Blair Rallies His Troops against Snp Onslaught; PM in Scotland: Powerful Speech Warns of the Dangers Ahead If We Break Up the United Kingdom

By Deerin, Chris; King, Dave | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), July 18, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Blair Rallies His Troops against Snp Onslaught; PM in Scotland: Powerful Speech Warns of the Dangers Ahead If We Break Up the United Kingdom


Deerin, Chris, King, Dave, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


Tony Blair delivered a rallying cry for the Union yesterday, telling Scots: "We can do so much more together than we can alone."

The Prime Minister, on a one-day visit to Scotland, also accused the SNP of xenophobia in their pursuit of what he called "passport politics".

Mr Blair hit out at the Nats during a powerful speech in Edinburgh to Labour's Scottish Parliament candidates.

With dropping support in the polls and the rise of the Nats, he had come north to show his backing for Donald Dewar, describing his Scottish Secretary as "a man of complete decency and integrity".

As Mr Dewar looked on, Mr Blair told Labour's potential MSPs: "The Labour Government is changing Britain for the better. Scotland has a great contribution to make to that better future and the UK has a great deal to contribute to Scotland.

"Labour wants to work together for the good of all. So our pledge for Scotland is a partnership for good. Scotland strong in a strong United Kingdom."

The PM, who earlier in the day had travelled to Dundee to launch the latest plank of the Government's New Deal for the unemployed, predictably received a standing ovation as he arrived at the capital's Caledonian Hotel.

He quickly ripped into the SNP's separatist agenda and lack of details on their policies on key issues such as health and education.

He said: "They want the debate to be a policy-free zone. No details. No answers. Nothing left except a call to the flag."

He said that by claiming sole ownership of Scottish patriotism the Nats were copying the Tory party of the 1980s, which wrapped itself in the Union Jack.

"It was narrow, it was xenophobic and it was wrong.

"And just as it was wrong in the past to say you had to choose between being Labour and British, so it is wrong today to say you have to choose between being Labour and Scottish."

Mr Blair's visit was intended to bolster Labour's Holyrood candidates, following a morale-sapping bout of party infighting and a series of local government scandals.

Recent opinion polls have shown the SNP opening up a lead in voting intentions for the Scottish parliament before the party have even outlined their policies for it.

Labour strategists are determined to win back support by portraying Independence as an unnecessary gamble.

Mr Blair said the choice for Scots when they go to the polls next May was between "two futures".

He added: "The first is based on a new relationship between Scotland and Britain. A bond that works for the Scottish people. It is a future based on prosperity, a better NHS, more jobs, good schools. In short a good future for Scotland, a good future for Britain. The two go together.

"The second is the one offered by the separatists. The Scottish economy put at risk. Taxes up to pay for the cost of separatism.

"Schools and hospitals without the funding they need. Businesses scared of investing because they can't get answers on the currency, on interest rates, on taxes."

SNP leader Alex Salmond, launching his own party's list of approved Euro- candidates in Edinburgh, claimed the visit showed Labour was well out of touch with Scotland.

He said: "Tony Blair's away-day to Scotland is only happening because of New Labour's panic at the rise of the SNP.

"But it illustrates Labour's key weakness in Scotland, which is that they are a London- controlled party who take their orders direct from Big Brother Blair.

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