SNP leader condemns 'substitute Tory' Blair

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The Independent Online
ALEX SALMOND, leader of the Scottish National Party, yesterday described Tony Blair as a 'substitute Tory', signalling his intention to step up nationalist condemnation of the Labour leader.

Addressing delegates at the SNP's annual conference in Inverness, Mr Salmond said Mr Blair was 'a southern bubble, floating along on hot air, sound bites and photo-opportunities'. Labour's new leader had taken the party 'that extra mile into Tory territory', abandoning cherished socialist principles in a desperate attempt to win power.

Mr Salmond said: 'There is no question so difficult that it cannot be dodged by new-look Labour. What's the rate of the minimum wage? Don't know. Do you support the railwaymen? Won't say. What's the policy on Ireland? I agree with John Major . . .

'Make no mistake. If the commitment to Scottish devolution ever became embarrassing in Slough, it would soon join the other junked pledges in the dustbin of Labour policy.

He added: 'Commentators say that the Tories and Labour have merged in the middle into Blajorism but that is far too kind to Labour. Blair is adrift in a sea of fudge. Even Bob Mclennan (the Liberal Democrat president) thinks he's too moderate. There is nothing to choose between Toryism and Tonyism. Scotland does not need a substitute for London Tory rule. We demand an alternative.'

Mr Salmond ridiculed Scottish Labour MPs, including George Robertson, the Scotland spokesman, as 'Scottish on the outside, British on the inside. Tartan ties and Union Jack underpants.'

The nationalists' attack on Labour is part of a renewed SNP strategy to win support among traditional working-class voters who, SNP officials believe, are disenchanted with Labour's new modernist image.

Party officials hope that voters in the key central belt electoral battleground between Glasgow and Edinburgh will desert Labour over what they call 'its watered-down social and economic policies that are designed to win over English voters but hold little appeal for the people of Scotland'.

As part of a two-year strategy to make fresh gains in the run-up to the next general election, party managers yesterday launched an Independence Prospectus, which includes a fully costed policy programme for the first four years of an independent Scotland. Earlier, delegates at the party's 60th anniversary conference voted to elevate Gaelic to the status of an official national language. In future, schoolchildren in areas controlled by SNP councils may have to learn the language.