stronger when they work together, so we should work together to stop Brexit.”

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