DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg will claim the Conservatives “cannot be trusted”, in his fiercest attack yet on his coalition partners on a visit to Scotland today.
Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference in Dundee, Mr Clegg will raise the spectre of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
He will claim that the Lib Dems have been “standing up for Scotland” in the coalition government amid fears that his party could face losing many of its 11 seats north of the Border in the next general election.
And he will say that it is only his party that is protecting human rights and “anchoring the government to the centre ground”.
The rift between the two coalition parties has widened in recent weeks. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable last week abandoned coalition economic policy and joined Labour in calling for more borrowing.
Lib Dem president Tim Farron launched a personal attack on Prime Minister David Cameron calling him “weak” and “out of control of his own party.”
In recent months there have been clashes on the future of the English NHS, the Tories blocking reform of the House of Lords and the Lib Dems breaking their promise to support boundary changes which would have given the Tories 20 extra seats.
Mr Clegg, pictured below, will today offer hope of a revival for the Lib Dems in Scotland, after the party was reduced to five MSPs at Holyrood in the 2011 Scottish election.
He will say that the Eastleigh by-election was a turning point in the party’s fortunes and will use the phrase “stronger economy, fairer society” many times.
“Get used to those words, conference,” he will say. “Get used to saying them. That’s the message I need you to deliver across the country.”
His speech will attempt to explain why his party remains in coalition, but not offer an apology for it.
He will say: “I know that the fact of going into coalition with the Conservatives has been particularly controversial in Scotland. The legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s government lingers long in the memory.
“People in Scotland know that the Conservatives cannot be trusted to deliver a fairer society. Not on their own anyway.”
He will highlight Home Secretary Theresa May’s bid to appeal to the right wing of her party by saying she would ditch the European Convention of Human Rights.
He will say: “That we could abandon the rights of British citizens just to satisfy the right of the Conservative Party. She wants this option to remain ‘on the table’. No chance. It won’t be on the Cabinet table as long as I’m sitting round it.”
Mr Clegg will also try to win back waverers who have abandoned his party in Scotland for Labour and the SNP.
He will claim that “Scotland does not trust Labour on the economy”.
Ridiculing Labour’s opposition to austerity measures, he will say: “Labour made no progress whatsoever. When the people of Eastleigh had the opportunity, they rejected them once again.”
He also plans to make a staunch defence of the UK ahead of the independence referendum next year.
He will say: “It turns out that the SNP haven’t been forthcoming in telling the public the true consequences of independence.”