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SNP election campaign pledges NHS protection and new independence vote

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The SNP's 2019 campaign was launched in Edinburgh, Scotland
The SNP's 2019 campaign was launched in Edinburgh, Scotland -
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The Scottish National Party officially launched its UK election campaign on Friday, with the NHS and independence at the centre of its message.

The party, which has controlled Scotland’s devolved government since 2007, promised to bring forward legislation to protect public health services from being used as a "bargaining chip" in post-Brexit trade talks.

Leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland's vote to remain in the EU "has been ignored" and that a vote for the SNP "is a vote to escape Brexit."

If elected, SNP MPs would seek a "progressive alliance" to "block" another Conservative government led by Boris Johnson, she said.

The party currently holds 35 of Scotland's 59 seats in the House of Commons, and hopes to capitalise on discontent about Brexit in Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in Britain's 2016 Brexit referendum.

The prospect of an enforced Brexit appears to have boosted support for independence, which Scottish voters rejected in a 2014 referendum. The SNP wants to hold a new independence referendum next year, after Brexit.

Sturgeon said that, despite health policy being devolved to the Scottish government, a government led by Johnson could "sell off" parts of the NHS in trade negotiations.

The issue was raised in 2018 when US President Donald Trump said "everything was on the table" during a press conference with then prime minister Theresa May. The UK government has since denied parts of the NHS would be up for sale in trade talks, but public healthcare is a sensitive issue for voters across Britain’s political spectrum.

Sturgeon also took a swipe at Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, suggesting his party’s pro-UK stance did not sit with its left-wing outlook.

"Jeremy Corbyn is someone who supports self-determination for literally every other country in the world,” she joked. “It would be mighty strange if he didn't support it for Scotland."

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