Dalyell is defiant on threat of deselection

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Indy Politics
Tam Dalyell yesterday defiantly stood by his opposition to a Scottish parliament in the face of possible deselection as George Robertson, the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, angrily declared that it was John Major, not Labour, who was thre atening the Union.

Mr Robertson, speaking in Portsmouth last night, accused the Prime Minister of "an organised campaign of rank hypocrisy" over Labour's devolution plans. He said Mr Major was "playing with fire" by attempting to revive ancient animosities between Scotlandand England, with the Conservatives behaving like "constitutional ostriches" in denying the demand for change.

His attack came as Mr Dalyell rejected suggestions he was "re-thinking" his position after addressing a Labour party meeting on Monday in Blaby, Leicestershire, where strong support for English regional assemblies emerged.

Mr Dalyell said the strength of feeling had surprised him with local councillors "desperate to get regional assemblies in this Leicestershire area". That did not, however, change his view on a Scottish parliament.

English regional assemblies, which would be largely administrative bodies overseeing other administrative quangos, were very different to the tax-raising, legislative parliament which Labour proposed for Scotland. Such assemblies, he said, would not provide an answer to the "West Lothian question" - the right of Scots MPs to vote on English domestic matters when English MPs would be debarred from voting on similar Scots issues -"and it would be wrong to pretend that it would".

What the Leicestershire councillors were seeking, he said, was something much more like the Strathclyde Regional Council than an equivalent to the Scottish parliament.

Mr Dalyell's comments came as the threat of deselection as a Labour MP came out into the open. Ian Grant, his constituency party chairman, said that "if Tam was to continue along the lines that he's been going", then there was a possibility when it came to reselection six months from now that some branches may nominate another candidate.

Mr Dalyell said that as one of those who helped devise the reselection rules he would have no malice towards anyone who moved against him. The constituency "has a right to choose a candidate".

He none the less stood by his view. Mr Dalyell added that the meeting had recognised that debarring English MPs from voting on Scots matters while allowing Scots to vote on English ones "cannot, in any way, be a permanent solution. It couldn't last beyond one Parliament".

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat MP, yesterday tabled a Home Rule (Scotland) Bill which stands no legislative chance in this Parliament but trails his party's support for a fixed-term four-year Scots parliament, elected by PR with legislative powers and the ability to vary standard rate income tax by 3p in the pound either way.