Scottish Nationalists accused of 'own goal'

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Indy Politics
SCOTTISH Nationalists were accused by Labour MPs of scoring an own goal by voting with the Government. One gleeful Scots Labour MP said: 'Alex Salmond won't hear the last of this. The SNP voted with the Government and they lost.'

Mr Salmond, SNP national convener, defended his party's decision to support the Government on the ground that it secured a deal which was better for Scotland than Labour's amendment.

Tory MPs looked dismayed and confused. 'I've no idea why this was not regarded as a wrecking amendment,' one ministerial aide said. Before the vote Cabinet ministers wandered around the lobby. 'They were floundering,' another aide said. 'Only one Cabinet minister sat on the bench for the division. And that was Michael Howard.'

A critic of the European exchange rate mechanism, Mr Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment, has distanced himself from the anti-Maastricht rebels. James Cran, the rebels' unofficial whip, said: 'It's a pity it had to come to this. But it's not a question of loyalty to the Prime Minister. This is a constitutional issue about how this country is governed and it has to be right.'

Summoned from his hospital bed to support the Government, Terry Dicks, the Tory MP for Hayes and Harlington, hobbled through the lobby with a walking stick.

The three SNP MPs and four Plaid Cymru MPs who voted with the Government did so after receiving written promises of seats on the committee of the regions.

Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, told Margaret Ewing, the SNP Parliamentary leader, that in all 'probability' Scotland would have six seats, enabling the SNP to nominate one.

The Welsh Nationalists were also assured that they would be able to nominate one seat out of the three or four for Wales. In addition, there will be a Welsh forum, including Welsh MPs and MEPs.

Dafydd Wigley, president of Plaid Cymru, said Labour's amendment would have allowed the Secretary of State for Wales to nominate Conservative councillors to represent Wales on the committee of the regions.

'We have avoided the pitfalls of Labour's amendment . . . for Labour to have allowed that was mind-boggling,' he said.