Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 16:26 UK

'I want to be PM of all the UK'

David Cameron at the Tory conference in  Ayr
David Cameron made a strong defence of the Union

The union between Scotland and England is under attack like never before, Tory leader David Cameron has said.

He told the Scottish Conservative conference the "ugly stain of separatism" was seeping through the British flag.

Mr Cameron's speech in Ayr came on the day his party won its first Westminster by-election victory in more than 20 years, taking the Labour seat of Crewe.

He said he wanted to be prime minister of all of the UK, not just England.

Mr Cameron said it was time to be frank about defending the Union, saying: "The simple truth is that the Union between England and Scotland is under attack as never before."

The constitutional future of Scotland has been a topic of discussion since the Scottish National Party formed a minority government following the Holyrood election in May.

The issue of a referendum on independence also came to the fore when Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander told First Minister Alex Salmond she feared nothing from the vote and urged him to "bring it on".

Better an imperfect Union than a broken one. Better an imperfect Union than a perfect divorce. My answer is simple. I choose the United Kingdom
David Cameron
Conservative Party leader

Mr Cameron said on Friday afternoon: "Whether we like it or not, the ugly stain of separatism is seeping through our Union flag."

He went on: "I am passionate about our Union. I do not want to be the prime minister of England. I want to be prime minister of the United Kingdom - all of it, including Scotland."

The party was celebrating on Friday after winning the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in England with a 17% swing from Labour.

"We ended our by-election drought in quite some style," said Mr Cameron, who received a rousing response at the conference venue in Ayr - where the Tories won a Holyrood by-election in the Labour-held seat in 2000.

Mr Cameron said the Tories had a vital role to play in defending the Union, because Labour was not able to.

Barnett formula

He compared Prime Minister Gordon Brown to an advertising executive, approaching the question of the country's national identity through focus groups to decide what it meant to be British.

Mr Cameron said: "Gordon Brown's view of Britishness is mechanical not organic. It is something to be redesigned, repackaged and relaunched from Whitehall, not something that lives in our heart."

He said the argument had gone beyond the Barnett formula - which calculates Treasury funding for Scotland - and the West Lothian Question.

Annabel Goldie
Annabel Goldie is "Solid Goldie" said David Cameron

However, Mr Cameron said he was confident of bringing in a system where English MPs had a decisive say when the Commons was voting on an issue affecting English constituencies.

But he argued: "Better an imperfect Union than a broken one. Better an imperfect Union than a perfect divorce. My answer is simple. I choose the United Kingdom."

Mr Cameron said the number of people who thought of themselves as British was declining, and were increasingly looking to the St George or Saltire instead of the Union flag.

He told the conference: "Being British is one of the most successful examples of inclusive civic nationalism in the world.

"We can be a shining example of what a multi-ethnic, multi-faith multi-national society can and should be."

Govern with respect

Mr Cameron also paid tribute to Scottish party leader Annabel Goldie, describing her as Holyrood's best performer, while claiming Scottish Labour leader Ms Alexander had risked the Union in her support to hold an independence referendum.

And he told Mr Salmond to "think again" if he thought a UK Conservative government would ignore Scotland's needs.

He said: "Whatever the outcome in Scotland of the next General Election, a Conservative government will govern the whole of the United Kingdom, with respect.

"Whoever is Scotland's first minister, I would be a prime minister who acts on the voice of the Scottish people and will work tirelessly for consent and consensus so we strengthen our Union and never put it at risk."


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