Nicola Sturgeon SNP campaigning 22 April
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said she will use SNP votes to pull the strings of a Labour government Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon has said that her party would expect to enjoy "enormous influence" over a minority Labour government after the general election.

The Scottish First Minister's remarks came during an interview with The Times in which she expressed her strong desire to join forces with Labour to "lock" Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party out of Downing Street.

The SNP could prop up a minority Labour government after the 7 May election, even if Miliband's party wins 40 seats fewer seats than the Conservatives, resulting in a hung parliament.

The SNP only held six seats in the last parliament, but recent polls suggest that the party could win as many as 50 of Scotland's 59 seats, meaning that it could hold the balance of power for the first time.

Open to Labour

In the interview, Sturgeon quashed suggestions that a minority government with Ed Miliband as prime minister would be illegitimate, citing the minority government at Holyrood which is supported by the Conservatives as an example.

"Of course, because it comes down to who can command a majority and if Ed Miliband can and David Cameron can't, then it absolutely has legitimacy," she told The Times.

"Scotland has had Tory governments much of my lifetime that have had very little representation in Scotland and we haven't said that's illegitimate. These are the swings and roundabouts of the UK-wide system," she continued.

The Scottish leader also sought to dispel fears among English voters over Labour being supported by the SNP. During campaigning Cameron, has described a Labour-SNP coalition as "frightening" and a "match made in hell" for the the British economy.

Fight for votes

The benefits to a minority government, she argued means that "you have to win the day on the strength of your argument, not just on the number of votes that you command and there is a lot to be said for that".

Sturgeon also thanked the Tories – who have portrayed her as Miliband's puppeteer – for the extra exposure their campaigning has given herself and the SNP.

"At every Westminster election I've fought until this one, the biggest challenge that we've had to overcome is being heard and being relevant," she said.

"We don't have this problem this time," she continued. "The message it's given to people in Scotland is: if this is the attention we get just from the SNP riding high in the polls, imagine how loud our voice would be if that was translated into seats. So in that respect I absolutely think it is not unhelpful."