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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Scots politicians back election delay
Scotland's political leaders
Scotland's political leaders agreed with the decision
Scotland's political figures have been giving their response to the prime minister's decision to delay naming a date for the general election.

The foot-and-mouth crisis appears to have ruled out a 3 May poll and general political consensus north of the Border is that Tony Blair has made the right decision.

But Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said that given the rural epidemic there is not much difference between a May poll or a date in June - raising the possibility the election could be delayed yet further.

Scotland's First Minister Henry McLeish said the prime minister faces a difficult decision in what is a sensitive period for the whole rural community.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish: Send the message we are open for business
Speaking at an anti-drugs rally in Glasgow on Sunday alongside the leaders of the other Scottish parties, Mr McLeish said it was vitally important to "send out a positive message to the world that Scotland is open for business".

"The prime minister has to be sensitive to rural areas and farmers, it is a very difficult decision to make."

However the question which hangs over the country is when this will be the case.

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said his party would be ready whatever date was chosen for the election but pointed out he had called for a delay last week, adding "I think the prime minister has taken a wise step".

Deputy first minister and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace said: "All the demands of an election may have conflicted with the current crisis, so the prime minister has made the right call".

And Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie said it was right the national focus should be on getting the crisis under control.

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy: No difference between May and June
Mr Kennedy told BBC Scotland's Holyrood programme: "It does seem to me judging as a layman looking from the outside in on this one that the arguments against May in terms of the scientific nature of this problem are equally the argument against June.

"He (Tony Blair) at the end of the day is going to have to weigh up the competing and conflicting factors that he has got to gauge and come to a decision, but I think the important thing is a public decision must be arrived at by the beginning of next week".

Political parties on an election footing have had to wait to see if their campaign would be delayed because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Although the prime minister has made no official announcement, it appears the election will take place in June at the earliest.

Crisis takes precedence

Scotland Minister George Foulkes said: "Whatever date the prime minister decides upon for the general election it will be on the basis on what is best for the country and our top priority is to get control of foot-and-mouth disease and eradicate it.

"And the prime minister is obviously leading on that".

SNP deputy leader Roseanna Cunningham said getting the crisis under control had to take precedence over the election poll.

She said: "We should wait until we get official confirmation of the position. What we have said is that we could not really foresee going to the country for an election as long as this particular crisis was not under control.

"It was really a case of whether that was going to be answered yes. One has to assume that if it is looking like June rather than May then we are not sufficiently in control of what is happening in the countryside to yet contemplate an election campaign.

"But then it will continue to be a question of whether we are in control and in a sense that question will remain unanswered whenever the election is considered."

The SNP's Roseanna Cunningham
"We should wait until we get official confirmation of the position"

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See also:

01 Apr 01 | UK Politics
01 Apr 01 | UK
01 Apr 01 | UK Politics
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