Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Plaid Cymru in Pact with the SNP

From The Times
March 31, 2010
SNP and Plaid Cymru set out their plans for hung Parliament

Ieuan Wyn Jones, right, with Alex Salmond. The Plaid leader said a strong "Celtic bloc" of MPs "will give us a once in a generation opportunity to secure the best possible deal"
Lorraine Davidson

Alex Salmond will demand complete control of Scotland’s finances in return for supporting the UK government in the event of a hung parliament.

The SNP leader yesterday set out his demands for dealing with the next Westminster government if the main parties fail to secure a majority.

In agreement with the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru the Scottish nationalists formally ruled out joining a Westminster coalition.

Mr Salmond said his party would not agree to prop up either a Conservative or Labour UK government if the election produced no overall winner and would only support the administration on a case by case basis.

He claimed that a hung parliament would be “the best possible outcome” for Scotland and would give the nationalists an opportunity to press for a package of demands.

Complete control of all the money raised and spent north of the Border including North Sea oil and gas revenues would be at the top of the SNP’s list of demands in return for support on any UK government measures.

In addition to fiscal autonomy, the SNP say they would press for the protection of front line services, environmental measures and support for business growth.

Mr Salmond said: “While Westminster parties regard the prospect of a hung Parliament as a difficulty, it presents a substantial opportunity for the nations of Scotland and Wales.”

Recent opinion polls have suggested the election, expected on May 6, could leave no party with the absolute majority of seats required to form the next government.

That would result in talks between the mainstream and smaller parties, in an attempt to find agreements to underpin a new administration.

The SNP and Plaid yesterday signed an agreement to join forces in any talks in an effort to secure action on their four priority areas in return for their support on other measures.

Plaid’s main demand is for a more generous funding agreement for Wales.

The Plaid leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said a strong “Celtic bloc” of MPs “will give us a once in a generation opportunity to secure the best possible deal” for the people of the two nations.

Both parties have close experience of such negotiations. Mr Salmond’s SNP government is a minority administration which relies on the votes of other parties to get its legislation through Holyrood while Plaid Cymru is in coalition with Labour in the Welsh Assembly.

Mr Salmond reiterated his refusal to join a formal coalition with Labour or the Tories, “We will not form a coalition with either Tweedledum or Tweedledee.

“That would be entirely wrong and hugely difficult,” he said — given their commitments to make deep public spending cuts in future years.”

The SNP and Plaid plan to hold a series of press conferences in Scotland, London and Wales during the election campaign during which they will give further details of their demands.

The SNP leader also held talks with the Chancellor Alistair Darling in London yesterday.

Mr Salmond demanded a £350 million cash injection to help Scotland deal with the effects of the recession.

He also insisted that the current Scottish budget which was passed earlier this year was not subjected to further cuts.