Dewar gives his vision of home rule

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The Independent Online
LABOUR WILL portray itself to the Scots at the first Home Rule election as the right party to secure the benefits of independent decision-making "without the cost of walking out on Britain''.

One year to the day after his referendum triumph, Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland, presented his personal vision of the priorities for the Edinburgh parliament.

Though the party will campaign under the banner "Scottish New Labour", he laid great stress on equality of opportunity and social justice - traditional values Scots claim to hold dear.

"The Labour Party was brought into being to redress the balance and to fight poverty and inequality. That is still our cause and our commitment," Mr Dewar said, launching his statement, "A Lifetime of Opportunity", at a Glasgow community centre.

The choice of the venue, on a council estate in the constituency Mr Dewar has represented for 20 years rather than at a posh hotel, was symbolic. Labour has decided to make Mr Dewar's attachment to traditional values and his modest image the focus of its appeal in the run-up to next May's election.

Mr Dewar trails slightly behind the Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, in opinion polls on who would make the best first minister in the Home Rule administration.

Mr Salmond marked the anniversary of the referendum victory in more flamboyant style, criss-crossing Scotland in a helicopter in a series of public appearances.

Countering critics within the Labour Party who believe the "New Labour'' tag could prove counter-productive north of the border, because of its metropolitan Blairite overtones, Mr Dewar said Scotland must not be a prisoner of the past.

Mr Dewar pledged a nursery place for all three-year-olds in the lifetime of the government - a promise made for no other part of the UK - and 60 new community schools, with counselling and health services provided under the same roof as education.

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie said the "vision statement" smacked more of desperation than reality. It was "just another set of phoney promises for Labour to break at the first opportunity''.