Ashdown fights to the end

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PADDY ASHDOWN began his last party conference as leader with a pledge that the Liberal Democrats will fight for every vote in the May Scottish and Welsh elections.

Mr Ashdown is accused by some of being keen to "cosy up" to the Government. But in Edinburgh last night he warned: "The SNP and Labour seem determined to recreate in Holyrood a Toytown replica of Westminster.

"That would be a disaster for Scotland and the cause of reform right across the UK. Every Liberal Democrat vote on May 6 will be a vote to prevent that happening."

There is a strong possibility the Scottish elections, held using proportional representation, will put the Liberal Democrats in coalition govern- ment at Holyrood.

The official Liberal Democrat policy is that if no one got an overall majority, it would negotiate first with the party that won the most seats, as the most democratic option.