SNP leaders come out fighting on devolution

John Arlidge
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:57
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Leaders of the Scottish National Party traded insults yesterday over their stance on devolution, writes John Arlidge.

The bitter personal divisions emerged after Alex Salmond, the party leader, said he would support Labour's plans for a devolved Scottish parliament.

One former MP condemned his remarks as "stupid". The row comes a week before a televised debate between Mr Salmond and George Robertson, Labour's spokesman on Scotland, on its constitutional future.

On Sunday, Mr Salmond conceded he would back a Labour home-rule Bill if Labour won the next general election. Devolution was a valid "stepping stone" towards independence, he said. But Iain Lawson, a member of the party's national executive, described his comments as "unbelievable". Support for a devolved assembly "went against everything the SNP has been campaigning for over the years."

Jim Sillars, ex-SNP MP for Govan, accused Mr Salmond of being a "stupid No1 headcase" whose comments would cost the SNP vital support.

The criticism drew a sharp response from Mr Salmond. Mr Lawson, he said, was "a cross the SNP has to bear" and Mr Sillars was acting like "a reverse Eric Cantona - lunging from the terraces at players on the pitch".

Labour seized on the SNP's divisions, accusing it of "descending into anarchy".

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