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Friday, 2 October, 1998, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Labour duffs up the nationalists
Donald Dewar
Ron Davies listens as Donald Dewar lays into the SNP
BBC News Online in Blackpool

The nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales have come in for heavy criticism during Labour's debate on constitutional reform.

The Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, and the Welsh Secretary, Ron Davies, both laid into their nationalist rivals ahead of the elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly next year.

Mr Dewar said that Scottish voters faced a "brutal choice" in May: "The Labour Party has a detailed, practical blueprint for health, education and housing."

He added that the government was already delivering in these areas: "1.8bn extra on health, 1.3bn extra on education, 4bn more to be invested in Scotland's social progress over the next three years.

"For the nationalists, the one defining policy is the break-up of Britain into separate states.

"It is a brutal choice spelt out by the nationalists at their conference last week."

'Politics of the past'

He said the Scottish National Party, which came in for fierce criticism from speaker after speaker during the debate, wanted only to wreck the new parliament and he accused Alex Salmond's party of engaging in "the politics of the past, not the politics of the future".

Mr Dewar conceded that there was no "instant solution" to the problem of unemployment in Scotland, but that progress was being made with 30,000 more people in employment in the country than there were a year ago.

He went on to hail Labour's programme of devolution in Scotland and Wales as the mark of a "great reforming government".

He said he was determined that Labour should win at the May 1999 elections to the parliament, but that the party should take nothing for granted. "We will fight a constructive campaign, looking forward with policies suited to a modern Scotland."

Labour and the Scottish nationalists are currently neck-and-neck in the opinion polls in Scotland.

'Dream on Dafydd'

Ron Davies
Ron Davies accuses Plaid Cymru of being "all things to all men"
Speaking earlier in the debate, Welsh Secretary Ron Davies had a similar message for the Welsh nationalists, whom he accused of attempting to be "all things to all men".

He said the new Welsh Assembly would provide freedom for the people of Wales to seize opportunities and even to make mistakes. He stressed there was a long way to go to create a "more confident, self-assertive country".

Mr Davies criticised the Conservatives in the shape of former Welsh Secretaries John Redwood and William Hague, who had campaigned against devolution.

Plaid Cymru, which decided at their conference last week to change their name to 'Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales', came under sustained fire.

He said that Dafydd Wigley's party should not promise what it could not deliver: "They might call themselves the Party of Wales - no one else will. There's only one party of Wales and that's the Labour party.

"The nationalists the party of Wales? Dream on Dafydd."

Mr Davies said it was vital that the nationalists were not given the opportunity to damage the Union: "Every vote for a nationalist is a vote for separatism. That's the truth.

"A Britain united has strength and influence. A Britain divided would be weak and fearful."


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