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Blair attacks SNP over citizenship

THE DOORS of an independent Scotland would be wide open for as many people as possible to be citizens of their "homeland", Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, insisted yesterday.

Mr Salmond's statement came as the nationalists struggled against charges that their policies would split families into "citizens and foreigners".

Labour believes the Scottish National Party is vulnerable over the issue of who would qualify for citizenship if Scotland was to become independent. About 2 million Scots have emigrated this century but their ties remain strong.

Tony Blair will play the split-families card when he campaigns in Scotland later this week. While the Prime Minister would qualify for citizenship under SNP rules, as he was born in Edinburgh, he will point out that children born to Scots parents working in London would have no such automatic right.

Labour's onslaught beganwhen the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, maintained that half of Scotland's soccer and rugby teams might not get passports for the country they represent. In a country where football is a national obsession there is no surer way of engaging the public mind on the otherwise dry subject of constitutional change than by raising the issue of sporting heroes.

The flaws in the SNP proposals have been exposed by Douglas Alexander, Labour winner of the Paisley South by-election. He contrasted Mr Salmond's inclusive declaration in 1993, where a parent or grandparent born in Scotland would be sufficient to gain entitlement, to the SNP's "Citizens not Subjects" proposals of last year, limiting the right to people born in Scotland or resident on the day of independence.

But Mr Salmond said yesterday: "Everybody who is here regardless of where they are from would qualify for citizenship, everybody born in Scotland, and anybody else would apply with the indication that a strong family connection would be a reason for being accepted."