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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK

Connery shaken and stirred by media

Sean Connery: "I am not a politician"

The actor Sean Connery has appeared at a Scottish National Party rally and delivered a speech in which he strongly criticised the Scottish media.

"Scotland should be nothing less than equal with all the other nations of the world," the former James Bond star declared at the event in Edinburgh.

Sean Connery: "Control freaks"
He meted out a severe tongue-lashing to journalists. "Let us understand something. I am not a politician and I have no intention of being one.

"I am reading this only because I have not been able to trust my emotions or my language. Because I have never in my life witnessed or experienced such shameful abuse by this Scottish media.

[ image: Connery has been promoting his latest film]
Connery has been promoting his latest film
"I know the game was to provoke me. Well, you succeeded. I want to correct a repeated, how should I put this, inaccuracy, which reappeared today in the press, claiming that I had not shot a film in the UK in 25 years. In fact, three of my last films were shot in the UK.

"I came here this week to work. We brought 60 members of the American press and television, who also brought their families. Ninety-eight per cent had never been to Scotland before and 100% are coming back.

"They were totally captivated by the country and the people and in my book that's a positive achievement, no?".

The 68-year-old actor spoke of his hopes for the parliament. "We have waited nearly 300 years, my hope is that it will evolve with dignity and it will truly reflect the new voice of Scotland.

[ image: Connery wants Scotland to be the winner]
Connery wants Scotland to be the winner
"If I was asked, who do you think will win this election, my answer would be, hopefully Scotland.

"I must tell you, this is not a political speech. It is not written by the SNP, but by me. The only thing left to do is to vote and vote again and I will be right with you."

Earlier, there was further bad news for the SNP in a new opinion poll. The ICM survey for The Scotsman puts Labour on 47% in the constituency vote, 18 points ahead of the SNP.

The Liberal Democrats are on 10% while the Conservatives are on 12%. In the top-up section, Labour is on 46%, SNP 28%, Lib-Dems 11% and the Tories 12%.

The Scotsman reports that based on these results, Labour would come close to securing an outright majority at Holyrood.

Opponents, who point out that Connery does not even live in Scotland, say the task of reviving the SNP's fortunes is too great.

[ image: George Foulkes: Connery
George Foulkes: Connery "soaks up" the sun
International Development Minister George Foulkes,the Labour MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, said the actor's role should be treated "with contempt".

"I am urging this tax exile to tell us when he last paid a penny of income tax here.

"He is urging Scots to vote for a party which will increase the tax burden on those of us who live here.

"Meanwhile, he soaks up the sun in the Bahamas avoiding paying any UK tax at all.

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said: "I think Sean Connery would be better playing golf at St Andrews. Hopefully he could avoid the bunker that the SNP campaign has got itself into."

Former Liberal leader and Lib-Dem candidate Lord Steel joked: "Mr Salmond is looking increasingly like a maiden in distress waiting to be rescued by James Bond."

Nursery education

Labour's campaign on Monday focused on nursery education and child poverty. The party is promoting its commitment to nursery education and stresses the need to ensure that three and four-year-olds receive the best start to schooling.

BBC Scotland political correspondent Kenny Macintyre reports
But the Conservatives accused Labour of failing - and betraying - Scotland's young people at every level of education.

David McLetchie turned more fire on the SNP in a letter to his party's 73 candidates.

"The clear message of the past week is that the SNP campaign has run out of steam and off the rails," he said.

"The people of Scotland have seen through the threat their dangerous separatist ambitions pose to the future of the United Kingdom and they've seen through their Alex in Wonderland idea of economic policy."

[ image: Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace: Party focusing on poverty]
Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace: Party focusing on poverty
The Liberal Democrats said more than a third of Scotland's pensioners were living in poverty.

Social services spokeswoman Nora Radcliffe said the Scottish Parliament could do a lot to help deal with the problem, even though pensions were not a devolved power.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats will introduce a national concessionary travel scheme liberating pensioners who may needlessly suffer from lonliness or boredom," she said.

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