Nicola Sturgeon: Tory hard-liners aim to take over country with election

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Tory "hard-liners" want to "take over the country" by winning more power in the general election, according to Scotland's First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon will tell trade union members that the Conservative Party's vision for the country "should be ringing alarm bells" across Scotland, casting the June ballot as a two-party battle north of the border.

Ms Sturgeon is due to address the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Aviemore on Monday.

The speech comes less than a week on from the announcement that an election will be held on June 8.

"We are at the start of an election campaign where competing visions will be put before the people and one of those visions, the Tory vision, should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear across Scotland," Ms Sturgeon is expected to say.

"The hard-liners have taken over the Tory Party. And now the Tory hard-liners want to take over the country.

"Scotland knows there has always been a cost to voting Conservative, but the price of voting Tory at this election has never been higher.

"And it will be those least able to pay that price who will bear the biggest burden.

"The Tories will impose a double hit on Scottish families and communities: A poorer country. And a more unfair, unequal society."

The SNP leader is seeking to hold on to 56 Westminster seats it won in 2015 while targeting the remaining three occupied by the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

A majority win in Scotland would "reinforce" the mandate for a second referendum on independence, Ms Sturgeon has previously said.

She is seeking another vote in the wake of Brexit after the majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU.

The Scottish Conservatives are focusing their campaign on opposing another independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon will say: "Our relationship with the European Union is of central importance to the kind of country we will be - but the hard-line Tory plans for post-Brexit Britain are about far more than EU relations.

"They see Brexit as a means to an end and that end is a low tax, low wage, low regulation UK.

"We already know Brexit will hit wages and jobs. The UK Treasury itself said Brexit will leave the UK "permanently poorer".

"But now the Tories are threatening to walk away from Europe entirely and in their words 'change our economic model.'

"With a large majority of hard-line Tories, our social security system that so many depend upon will never have been in greater danger."

Murdo Fraser, Tory finance spokesman, said: "This biggest threat to prosperity in Scotland is not from a Conservative government, but from Nicola Sturgeon's obsession with cutting us off from our biggest market, the rest of the UK.

"Just yesterday, we heard from the respected Fraser of Allander Institute that more than 500,000 jobs depend on barrier-free trade with other parts of Britain.

"An independent Scotland would also face a gaping deficit that would have to be addressed through a combination of higher taxes, spending cuts and increased borrowing.

"The choice at this election is very clear, and it is only the Scottish Conservatives that can be trusted to preserve the Union."

Scottish Labour's James Kelly said: "Nicola Sturgeon is attempting to pull the wool over voters' eyes.

"Her only priority on June 8 is finding an excuse for another divisive referendum, not kicking the Tories out of office."