Scottish independence: Alistair Darling accused of comparing ‘Yes’ voters to Nazis and says Alex Salmond is behaving ‘like Kim Jong-il’
Better Together chief makes controversial comments with just 100 days to go until referendum
Alistair Darling, the head of the “No” campaign for the vote on Scottish Independence, has compared Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond to the former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il – and was forced to deny describing “Yes” supporters as driven by “blood and soil nationalism”.
The comments came after Mr Salmond said Ukip had only been able to gain its first Scottish MEP in the European elections last month because the BBC “beamed” coverage of Nigel Farage’s party into Scotland’s homes.
Mr Darling described this as “a North Korean response” and “something that Kim Jong-il would say”, adding: “This is the same BBC for which we all pay our licence fee, and we all enjoy the national output as well as the Scottish output.”
And in a “disputed exchange” during an interview with the New Statesman, the former Labour chancellor was also accused of agreeing that “blood and soil nationalism” was “at [the] heart” of the independence campaign.
The phrase “blood and soil nationalism” describes a belief in borders based on ancestry and a connection to the land, and as “Blut und Boden” it has become widely associated with the rise of the Nazi party in 1920s and ‘30s Germany.
The magazine originally quoted Mr Darling as saying: “At heart it is blood and soil nationalism. If you ask any nationalist, 'are there any circumstances in which you would not vote to be independent?’ they would say the answer has got to be no.”
Alex Salmond sparked his own controversy earlier this year after admiring 'certain aspects' of Vladimir Putin's presidency in Russia A correction was later issued stating that the phrase was “raised in conversation but not used directly by Mr Darling”, and a transcript was included where, asked if the Scottish National Party (SNP) represents “blood and soil nationalism?”, the MP allegedly replied: “At heart … [inaudible mumble]”.
Later in the interview Mr Darling spoke about a “culture of intimidation” created by the SNP, and said: “When I started doing this two years ago, I didn't believe you'd be in a situation in a country like ours where people would be threatened for saying the wrong thing.”
A spokesperson for Mr Salmond called for the Better Together leader to apologise, saying: “Alistair Darling demeans himself and his colleagues in the 'No' campaign with these pathetic, puerile remarks for which he should now apologise.
“The debate on Scotland's future is one that deserves far, far better than boorish and abusive personal insults, as do the people of Scotland.
“Mr Darling has called for a positive debate free from abuse - he should now aim to live up to that pledge, and stop trying to divert attention from the real issues.”
On Twitter, the Yes campaign’s communications director Kevin Pringle called for Mr Darling to “withdraw” after “making light of the horror and tragedy that is North Korea” and said the alleged “blood and soil” comment was “disgraceful”.
After the New Statesman released its transcription, Mr Pringle compared it to the censorship of White House records during the Watergate Scandal, writing: “Richard Nixon had ‘expletive deleted’. Alistair Darling has ‘inaudible mumble’.”
A spokesperson for Better Together denied the “at heart” response related to the proposed phrase “blood and soil nationalism”, and said: “Alistair Darling did not use this phrase. He would not use this phrase. The New Statesman has said this was a transcription error and we are happy to accept this explanation.”
The spokesperson said the Kim Jong-il comparison was a “joke” and described the online backlash since as “an overblown reaction”.
He said: “Alistair was using humour to poke fun at the First Minister's disastrous TV interview where he claimed that 150,000 Scottish people voted for Ukip because BBC people in London had beamed that thought into their heads. It was a joke and it should be treated as such.”
Mr Salmond himself sparked a row earlier this year when he told GQ magazine that he admired “certain aspects” of Russian president Vladimir Putin's leadership. He has since said he regrets the way the comment was “characterised”.
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