Scottish independence row rages on both sides of border

Gordon Brown and Wendy Alexander, Labour's leader in Scotland, have been taunted by political opponents over their split on whether Scotland should hold an early referendum on securing independence from the United Kingdom.

Ms Alexander was involved in fiery exchanges in the Scottish Parliament with Alex Salmond, First Minister in the Scottish National Party administration north of the border, who ridiculed the public rift between her and the Prime Minister. Mr Brown has declined to endorse her call for an early vote, which could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

She stuck to her guns, challenging Mr Salmond to speed the referendum planned for 2010 which is his party's long-standing goal. "We believe that Scotland deserves a choice sooner rather than later," said Ms Alexander. "I'm not the problem, the legislative timetable is not the problem. The First Minister is the problem when it comes to resolving this issue in the nation's interest."

A jubilant Mr Salmond retorted: "While I would not say Wendy Alexander is the only problem the Labour Party has, I think, quite convincingly after the last few days that she is not the answer." He added: "It is impossible for anyone outside the Labour Party – and I think most people in it – to take the Labour Party seriously after the last few days."

Although Labour members of the Scottish Parliament rallied behind their leader, there was dismay in London at her surprise call at the weekend for an early referendum, which has made it harder for Mr Brown to fight back after his party's crushing defeat in last week's local elections. One Labour MP described her as "a political suicide bomber" and some believe she will face pressure to resign.

Mr Brown's position is that a decision on a referendum should be taken after a commission on Scottish devolution reports, probably next year.

In a letter to Mr Brown yesterday, David Cameron accused him of "verbal gymnastics" and misleading people when he claimed in the House of Commons on Wednesday that Ms Alexander did not want a referendum now.

The Conservative leader told Mr Brown: "Anyone comparing what you have claimed, and what Wendy Alexander has repeated again this morning, will conclude that either you have been completely unclear and potentially misleading in your replies to my questions, or you have lost control of your party, or perhaps a combination of the two."

Mr Cameron said that because of the "open challenge" to Mr Brown's authority, the Prime Minister should make clear who speaks for the Labour Party on the issue of a Scottish referendum.

Mr Salmond, Scotland's First Minister since Labour was ousted from power in last year's elections to the Edinburgh Parliament, made clear that the SNP would not speed the referendum it promised for 2010 in its manifesto.

"If Wendy Alexander will allow us, I thought we would stick to what is in the SNP manifesto on pages eight and 15," he said. "Week after week, Wendy Alexander comes and demands that we stick to the SNP manifesto [and] attacks us for not doing so. Now she's telling us we shouldn't stick to the manifesto and the 2010 date."

Ms Alexander hit back with: "This is far too serious a matter to jest with. We believe that the uncertainty is damaging Scotland. I and my colleagues have therefore offered our support to bring this issue forward now."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis