David Cameron launches stinging attack on SNP's 'dreams of independence'

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The SNP's "dreams of an independent Scotland will remain dreams", Conservative Party leader David Cameron claimed today.

• David Cameron has Scottish nationalism in his sights as an election issue

Mr Cameron, due to address his party's Scottish conference this week, hit out at SNP leader Alex Salmond in a series of newspaper interviews.

The Tory leader accused the First Minister of living in "a perpetual episode of Braveheart" and claimed the SNP was "taking people for fools".

Mr Cameron said he believed Scotland needed greater financial accountability and pledged that his party will produce a White Paper on devolution "reform" in the next Parliament if elected.

Attacking Mr Salmond, the Tory leader told the Daily Mail: "He lives in a perpetual episode of Braveheart."

And he told The Herald newspaper: "If Alex Salmond thinks he can fool people by saying 'Oh if only we were independent, we wouldn't have any debts, we wouldn't have any deficit, we wouldn't have any problems'. People know that's tosh.

"This is where they're taking people for fools because everybody knows there's a massive budget deficit. Everyone knows the whole of the UK is in debt. Everyone knows there's a problem."

Some commentators have asserted that a Conservative victory at the next general election will boost the SNP's drive for independence in Scotland.

But Mr Cameron told The Courier newspaper: "If Alex Salmond thinks a Conservative government is going to get in and run the United Kingdom in such a way that makes the argument for independence stronger he has another thing coming.

"I think that his dreams of an independent Scotland will remain dreams."

Mr Cameron also claimed that "the air's coming out of the balloon of the SNP", adding: "They have made a lot of promises. They have broken a lot of promises. And people are beginning to see it's not as attractive as it once looked."

Evidence is growing that independence is "not what people in Scotland want", Mr Cameron said, but he added that there was a need for Holyrood to have greater financial accountability.

Labour at Westminster has already put forward a White Paper which proposes to give Scotland more power to set income tax. But the Tories – who were part of the Calman Commission into the future of devolution – have not yet set out what they would do if elected.

Mr Cameron said a White Paper will be produced in the new Parliament.

And he hit back at those who had criticised the Conservative Party for not producing its own proposals, telling The Herald: "I don't really accept the criticism from Labour that somehow we're not taking this fast enough when they may have produced a White Paper but I have not noticed any legislation being introduced."

Mr Cameron also said that his party, which is targeting 11 seats in Scotland in the general election, had been "held back" by people's views about the past.

Mr Cameron also told the Daily Mail that the Barnett formula, used to allocate money to the different parts of the UK, may be replaced.

"If we replace it, it will be replaced by a needs-based formula," Mr Cameron told the paper.

"Scotland has its own great needs and it would get a lot of money under any new formula."

However the SNP said the Tories are planning to impose a "triple cuts whammy" in Scotland.

Nationalist Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "This is a huge pre-election blunder by David Cameron. The Tories have wobbled on spending at Westminster and he has just put his foot in it in Scotland by admitting that they plan to impose a triple cuts whammy north of the border.

"The Tories are signed up to the swingeing spending cuts in the pipeline for next year – the first real terms cut in the Scottish Budget since devolution.

"They want to go further and faster in the years thereafter; and now Cameron has let slip that he plans a further special spending cut just for Scotland.

"If this is David Cameron's message to Scotland, it will be the Tories' sole seat north of the border that will be getting cut.

"By letting the cat out of the bag in this way with these inept interviews, David Cameron has underlined the need for fiscal autonomy and Scottish independence – and SNP champions to protect and promote Scotland's interests."

A spokesman for Mr Salmond also hit back at Mr Cameron's comment that the First Minister was living in "a perpetual episode of Braveheart".

The remark "shows that David Cameron has nothing to say to Scotland".

The spokesman said: "If this is a pre-conference platform just weeks before a general election then what interviews demonstrate is that the Tories have got nothing positive to say.

"So the Tories may talk about change but these inept interviews indicate that they are still the same old Tories.

Anne McGuire, the Labour MP for Stirling, hit out at Mr Cameron for not revealing Tory proposals for "reforming" devolution.

"He won't even tell us what his plans are before the general election, probably because he doesn't know himself.

"That's not treating Scotland with respect. That is being tone deaf to Scotland."