Nicola Sturgeon has described Theresa May’s plans for a snap general election as a “huge political miscalculation”.
Ms Sturgeon said the move was an “extraordinary u-turn” by Mrs May, but that she relished the prospect of campaigning against the Tories.
The prime minister wants to have an election on 8 June – arguing that it will give the country certainty and stability following the EU referendum.
There will be a Commons vote on the proposed election on Wednesday.
The prime minister is expected to win the support of the required two-thirds of MPs, which she needs to call an election before the next scheduled date of 2020, with no opposition parties indicating they will oppose the move.
The SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats at the general election in 2015, with the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats winning one each.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party was ready, organised and optimistic about winning more seats this time.
Scottish Labour has also insisted it is “ready” for an election, while the Lib Dems said they were “relishing the prospect” and the Scottish Greens said there would still be questions for the UK government if the majority of Scottish voters backed pro-European parties.
Announcing her plans at Downing Street, Mrs May said “the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election”.
She accused Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and members of the House of Lords of “game playing”, saying this could undermine the UK government’s efforts to negotiate the Brexit settlement.
She added: “We need a general election and we need one now. We have at this moment a one off chance to get this done.
“Since I became prime minister I’ve said there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and security for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions we must take.”
What are the two things Theresa May has to watch out for?
By Professor John Curtice
There is no doubt that the Conservatives are in a strong position in the opinion polls. If you take the average, the Conservatives are standing at 42% and Labour at 27% and that clearly would be enough to give Theresa May a quite substantial majority.
I think, however, two words of caution are in order.
The first is we do have to bear in mind that it is quite difficult these days to actually win a landslide in the House of Commons because not only is Northern Ireland out of the UK wide political picture, but so is Scotland.
I would be surprised if the SNP don’t hang on to most of the seats north of the border that they won two years ago.
Secondly, although the Labour Party are in a dire position in the opinion polls, a lot of their seats are safe ones.
I think we should bear in mind particularly that Theresa May is now very much going for “vote Conservative for my vision of Brexit” and that perhaps is going to make some Conservative voters unhappy.
If that lead in the polls was to narrow then we could discover that she is back with a rather smaller majority than perhaps she was hoping for.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland that the prime minister was putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.
The first minister said: “Clearly she sees the opportunity, given the total disarray in the ranks of the Labour party, to crush all opposition to her, to get rid of people who disagree with her, and to give herself a free hand to take the country in the increasingly right-wing direction that she wants to take it in.
“That would mean not just the hardest possible Brexit, but more austerity and deeper cuts.
“So now is the time for Scotland’s voice to be heard, and for people in Scotland to stand up for the kind of country we want Scotland to be – that is the campaign I look forward to leading in the weeks ahead.”
Ms Sturgeon also said her position on a second independence referendum was “clear, and will continue to be clear throughout this campaign”.
She added: “It is that, when the time is right, it should be for Scotland to determine our own future, not for a Tory government to determine that future for us.
“So that position is the one that we will take into this election, and the one that we will have after this election as well.”
The first minister also said that she already had a mandate for a second referendum, which she said she won in last year’s Scottish Parliament election.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, saying her party is “ready for a campaign, we are organised, and we are optimistic about the prospect of increasing our number of seats”.
She said the SNP would “use this campaign to try and manufacture a case for separation”, and claimed that “Labour can’t be relied to stand up to them.”
Ms Davidson added: “By contrast, the Scottish Conservatives have the strength right across Scotland to stand up for people who oppose the SNP’s plans.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the UK faced a “significant and historic choice” between a “Tory party intent on a hard and damaging Brexit, or a Labour party that will oppose a second independence referendum and fight for a better future for everybody”.
She said: “The Labour Party is ready and has been preparing for a general election. We will start the process of selecting our candidates this afternoon.
“We will work tirelessly to elect Jeremy Corbyn prime minister and deliver a Labour government.”
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said the election was an “opportunistic attempt by the Tory party to seize on the weakness of the Labour party at UK level”, adding that the UK government would “still be faced with a question” over Scotland’s future after the vote.
And Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said his party was “relishing the prospect” of a vote as “a chance to change the direction of the whole of the UK”.
He said: “At this election we will stand proud for a United Kingdom within the European single market.”
Sturgeon: May election move ‘huge miscalculation’}