Scottish sceptics won over by Blair
Saturday 08 March 1997
Delegates to the party conference in Inverness largely gave him the benefit of the doubt after a wide-ranging keynote speech in which he denounced John Major's administration as "a government in a state of decay".
A senior Westminster party insider said after a standing ovation for the Labour leader: "This is the toughest Labour audience you can find - and he won them over." The Scottish party has been notoriously most resistant to the Blair modernisation programme.
But the Labour leader tugged delegates' emotions in his opening paragraph, saying: "Next week will be the first anniversary of the killings in Dunblane. The horror of what happened still stops me in my tracks whenever I think about it. I will never forget standing in that gym. I will never forget the parents of those children, their bravery, their dignity and their terrible loss.
"We took action in Parliament to limit handguns. But not enough. And after the 1st of May, if elected, we will return to this issue. And this time there will be a free vote to ban all handguns."
Recalling that in 1964 Harold Wilson launched his general- election campaign in Inverness with an historic declaration that Labour set up a Highlands and Islands Development Board, he added: "Labour fulfilled that promise.
"This time I make a larger promise. We will legislate for a Scottish Parliament in the first year of a new Labour government. To deliver that promise, to ensure there is no doubt about our mandate from the Scottish people, we will hold a referendum as soon as possible after coming to office."
The Labour leader pledged: "I will be here campaigning for a yes vote in that referendum. There will be two questions. I will be campaigning for two yes answers.
"That Scottish Parliament can deliver better services for the people of Scotland. We will be turning back the tide of the centralised state and sharing power with the people."
The Labour leader also addressed the SNP and the Tories, arguing: "You both say there are only two options: status quo or separation; no change or destruction of the United Kingdom. I say that is an affront to our wit, intelligence and history. There is a better way. It is devolution and we will take it."
Mr Blair's main message to doubting delegates was: "There is nothing that makes me more angry than when people say there's no difference between the parties. That we're all the same. In Scotland this charge is especially absurd."
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...
£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...