Election 2017: SNP MP urges Scottish Greens not to 'split' pro-Yes vote

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Image caption,
The Scottish Greens won six seats in last year's Holyrood election - but have never had an MP

An SNP MP has urged the Scottish Greens not to stand in seats which have been targeted by the Conservatives ahead of the general election.

Tommy Sheppard said the Greens should be "mindful of not splitting the pro-Yes vote and certainly not splitting the anti-Tory vote".

The Scottish Greens will confirm after next week's council election which seats they will stand in.

The party has said it will be for local branches to decide.

But Scottish Green co-convener Maggie Chapman told the National newspaper last week she would be happy to support non-Green candidates if it meant "getting Tories out of Scotland".

Ms Chapman also said that she wanted to ensure that the country had "elected representatives who walk the walk of the politics of the new Scotland we want to see".

And she suggested the Greens were unlikely to stand in the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale seat being defended by the country's only Conservative MP, or in neighbouring Berwickshire Roxburgh and Selkirk where the SNP's Calum Kerr is defending a majority of just 308 over the Conservatives.

The Scottish Greens won six seats in last year's Holyrood election - all through the regional list system - but have never had an MP elected to Westminster, and have never fielded candidates in every constituency.

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Tommy Sheppard will defend his Edinburgh East seat for the SNP in the forthcoming general election

Mr Sheppard told the National that the Greens "will want to stand some candidates as they are a national party and will want to put their case to their base".

But the Edinburgh East MP added: "In deciding which seats to contest and not to contest I think they should be mindful of not splitting the pro-Yes vote and certainly not splitting the anti-Tory vote."

He also said he did not believe the Scottish Greens should stand in Edinburgh South, which is currently held by Scottish Labour's only MP, Ian Murray.

Mr Sheppard said he believed the seat was a three-way contest between Labour, the SNP and Conservatives, and that "in those circumstances I don't think the Greens should be targeting that sort of seat".

'Right to choose'

Responding to the SNP MP's comments, a spokesman for the Scottish Greens told BBC Scotland the party was currently focused on next week's council elections, where it will be fielding more than 200 candidates.

He added: "Decisions about which constituencies to contest on 8 June are for local branches of our party to make, and they will make those decisions after the council elections, not before.

"In the constituencies we do contest, we will give people the option of voting for a Green MP who will resist the Tories' disastrous plans for a hard Brexit, who will speak up for Scotland's right to choose its future and will fight for the environmental and social protections other parties pay lip service to."

The results of recent opinion polls have left the Conservatives hopeful of winning several seats from the SNP, which won 56 of the country's 59 constituencies in 2015.

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Image caption,
Kezia Dugdale is to attack the Conservatives and SNP in a speech to the STUC

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is to use a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Aviemore to attack both the SNP and the Conservatives.

Ms Dugdale will say that the UK government's handling of Brexit had shown "the risks they're willing to take with our country's economy".

She will add: "Threatening to walk away from the EU without a deal is no better than Nicola Sturgeon's threat to walk away from the UK with independence.

"Both would lead to job losses and even more austerity than we're already facing.

"And the UK government's refusal to take EU nationals off the table as bargaining chips is just another example of its lack of compassion."

Rape clause

Ms Dugdale will also mount a fierce attack on the Conservatives over the so-called "rape clause" - which means tax credits are limited to two children with an exemption for women who have conceived as a result of rape.

She will brand the UK government's stance on the issue as "another example of its lack of compassion".

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to spell out her "next steps" on independence before people vote in the general election.

Ms Sturgeon had originally said she would do so after the Easter recess - but that timetable seems likely to be delayed because of the snap election.

The first minister, who is also the SNP leader, insisted earlier this week that the election was not about deciding whether Scotland should be independent or not.

Ms Davidson said: "The first minister could not have been clearer last month - she told the people of Scotland she would set out her next steps on her unwanted referendum plan after Easter and keep us all informed.

"Yet now that a general election has been called she has gone back on her word.

"The reason is obvious: as always with the SNP they desperately try to play down independence in an election campaign because they know it's unpopular."

But Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron claimed businesses will be "funding their own funeral" if they continue to donate to a Conservative Party that backs a "disastrous hard Brexit".

Mr Farron urged firms to "dump the Tories", and pitched the Liberal Democrats as the "new party of business" because it is committed to keeping the UK in the single market.