SNP glee at Tory backing for Labour

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The Independent Online
THE LABOUR PARTY faces embarrasment in its Scottish election campaign last night over a pledge by the leader of the Scottish Tories, David McLetchie, to support Labour in any no-confidence motion in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish National Party seized on the comments, claiming Labour would be "squirming" at the prospect of relying on the Tories for support.

Mr McLetchie said: "We are Scotland's premier Unionist party. Our supporters would not normally expect us to support a no-confidence motion put forward by the SNP with the objective of taking Scotland down the road to separatism."

Reacting with barely concealed glee, the SNP constitutional affairs spokesman, George Reid, said: "New Labour and the old Tories will be quite at home with each other in the Scottish Parliament, because they share the same policy objectives."

Mc McLetchie also said Tories would fight the Holyrood election as the party of low taxation. In his keynote address to the Scottish Tory conference in Perth, he said: "The clearest choice of all in this election is tax." He warned that Scottish taxpayers would be in line for a financial pounding under a Labour administration in Holyrood - with road tolls, higher business rates and a tourist tax.

He said the SNP would make people in Scotland the highest taxed in the UK, adding: "It's not a penny for Scotland - it's a penalty for being Scots." The Tories would stand for, "no new taxes, no increased taxes, a parliament that lives within its means".

Mr McLetchie said Scottish people wanted the parliament to tackle problems in health and education, adding: "They don't want the parliament condemned to endless years of constitutional wrangling. We have had 30 years of debate about the constitution in Scottish politics. The people made their decision in the referendum. We accept and respect that decision. The SNP don't. They want to carry on the war."

Among the cruellest ironies at the Perth gathering was the rapturous ovation accorded to the former cabinet ministers Sir Michael Forsyth and Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The Tory faithful north of the border would love either of these two heavyweights to lead them into the home-rule era. But both have turned their backs on the parliament. Instead of the wit and energy of Forsyth or the gravitas of Rifkind, the party has only the stolidity of Mr McLetchie.

Under the voting system to be used on 6 May, the Tories are expected to win about a dozen seats in the 129-member parliament. Under the first- past-the-post method they would probably have got none.