AN END to austerity, an increase in NHS spending, an increase in the minimum wage, and opposition to the renewal of Trident are the cornerstones of the SNP’s General Election manifesto.

In front of an audience of party members, candidates and media from all over the UK, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Scots that the SNP could give the country a “voice heard more loudly than it has ever been before at Westminster”.

The First Minister, aware that this speech and this manifesto would receive more media interest and come under more scrutiny than any other SNP plan for government before it, used the opportunity to speak directly to voters outside Scotland.

“I also want to make a pledge today to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland” Sturgeon said. “Even though you can’t vote SNP, your views do matter to me. And you have a right to know what to expect of my party if the votes of the Scottish people give us influence in a hung parliament.

“So my promise to you is this: If the SNP emerges from this election in a position of influence, we will exercise that influence responsibly and constructively.

“And we will exercise it in the interests of people, not just in Scotland, but across the UK.”

The speech was well received by the party members gathered for the event in the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

The two biggest cheers came when the First Minister outlined the party’s opposition to the replacement of Trident and when she reiterated the party’s support for self-determination.

“The SNP will always support independence,” said Sturgeon to sustained applause and cheering.

She continued: “But this election is not about independence. It is about making Scotland stronger. So we will use the influence of SNP votes at Westminster to ensure that promises made during the referendum are delivered.”

The First Minister also talked about full fiscal autonomy, but signalled that it was not an immediate priority and may take several years to implement.

“We will seek agreement that the Scottish Parliament should move to full financial responsibility”, she said, “and as part of a phased transition, we will prioritise early devolution of powers over employment policy, including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, National Insurance and equality policy – the powers we need here in Scotland to create jobs, grow revenues and lift people out of poverty.”

Prime Minister David Cameron warned that a Labour administration with SNP support would “really damage” the UK.

Speaking at a campaign event in the north-west of England, Cameron said: “I want everyone to be very clear before they vote that there’s a simple choice.

“You can vote for the Conservative party, which will continue the long-term plan that’s working – or you can put all that at risk, not only with Ed Miliband, who opposed every part of that plan, but also backed by SNP, who would... really damage our country and the way that it works.

“The stakes, frankly, have just got much, much higher and the prospects of an Ed Miliband-SNP government I think frankly are very frightening.”

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy criticised the SNP for not having a manifesto commitment ruling out a referendum on independence. “The SNP promised last year that the referendum was a once-in-a-generation deal," he said.

"By refusing to rule out another referendum in their manifesto today, the SNP have broken that promise to the Scottish people.”

Murphy continued: “The only way to get a Labour Government that will make life fairer for working-class families in Scotland is to vote for Labour.”

The SNP were buoyed by two unexpected Scottish constituency polls from Lord Ashcroft. The former Tory peer’s polls had the SNP 14 points ahead of Labour in Edinburgh North and three points ahead of Labour in Edinburgh South, where the Labour candidate is Ian Murray, the Shadow Trade and Investment Secretary.

In 2010 the SNP were a distant fourth in both seats.

The SNP’s General Election co-ordinator Angus Robertson said that the party were “taking absolutely nothing for granted”.