ED Miliband made a direct plea to Scots who voted Yes in the referendum to put aside their “disappointment” about the defeat of independence and back Labour to oust the Tories from power at next year’s General Election.
The Labour leader made the stark pitch to Yes supporters in a keynote speech in Glasgow, just 24 hours after the Smith Commission set out a new package of powers covering tax, welfare and borrowing for the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Miliband hailed the plan as a “significant transfer of power” and repeated a pledge that a Labour government would implement the measures in its first Queen’s speech.
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He said the recommendations from the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin would definitely be delivered, as he stated that the SNP’s claim that the plan was “disappointing” should not be an issue at the General Election.
Instead, Mr Miliband appealed to independence supporters in parts of Scotland such as the Labour stronghold of Glasgow - where the Yes side won a majority of the vote on 18 September - to kick out the Tories at the 2015 General Election.
Alex Salmond, in his final party conference speech as leader this month, suggested the SNP could increase its Westminster representation from six to 30 MPs at next year’s General Election and make massive gains from Labour, which won 40 seats in Scotland in 2010.
Mr Miliband said the “fight was on” against the SNP in the run up to the election next May, when the nationalists are expected to appeal to Yes supporters to vote for them in order to keep the campaign for independence going.
However, Mr Miliband suggested that a vote for the SNP could help the Tories remain in power and prevent the introduction of policies such as an energy price freeze, a crackdown on zero hour contracts and a significant increase in the minimum wage.
The Labour leader also claimed that Labour had “an agenda on social justice that beats the SNP’s by some distance” as he dismissed suggestions the nationalists were a party of the left.
Mr Miliband told Yes supporters that they would face a stark choice between a Labour and Tory government in next year’s election, which he insisted was not about the delivery of new powers to Holyrood.
He said: “To the people who voted “no” in the referendum - we said we would deliver on a stronger Scottish Parliament and on social justice and we will.
“And let me say this to the people who voted “yes”, including people who have voted Labour in the past, I know you feel a sense of disappointment about the result of the referendum.
“But I ask you to consider what outcome you want from the General Election in May. Some people want to say that the election is about whether we deliver on our promises to the people of Scotland.
“It is not. They are wrong. We have delivered. We will deliver. Instead this election is about whether we build a fairer, more equal country.
“It is the most important election for a generation.
It will come down to a very simple choice whether people want a Labour government of a Conservative government.
“I’ve set out what I want to do.
“A tax on bankers’s bonuses. An £8 minimum wage. An end to the exploitation of zero hour contracts. A freeze on energy bills. The end to the bedroom tax.
“These are policies the Tories would never commit to. Policies they oppose, every step of the way. Policies that will only happen with a Labour government.”
The Labour leader said “The Vow” made by the main Unionist parties of a radical package of devolution if Scotland voted No had been kept.
He went onto state what he said was a new vow of a “more equal country” if Labour is returned to power in 2015.
Mr Miliband said: “Yesterday we showed we would keep the vow.
“Today I vow to build a fairer country with a Labour government. I vow to fight for a more just country with a Labour government.”
Mr Miliband, in a question and answer session after his speech, accepted that Labour would face an electoral challenge from parties such as the SNP next year, but attacked the SNP’s commitment to social justice.
He said: “We have a fight on. We have an agenda on social justice that beats the SNP’s by some distance.”
Stewart Hosie MP, the SNP’s deputy leader, said:
“Ed Miliband’s shaky understanding of Scotland is becoming embarrassing - no wonder his own polling ratings in Scotland are so dreadful.
“It was precisely because Labour ganged up with the Tories in the No campaign that they have sunk in the polls - and Labour are once again on the same side as the Tories in backing inadequate powers for Scotland.
“SNP MPs would never prop up a Tory government - it is Labour who are the Tories’ helpers in Scotland - and therefore Mr Miliband’s comments make no sense.
“Once of the many things that Ed Miliband doesn’t understand is that Yes voters – and very many No voters - want real powers for the Scottish Parliament, and the only way that all the people of Scotland will be given the influential voice we need at Westminster in a possible hung parliament is by voting SNP next May.”
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