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SNP to make spending pledge as manifesto launched

Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The SNP will launch its General Election manifesto today, with a pledge to work toward "progressive" change in Westminster.

The manifesto will present the party's alternative to austerity, including a pledge to increase real-terms spending by 0.5% per year.

It will also feature a promise that SNP MPs will participate in votes on major issues south of the border that could impact on devolved areas in Scotland such as the NHS.

The manifesto launch comes with opinion polls suggesting the party could win as many as 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

Sturgeon has offered to act as an informal partner with Labour to keep the Conservatives out of Downing Street following the election, but Ed Miliband appeared to reject the suggestion in last week's BBC live debates.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will warn today, however, that Miliband would be prepared to do a "back-room deal" with Sturgeon's party, urging Labour voters in a speech to "wake up" to the threat of any such arrangement.


Ban Ki-Moon urges EU to 'accelerate' action on migrants

Rescue efforts are shown in pictures released by Italy's Guardia di Finanza.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the EU to "accelerate" efforts to prevent the recent spate of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

A spokesman said: "The international response to this must be comprehensive and collective. The challenge concerns not only improved rescue at sea and access to protection."

"It is how to ensure the right to asylum of the growing number of people worldwide fleeing war who need refuge and safe haven.

"Their journeys are fraught with risks including discrimination, violence and exploitation, and they urgently need our protection during their hour of greatest need."

The spokesman also thanked the Italian Government for "all its efforts" and said Ban recognises "the heavy impact the arrival of so many migrants has on Italy".

Yemen: Oxfam facility 'targeted in Saudi-led airstrikes'

An Oxfam warehouse in northern Yemen was targeted by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on Saturday, the charity has claimed.

The organisation said the alleged attack on a storage facility in Saada was an "absolute outrage" and claimed it had shared "detailed information" with the coalition about the location of its facilities in the country.

Oxfam said no-one was killed, but the building did contain humanitarian supplies that were helping to bring clean water to people in the region.

Grace Omner, Oxfam country director in Yemen, said: "The contents of the warehouse had no military value. It only contained humanitarian supplies associated with our previous work in Saada, bringing clean water to thousands of households."

Oxfam claims that more than 100,000 Yemenis have fled since conflict in the country began three weeks ago, and has called for a negotiated peace to allow humanitarian access to affected parts of the country.

Clegg calls for 'coherent' EU response to migrant deaths

Nick Clegg accepted current arrangements for dealing with migrants at sea. Credit: PA

Nick Clegg has called for a "coherent EU response" to the number of migrants fleeing over sea to Europe after a ship carrying hundreds of people sank in the Mediterranean.

Speaking on a campaign visit in Portsmouth today, he said "the current arrangements are clearly leading to these tragic consequences", and called for a change of course.

However, he said the "cure" did not lay at sea but in dealing with the reasons people were so desperate to leave their homes in the first place.

"The previous arrangements were acting almost as a spur to people on these boats in these very overcrowded, dangerous conditions."

He also said the Italians had suggested a change to previous arrangements, where EU countries contributed to search and rescue efforts in the Mediterannean.

  1. John Ray

Traffickers don't care that there are fewer rescue boats

If this loss of life is confirmed then it is a catastrophe on a scale we have not yet seen in this crisis, which lurches from one tragedy to ever-greater tragedy and poses a fundamental challenge to all in Europe.

In the space of just a few days and at the appalling cost of more than a thousand lives, the hopes of ending a trade that the Italian Prime Minister described as the modern slave trade by cutting the number of rescue boats has proved catastrophically wrong.

Traffickers don't care that there are fewer rescue boats, the migrants are to desperate to do anything other than cross the Mediterranean.

There is a clamour for action - perhaps patrols to be stepped up. No one wants the Mediterranean to be turned into a cemetery, but remember this also immigration is a toxic issue all across the European Union, so lives might be saved but at the end of it, who is going to offer these people a home?


Lib Dems complain about BBC Clegg coverage

The Liberal Democrats' election campaign chief Paddy Ashdown has written to the BBC to complain over accusations it falsely claimed Nick Clegg had opted out of last week's live "Challengers' Debate".

UIn his letter to director general Tony Hall, Ashdown said he would escalate the complaint to the BBC Trust - the corporation's governing body - unless immediately corrected.

Following the debate, which featured Labour, Ukip, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, Clegg tweeted to insist that he had not been invited to appear.

Ashdown's letter also accused broadcasters of backtracking on agreements relating to the final round of interviews with party leaders.

He claimed only Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband were originally due to be featured in a final set of interviews, but said Ukip's Nigel Farage, Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon had since been offered slots.

MSF: A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have hit out at European politicians for their failure to address the growing crisis of migrants dying in boats trying to enter the continent.

A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean Sea and European policies are responsible. A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean Sea and European policies are responsible. Faced with thousands of desperate people fleeing wars and crises, Europe has closed borders, forcing people in search of protection to risk their lives and die at sea. There is no more time to think, these lives must be saved now.

Ending the Mare Nostrum operation was a serious mistake. European States must immediately launch large-scale search and rescue operations, with proactive patrolling as close as possible to Libyan shores.

The current means are obviously not enough. This tragedy is only just beginning, but it can and should be stopped.

– Loris De Filippi, MSF president.

Ove the past week, over 11,000 people have attempted to cross the Mediterranean, MSF said, and more than a thousand are reported to have died.

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