Salmond back with threat to impeach PM

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Indy Politics

Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party leader, claimed yesterday that Tony Blair's conduct on Iraq had put him "beyond the pale of decency".

Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party leader, claimed yesterday that Tony Blair's conduct on Iraq had put him "beyond the pale of decency".

Mr Salmond denounced the Prime Minister at the SNP's annual conference in Inverness yesterday, accusing Mr Blair of entering into a secret pact with George Bush "to go to war come what may".

The recently elected SNP leader, whose party - along with the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru - has begun moves to impeach Mr Blair, told the conference: "This Prime Minister must be drummed from office and we will use each and every opportunity to make that a reality."

He said the Prime Minister needed to be "humbled" in an election, and the SNP would take its case to the country next year. "But this Prime Minister deserves to be impeached - and we, with others, will present the case that he should be required to answer."

Mr Salmond, who made a spectacular comeback earlier this month by being elected to lead the SNP, a post he had relinquished four years ago, described the impeachment process as "a weapon of mass democracy - the final democratic deterrent against the abuse and misuses of executive power".

Mr Salmond told the conference that, like everyone in the country, he prayed for the safe return of British hostage Ken Bigley, but feared the worst.

He went on: "I believe that this Prime Minister now operates outside the currency of debate, beyond the pale of decency." While previous Prime Ministers had told "fibs" on issues such as unemployment, Mr Blair had lied about the reasons for going to war. "I don't just challenge the policies of Tony Blair, I challenge his morality," said the SNP leader.

Eighteen months ago, Mr Blair had said the war was about upholding the authority of the UN and that weapons of mass destruction would be discovered - yet last week the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, described the war as illegal, and the Iraq Survey Group had concluded there were no weapons of mass destruction.

"This is not a question of this Prime Minister - any prime minister - making a judgement call and just being wrong," Mr Salmond said. "It is not a matter, as Blair would have us believe, of someone acting in good faith and making an honest mistake. This is a man who buried the intelligence that was inconvenient, manipulated the information to suit his purpose, and entered into a secret pact with the American President to go to war come what may."

The SNP leader told the conference it had now been disclosed that Mr Blair concealed warnings signs "from the very heart of his own Government" that the conflict after the war would be nasty, brutish and long. "Blair once said that he would be prepared to pay the blood price for standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States of America," Mr Salmond said. "But he hasn't paid the blood price. Fourteen thousand Iraqis, more than 1,000 Americans, 66 British soldiers, 69 from other countries, the hostages - these are the people who have paid, and are still paying, Blair's blood price."

He derided Mr Blair for cosying up to President Bush - "the sheriff and his sidekick, the Lone Ranger and Tonto" - adding: "But George W Bush is not America, no more than Tony Blair speaks for Scotland."

Mr Salmond also accused Mr Blair of stabbing Scottish infantry regiments in the back, through defence cutbacks, at a time when they stood in the line of fire, fighting "Blair's wars".