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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK

The final countdown

The campaign for seats in the parliament enters its final phase

BBC Scotland political correspondent Kenny Macintyre reports.

All the political parties are out in force in the final stage of the campaign to win seats in the new Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish National Party accused the government of plotting to privatise schools and hospitals, the Liberal Democrats claimed they were making "remarkable" progress, the Tories insisted they had regained the respect of the electorate and Labour identified trust and judgement as the key issues of the final days of the campaign.

The SNP said that the Private Finance Initiative was the fault line running through Labour's campaign.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said the voters now realised that Labour was "hell-bent" on privatising hospitals and schools.

[ image: Alex Salmond hopes to be on the road to power]
Alex Salmond hopes to be on the road to power
Campaigning in Stirling, Mr Salmond said Labour's privatisation policies would be a major SNP theme during the final few days before Thursday's election.

"At the heart of Labour's manifesto is their pledge to privatise schools and hospitals in Scotland by using the expensive and discredited Private Finance Initiative.

"And Labour's policy doesn't just privatise our public services but also jobs too, which is why this campaign has been littered with Labour candidates and union representatives who have spoken out against it."

Labour insisted that was "rubbish" and said the final few days of campaigning were all about trust.

Labour's Home Affairs spokesman Henry McLeish said: "On the doorsteps, the messages are coming back loud and clear.

[ image: Donald Dewar: Aiming for a Labour full house]
Donald Dewar: Aiming for a Labour full house
"The key issue in the Scottish election campaign is trust. It is a stark choice between Donald Dewar MP, a man of experience who has delivered the first Scottish Parliament for 300 years.

"Or Alex Salmond and his party of divorce. The SNP yesterday (Friday) surrendered any claim to be a serious party of power. Their sums do not add up. Now they have admitted they there is a fiscal deficit, will they also admit that they have been deceiving the people."

The Scottish Green Party has accused Labour of deliberately misleading people in a leaflet telling voters that a second vote for other parties will cancel out a first vote for Labour.

'Cancelled' vote

In a letter to Donald Dewar, Marian Coyne, of the Scottish Green Party quotes from the Labour leaflet circulating in Lothian.

The leaflet contains a message from Mr Dewar advising people how to use their second vote, which says: "A vote for any other party will cancel out your vote for Labour."

A second vote for Labour, argue the Greens, is a wasted vote because theparty cannot get any additional members from it.

[ image: Lord Steel: Second vote
Lord Steel: Second vote "crucial"
Ms Coyne said: "However, I know of many committed Labour voters who want to see a different kind of politics in Scotland. Many of them will be going Green with their second vote. They must be disappointed that Labour is trying to mislead them into doing otherwise."

The Liberal Democrats said they were on a roll - on course for a remarkable result - the best in their history.

In Edinburgh, Sir David Steel said they would be hammering home the importance of the second vote.

He believed his party would make significant gains on the second vote, and that the new parliament would be one of consensus with no party winning an overal majority.

[ image: David McLetchie: Tories up in the air]
David McLetchie: Tories up in the air
The leader of the Scottish Tories, David McLetchie was flying to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen by helicopter on Saturday.

He was delivering the Party's "Three Times a Tory" message as the latest in the party's series of posters were unveiled on some 250 billboards.

Mr McLetchie said: "We are now taking our message in person to the people in the streets, for it was their vision and ambition for Scotland and our new parliament that provided us, after all, with many of the truly radical and reforming proposals we are now asking them to endorse with their votes next week."

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