Labour would give Scots a chance at more freedom
April 23, 1997
Web posted at: 5:36 p.m. EDT (2136 GMT)
From Correspondent Richard Blystone
EDINBURGH, Scotland (CNN) -- Constitutional change is not
high on British voters' priority lists. But profound changes
are at stake in the May 1 election.
The Labour Party, favorite to win, promises quick moves to
give more self-rule to Scotland and Wales -- moves that the
Conservative Party says will mean the breakup of the union.
Politicians know that where there's culture, there are votes.
In the rich culture of Scotland, the Labour Party knows there
are votes in loosening links with London.
Nationally, devolution -- decentralization of power -- is a
low priority for British voters. But Scots' patriotism is
Scotland has different school and legal systems from the rest
of Britain, and a business climate that sometimes clashes
with British ways.
Yet Scotland is nurtured and ruled from London.
If elected, the Labour party of Scots-born Tony Blair would
hold a referendum by next fall. If more than half vote yes,
the Scottish office in London would go, and a parliament in
Edinburgh would make domestic laws and collect some taxes.
But Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond wants to take
Scotland out of Britain and into Europe. He and the
Conservatives agree on one thing: under Labour, the breakup
of the United Kingdom is only a matter of time.
"In Tony Blair the new Labour Party has got a leader who is
the most arrogant, contemptuous of Scottish interests since
Margaret Thatcher," Salmond said.
But Salmond himself is ridiculed for talking of military
Labour Party officials deny that they will seek to break up
the kingdom. Party member George Robertson says the party
looks only to giving Scots more say in domestic
But critics like Andrew Neil, editor of Scotsman
Publications, say Labour's plan will do little more than set
up a fight between the Scots and the English.
And in fights with England, Scottish history is littered with
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