Thatcher Policies United Scotland against the Tory Party; - Says Alex Salmond

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Byline: Christopher Bucktin

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond last night said Margaret Thatcher united Scotland against the Tories with her hated policies such as the poll tax.

The SNP leader also claimed the former PM inspired support for devolution and that one of her most enduring legacies was the creation of the Scottish Parliament, which she strongly opposed while in office.

He said: "Margaret Thatcher was a formidable politician, she defined the politics for an entire generation. Today is a day to offer respect and condolences to Margaret Thatcher's family.

"One of the most interesting things in terms of her political relationship with Scotland is that she vastly increased support for a Scottish Parliament.

"Her social policies, particularly the poll tax, gave people in Scotland the understanding that the Scottish Parliament was not just a nice idea but something that was absolutely essential if such policies were not to foisted on Scotland from on high again.

"That was certainly an unintended consequence. Margaret Thatcher was a fierce opponent of devolution so that was one of the more interesting aspects of her legacy, unintended but very important."

Salmond added: "There was a defining weekend in terms of Margaret Thatcher and Scotland. She came to Hampden in May 1988 to present the Scottish Cup at the final between Celtic and Dundee United, and fans of both teams united to show her red cards.

"It was the most astonishing display of unity from the football fans.

"And on the same weekend, she delivered the 'Sermon on the Mound' address to the Church of Scotland and got a cool reception from the elders and brethren arguing that Christianity was about personal redemption and not social reform.

"For a lot of people, whether in the General Assembly or the terraces at Hampden, the social aspects of politics were hugely important.

"Not many people in Scotland were sympathetic to her idea of social policy and she was rejected by the working class of Scotland, as you might expect of a Conservative prime minister, but her policies were rejected right across the spectrum of Scottish society by a majority. She united Scotland in that sense."

Elsewhere, Barack Obama described Thatcher as "one of the great champions of freedom and liberty".

The US president said: "America has lost a true friend.

"As a grocer's daughter who rose to become Britain's first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered.

"As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best.

"And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom's promise."

Thatcher's closest international ally was US president Ronald Reagan, who once described her as "the best man in England". His widow Nancy said: "Ronnie and Margaret were political soulmates, committed to freedom and resolved to end Communism. …