London: Britain`s opposition Labour leader on Monday ruled out a formal coalition with Scottish separatists after May`s general election, although the Scots` figurehead said an informal partnership was still possible.
Labour`s hopes of returning to power have been severely dented by a surge in support for the left-wing Scottish National Party, which threatens to wipe out Labour`s majority of 40 out of 59 seats in Scotland -- and thereby possibly thwart their bid for a parliamentary majority of 326 seats.
Prime Minister David Cameron -- whose own centre-right Tories also look unlikely to secure the majority needed to govern alone after May 7 -- has used the prospect of a coalition with SNP to attack Labour for several weeks.
During a campaign speech in Leeds, northern England, on Monday, centre-left Labour leader Ed Miliband finally responded and ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP, saying: "There are big differences between us.
"Labour will not go into a coalition government with the SNP. There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead."
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland`s first minister, on Monday also said a coalition was "highly unlikely", but kept the door open to a "looser arrangement" where her party could support Labour on an issue-by-issue basis.
"As long as there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs then we can lock the Tories out of government," she told an audience at the London School of Economics university.
The surge in support for the SNP, despite its failure to secure Scottish independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum in September, could see them hold the balance of power in the British parliament.
Sturgeon insisted they would play a "constructive role" in London.
"We`re not secretive about the fact that we want Scotland to be independent.... Until such time I want to see progressive change across the UK, because that will make life better in Scotland," she said.
Cameron said Miliband`s refusal to rule out an informal arrangement for SNP support was "despicable".
"Not ruling out a deal or a pact or support from the SNP means that the Labour Party is effectively saying, `We`re trying to ride to power on the back of a party that wants to break up our country`. I don`t think that is acceptable," he told the BuzzFeed website.
"They`re a party that thinks the United Kingdom, our country, shouldn`t exist. I think it is pretty despicable, frankly, not to say `There`s no dealing with them`."