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Saturday, May 1, 1999 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

Salmond calls Blair's bluff

Alex Salmond plays his card trick

The Scottish parliamentary elections took on the trappings of a quiz show as Alex Salmond attempted to call Tony Blair's bluff during his visit to Scotland.

After lunch with journalists in Glasgow, Mr Blair explained why he believes the Scottish electorate will find the Scottish National Party's recipe for separation hard to swallow.

However, the attentive Mr Salmond, who had appeared on the BBC quiz show "Call My Bluff", held up a card saying "Bluff", provoking laughter from the audience.

Mr Salmond later quipped he also had a "True" card prepared for Mr Blair's speech but did not have cause to use it and accused Mr Blair of politicising the charity lunch speech.

[ image: Tony Blair: Truth or bluff?]
Tony Blair: Truth or bluff?
After defending the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia as a "battle between good and evil", Mr Blair had gone on the offensive against the nationalists.

The parliament, he said, was "a symbol of a new partnership in the UK". "I am determined to be here today not just to campaign for the Labour Party but to celebrate the new Scottish democracy that we have brought about."

The prime minister said the 6 May election would be a choice between "building up Scotland or breaking up Britain". He launched a fierce attack on the SNP's economic strategy for independence, which was published on Friday.

He said: "We have not had a great deal of time to study it, but one thing is very, very clear.

"It only takes a few minutes to discover not just one black hole, but the black holes in their plans."

He said the document took no account of debt interest payments and assumes that, on independence, Scotland would enjoy an entirely debt-free inheritance.

Start-up costs

Mr Blair also said the SNP had assumed Scotland would enjoy a net gain in income from the European Union, adding that the strategy did not envisage any start-up costs for independence.

The prime minister then accused the SNP of exaggerating Scotland's income from oil revenues, but was interrupted as Mr Salmond provoked laughter from the crowd by producing his "bluff" card.

Mr Salmond later said he had kept the card after appearing on BBC's Call My Bluff earlier this year.

He said: "This was meant to be a non-political speech at a charitable occasion, and I think the prime minister breached that.

"I suspected that he might do so and I prepared myself accordingly."

Mr Salmond admitted he had kept the card after his game show appearance, but added: "It is BBC property and I will return it now."

The SNP leader then remarked: "I brought along one that says 'True' as well but as far as the politics is concerned I did not have to use that."

Mr Blair had continued his speech, telling Mr Salmond: "It is not bluff, it is fact and you should realise the difference."

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