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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 15:22 GMT
Labour 'shift' over independence
David Cairns
Mr Cairns was addressing a Labour youth conference in Glasgow
Scotland could survive as an independent country, a senior Labour politician has acknowledged.

Scotland Office Minister David Cairns said he did not believe the country would "wither and die" if it was to break from the UK.

It marks a shift in tone from Labour's Holyrood election campaign, where it claimed people in Scotland would end up "broke" without the UK.

The campaign was widely criticised by opponents for being too negative.

Mr Cairns warned his party that it had to find a way of articulating "an innate pride in Scotland" without the "reactionary nationalism" of the SNP.

It is not only the Nationalists who have a passion for Scotland, it's just that they wear it on their sleeves and lapels
David Cairns MP
Scotland Office Minister

He told a Labour youth conference in Glasgow: "Scottish Labour does not believe that Scotland would wither and die as an independent country."

He argued that Labour believes in "common endeavour", saying: "Just as this is true of communities and society, so it is true of our country."

Mr Cairns told his audience that the party must reform its policies and renew its "bond of trust with the people" in readiness for a public disenchantment with the SNP's "broken promises".

The party must articulate policies in tune with people's "hopes and ambitions" - but must also find a way of inspiring voters by appealing to their hearts as well as their heads.

'Labour's negativity'

Recalling an advert during the election campaign which featured prominent footballers, he said: "Legends from across the Old Firm divide, including such greats as Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith and Billy McNeill, wrote of their tremendous pride in being both Scottish and British.

"It was simple, almost understated. But its quiet emotional appeal demonstrated that it is not only the Nationalists who have a passion for Scotland, it's just that they wear it on their sleeves and lapels."

SNP depute leader Nicola Sturgeon said Labour's negativity had been one of the key reasons it lost the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

She said: "Labour in Scotland have played the same scaremongering game for years, flying in the face of the facts about Scotland's ability to prosper as an independent country - most recently the evidence that Scotland would be the third wealthiest nation in the EU with a fair share of our North Sea resources."

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