The SNP will demand no further rises to the state pension age in Scotland while life expectancy lags behind the rest of the UK and Europe, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ms Sturgeon, who was health secretary for five years, said she has been doing all she can within her devolved powers to raise the life expectancy in Scotland, but said in the meantime older Scots should not lose out.

Polls suggest the SNP could have a significant influence in the next parliament and Ms Sturgeon said they will also call for the retention of the "triple lock" on pensions and a single-tier pension rate of at least £160 to lift pensioners out of means-tested benefits.

Ms Sturgeon said: "SNP MPs will push Westminster to retain the triple lock on pensions - meaning our older people benefit from real increases on their pensions at a time when so many people are struggling with the cost of living.

"The SNP will continue to make the case for a single-tier pension rate of at least £160 a week to ensure pensioners are no longer subjected to the scourge of means-tested benefits.

"The Tory/Lib Dem government's plan to further increase the state pension age is a worry to people across the UK who are planning for their future, but the failure to take Scotland's specific circumstances into account is particularly unfair.

"Our comparatively low life expectancy rate is an issue which I will do everything in my power to change but in the meantime it would be completely unacceptable for people in Scotland who have paid in to a state pension all of their lives to lose out.

"That is why SNP MPs will reject any plans for a further increase in the state pension age.

"Our pensioners have contributed hugely to society and are entitled to get a fair deal in their retirement in return.

"A strong team of SNP MPs holding the balance of power will ensure that the contribution older people have made throughout their lives is recognised - and will deliver a new and better deal for pensioners in Scotland."

Ms Sturgeon set out the concerns pensioners have been relaying to her as she campaigned in East Dunbartonshire.

During a visit to a care home, she said: "I think people right across Scotland, regardless of what age group or part of society they're in, are concerned about the prospect, if the Westminster parties are left to their own devices, of a further £30 billion of cuts over the next couple of years.

"The SNP are presenting an alternative to that. We don't think there should be further spending cuts, we think there should be modest spending increases that still allow us to get the deficit down, but crucially allow us to invest in infrastructure, in public services, in helping the vulnerable and making sure that our pensioners - those who've given so much to society - get decent treatment in their later years."

Scottish Labour candidate for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East Gregg McClymont said: "The SNP are hiding a Barnett bombshell from pensioners.

"The SNP want only Scottish taxes to support Scottish spending - that would end the UK shared pension. To pretend otherwise is simply dishonest.

"Full fiscal autonomy is the SNP's central election policy, and it would leave a £7.6 billion black hole in Scotland's finances, which is more than our entire pensions bill.

"And that's before the extra cost of Scotland's faster ageing society is factored in. This is the reality of the SNP's fantasy finance plans for Scotland.

"A UK Labour government will guarantee the Barnett formula, the UK-wide deal which means higher public spending in Scotland, and which protects Scotland's higher per head pension benefits. A Labour government is committed to the triple-lock on state pensions.

"Only Labour is big enough and strong enough to kick the Tories out. We have to stop the Tories being the largest party, but a vote for any other party simply gives the Tories a chance to cling to power."