NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that a strengthened Conservative government at Westminster would try to “crush dissent, silence opposition and steamroller Scotland".

The SNP leader cast both the local election and General Election north of the Border as a battle between her party and the Tories as she launched the party’s council manifesto in Edinburgh.

She also warned voters not to let the “single-issue, Brexit-at-all-costs machine” that is the Scottish Tory party into the country’s town halls.

The First Minister was at the Whale Arts Centre in Wester Hailes to launch her party’s manifesto for the local elections on May 4.

All of Scotland’s 32 councils are up for grabs. And with many local authorities in England and Wales also going to polls, that first Thursday in May is going to play an important part in the General Election campaign.

Sturgeon warned voters that the real choice was between SNP and the Tories. Labour, she said, would not get a look in.

And while the SNP already have a mandate for a second ballot on independence after winning the Scottish elections in 2016, she said success in the General Election would “reinforce” it.

“[It] is about making sure that the Tories don’t get to crush dissent and silence opposition, and steamroller over Scotland, how Scotland has voted and how the Scottish Parliament has voted,”

she said. “It is about making sure Scotland’s voice is heard and independence is certainly an aspect of that, but it’s bigger than that as well. It is about making sure we don’t allow the Tories to do the social and economic damage to Scotland that they have done in recent years.”

This came as Labour sources told the Mirror they were drawing up a plan for a “supply and confidence” agreement, where Jeremy Corbyn would deny Theresa May victory, and approach Sturgeon and other party leaders and ask for help in getting laws passed.

A senior campaign source told the Mirror that given their dire poll ratings, Labour’s “number one priority” isn’t winning power, but to deny May an overall majority .

“If we can take say 40 seats off them – and we’re only talking overturning small majorities – then we can be somewhere near parity.

“And if the Lib Dems do well too, the Tories will be out of government. Who is going to be able to cut a deal [with the other parties] over Brexit, us or them?”

Speaking yesterday Sturgeon rubbished this: “I don’t want to see a Tory government but I can read the opinion polls as well as anybody else can.

“If Scotland doesn’t want a Tory government that has a massive majority, that has the ability to do whatever it wants, to silence Scotland’s voice, to impose cuts, further austerity, and to try to almost silence the Scottish Parliament, there needs to be really strong opposition from Scotland to that Tory government.”

Elsewhere on the Scottish election trail, Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie had told the Press and Journal he was considering running for Westminster in Charles Kennedy’s old seat: “Everyone has a personal story – that’s one of the big reasons why it would be a joy to win it back for Charles.”

“I did a visit to Skye not so long ago. People were still remembering Charles and what he had done over a long period and how much they missed him.”