General Election 2015: SNP could be eyeing a second Scottish independence referendum as early as 2016

Billy Ehrenberg
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The debate was the arena for a showdown between Labour and the SNP

As the tension and torture of last year’s Scottish independence referendum fade away, the resurgent SNP wants to go again – perhaps as early as next year.

In a TV debate between the four Scottish party leaders, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said that although the SNP candidates standing for election in Westminster in May would not be pushing for another referendum, the next elections for the Scottish parliament, due to take place on 5 May 2016, were “another matter”.

This marks a change in tact for the SNP, after former leader Alex Salmond said the referendum last year had settled the issue “for a generation”.

The debate was also the arena for a showdown between Labour and the SNP, with the latter looking likely to take a swathe of seats from the former. This conflict has given the SNP unprecedented power: by taking Labour's seats the SNP could become kingmaker.

During the debate, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy appeared to break from the party line when he claimed Labour might not have to make any cuts at all - despite Labour promising cuts to non-ring-fenced departments every year if the party comes to power.

Responding to a question from Sturgeon in which she asked why Labour had signed up to £30bn of cuts, Murphy replied saying "the Institute of Fiscal Studies have been very clear we do not have to make extra cuts".

Responding to speculation to the contrary, Nicola Sturgeon used the forum to say her party was opposed to the Tories remaining in power following reports that she would prefer David Cameron over Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. She told Labour’s Jim Murphy:

If there is an anti-Tory majority in the House of Commons after the election – even if the Tories are the biggest party – we will work with Labour to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street.

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