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Michael Moore, Lib Dem
"We want to see additional investment made available to the Scottish Parliament"
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Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney
"The election we will face is about who is going to stand for Scotland"
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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 18:56 GMT
Parties fire opening election shots
Dover House
Labour is seeking a second term in Dover House
Scotland's four main political parties fired their opening shots in the 2001 general election campaign soon after Tony Blair announced the polling date of 7 June.

The Scottish Conservative Party launched their campaign three minutes after the Prime Minister's announcement with a pledge to "restore balance to public life" north of the border.

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell called on the electorate to give Labour a fresh mandate to "carry out a record programme of investment in public services".

John Swinney said the campaign in Scotland would be a two-horse race between his Scottish National Party (SNP) and Labour while the Liberal Democrats said they would campaign for more cash for the Scottish Parliament.

Helen Liddell
Helen Liddell: More work to be done
Speaking in London on Tuesday, Mrs Liddell said: "Four years ago, the people gave us an opportunity to start the work of transforming this country and delivering social justice.

"I am proud of the steps we have taken in that time - above all the fulfilment of our promise to establish the Scottish Parliament.

"But we have ambitions to do much more, building on Gordon Brown's success in achieving a stable and growing economy.

"We need a fresh mandate from the voters to carry out our record programme of investment in public services."

Mrs Liddell said Labour would argue its case "on every doorstep in Scotland" with the message that a vote for any other party "could let William Hague into Downing Street and trigger 16bn in spending cuts".

'Golden legacy'

But the Scottish Conservatives accused Labour of wasting a "golden legacy" that had been left by John Major's government and pledged to bring an end to "stealth taxes" introduced under Tony Blair.

The party's campaign leader Malcolm Rifkind, who is bidding to be re-elected in Edinburgh Pentlands, said: "We have no doubts about the difficulty of the task ahead.

Malcolm Rifkind
Malcolm Rifkind: "Difficult task"
"If we lost all those seats in one night four years ago, there is no reason why we cannot win them back in one night.

He said the Labour government had created more regulation and more burdens on individuals and businesses.

Mr Rifkind added: "We need to restore balance to public life in Scotland.

He said other parties had "complete domination" of Scottish representation at Westminster and this had "gravely weakened" the country's interests.

SNP leader John Swinney said he was "looking forward enormously" to the campaign and wrote off the chances of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

'Two-horse race'

"With the Tories down and out both north and south of the border, the general election in Scotland is a two-horse race between the SNP and New Labour," he said.

"And the polls show that the SNP are entering this campaign with a higher base of support than before any previous election - we are already five points up on our 1997 vote, the strongest position of any party in Scotland.

John Swinney
John Swinney: Devolved issues relevant
"We have closed the gap with Labour by seven points in the past month alone - only in Scotland is Labour support going down - and we will continue to close the gap right through to polling day."

Mr Swinney added later on BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme that strong SNP representation was needed at Westminster to boost the level of funding made available to the Scottish Parliament.

But Liberal Democrat election strategist Michael Moore denied that his party would be sidelined during the campaign.

Speaking on Newsdrive, he said: "We start from a historical high, from a point with more MPs at Westminster than we've had in generations and we've every confidence we can build on that.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore: More funding for Holyrood
Mr Moore said that the Liberal Democrats had been effective and ad carried the torch for Scottish opposition on issues like air traffic control privatisation and pensions.

He said his party would campaign for "additional investment for the Scottish Parliament for health, education and many other vital public services".

"We believe we can now say to the voters that in Scotland we can see the difference that Liberal Democrats make."

He cited the party's contribution in Holyrood to the abolition of tuition fees, the settlement for teachers and in forcing a pledge on free personal care for the elderly from the Executive.

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