Meanwhile, Alex Salmond and the SNP trio cuts CD

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POLITICIANS NORMALLY confine their singing to bars during party conferences, but the tuneful Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, is to issue a CD for Christmas.

The efforts of Mr Salmond, a former chorister, have won considerable praise. On the album, where he is joined by other SNP politicians, he forms a duet with Anne Lorne Gillies, a star of Scots Gaelic music, to sing his favourite song, "Oh Rowan Tree".

For humour, however, Mr Salmond is surpassed by SNP veteran Margo MacDonald MSP, who specially composed the words of "Scottish MP", which she sings to the tune of the Irish rebel song, "We're off to Dublin in the Green".

The song makes fun of Labour MPs and concludes with the verse: "These parties may be British/And their soundbites make you boak/But they'll change their tune when its oh so clear/ Devolution is Blair's big joke."

Winnie Ewing, matriarch of Scottish nationalism and famously victorious in the 1967 Hamilton by-election, sticks to Robert Burns and sings "Will You No' Come Back Again".

The SNP's anthem, "Scots Wha Hae", also by Burns, is sung by her son and fellow MSP Fergus Ewing, while Andrew Wilson, the party's Treasury spokesman, appropriately opts for "The De'ils awa wi' the exciseman".

The CD, released on November 29 on the SNP's Internet website, reflects the renewed popularity of Burns' "A Man's a Man for a' that" after it was sung in front of the Queen at the ceremony opening the Scottish Parliament.

The collection is entitled "A New Sang", playing on the words of the Earl of Seafield, who, upon signing the Act of Union in 1707, declared: "There is ane end to ane auld sang."