Right of Reply: Helen Liddell

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The Independent Culture
The Scottish Office minister replies to our criticisms of the Labour Party in Scotland

WHAT A PITY The Independent's masthead and the content of the leader column on Wednesday were at odds. The comments on Labour in Scotland were extraordinarily ill-informed.

Prime ministers have been visiting the Royal Family in Balmoral since the age of Queen Victoria. After every trip by Tony Blair to Scotland, our morale is boosted. We like to see him, even when he is trying to fit in some private time with friends while he is here. Scots respect his qualities as much as the rest of Britain. But to claim that his trip is in response to opinion polls is simply not the case. As well as Balmoral, the Prime Minister will be visiting Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayrshire and the Hebrides. He does not need an excuse. He is, and will remain, the Prime Minister of all the United Kingdom.

The assertion that Tony Blair regards Scotland as a Labour "fiefdom" is wrong. Neither he nor Scottish Labour have ever taken a single vote in Scotland for granted, and nor will we. Despite our unparalleled electoral success, we are not complacent.

We expect to be judged on our achievements and on the policies the Scottish Labour Party proposes for the new Scottish parliament. We are confident that the Government's priorities of health and education are shared by the Scottish people, which is why we are going to invest an extra pounds 3.1bn in these services over the next three years. As for the rubbish that Labour is "seen as an essentially English party": it is time to go back to the history books and be less prepared to swallow propaganda from a separatist party.

Scottish New Labour does not have to apologise to anybody for our commitment to Scotland. After all, it was Labour which delivered the Scottish parliament.