LABOUR MP Alistair Darling has received a standing ovation at Scottish Conservative Party conference at which he launched a new campaign to keep the British armed forces together.
Mr Darling, chairman of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, launched Forces Together at the Tory conference in Stirling today.
One Tory delegate asked if Mr Darling’s appearance at conference has been recorded so it can be distributed to schools.
Mr Darling said: “These things tend to stay in the archives unless they are particularly bad, but I think a standing ovation at the Conservative conference will I’m afraid be preserved.”
Former Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: “I understand Alistair attending the Conservative conference is a bit like me leading the Bolshoi ballet: unexpected.
“The SNP are trying to make political capital out of his attendance - Labour in cahoots with the Tories - but the SNP has underlined how important the UK is and how powerful an advocate Better Together has become.”
She acknowledged the parties’ political differences but said on the issue of keeping the UK together “Alistair is my darling”.
She also suggested Mr Darling’s late great uncle Sir William Darling, a former Tory MP for Edinburgh South, was “looking down benignly like a friendly spirit”.
Mr Darling said: “One thing that has struck me since I stepped down from frontline politics is just how nice your opponents are about you once they’re absolutely sure you’re not coming back.
“Whether or not my great uncle is looking down on me I don’t know, but I will resist the temptation to point out that he was indeed a Tory MP in the days when the Conservatives actually won seats in Edinburgh. I think he will be on my side of the argument today.”
Mr Darling outlined his argument that the UK benefits Scotland through providing a strong voice in Europe, a combined armed forces, a single market, jobs, cultural ties and a shared energy market.
He criticised the SNP’s plan to keep the pound, arguing that it will require the political union that the nationalists are trying to destroy.
A shared currency would also render the SNP’s plan to undercut UK corporation tax by 3% impossible, he said.
He added: “The nationalists only need to win once by one vote and there is no going back, so that is why we need to win this campaign and win it well.
“We also need to pose questions to the nationalists. When you ask them questions they say you’re being negative, or scaremongering.
“The definition of scaremongering is asking Alex Salmond a question he doesn’t know how to answer.”
Army veteran Nicol Cameron, formerly of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, appears in the Forces Together promo video and attended today’s launch.
He said: “The regiments of Scotland contribute to the overall capability of the British Army. If as mooted they are detached and formed into a Scottish defence force we must ask what this force would be capable of doing: not much.”
Mr Darling’s appearance was greeted by around 400 nationalist and anti-”bedroom tax” protesters outside the conference, complaining about his alliance with the Tories and Labour leader Ed Miliband’s stance on the spare room subsidy.
Protesters waved banners branding Mr Darling “The Abominable No Man”, although he received praise from one Labour-affiliated Unite union organiser at the protest who said the Tory alliance is necessary to defeat independence.