LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of trying to “set one part of the United Kingdom against another” in a general election campaign increasingly focused on the Nationalist surge in Scotland.
Mr Miliband warned that Mr Cameron’s tactics are dangerous and will break up the UK, in a furious riposte to a Conservative campaign that saw Sir John Major brand a potential partnership between Labour and the SNP as a “recipe for mayhem”.
David Cameron is seeking to divide our countryEd Miliband
Nicola Sturgeon hit out at the former prime minister’s dramatic intervention as “silly” and claimed his remarks were an “affront to democracy”, with polls showing the SNP poised to make sweeping gains on 7 May.
The First Minister said Sir John’s remarks were “over the top” and did not “show him in a particularly good light” in Scotland, where the former prime minister presided over a complete Conservative wipe-out in the 1997 election.
Sir John claimed the SNP represent “a real and present danger” to the future of the UK and urged voters to turn their backs on a minority Labour government propped up by Ms Sturgeon’s party.
A partnership between Labour and the SNP would see Mr Miliband subjected to “a daily dose of political blackmail” from Nationalists who would “create merry hell” in the hope of promoting the break-up of the UK, the Tory grandee said.
Sir John said: “The nightmare of a broken United Kingdom has not gone away. The separation debate is not over. The SNP is determined to prise apart the United Kingdom.”
The stark warning about the prospect of the SNP’s wielding influence at Westminster came as Alistair Darling, who led last year’s No campaign, said Labour cannot be held “to ransom” by a party with the “sole aim” of destroying the United Kingdom.
Mr Cameron warned during a recent campaign visit to Scotland that a post-election deal between Labour and the SNP would lead to a “coalition of chaos” which would threaten the future of the UK.
However, Mr Miliband used a question and answer session in Manchester yesterday to accuse Mr Cameron of “demeaning his office” and putting the UK’s future at risk.
He said: “David Cameron is setting one part of the United Kingdom against another. He is seeking to divide our country, and I think that is dangerous. He is talking up the SNP’s chances, not taking them on, and I think that is dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon, in a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) annual meeting in Ayr, attacked the remarks from Sir John, who opposed devolution during his seven years as prime minister in the 1990s. Ms Sturgeon said: “Some of the comments we’re hearing in the media this morning from Tory politicians like John Major are actually an affront to democracy.”
The SNP leader said that as the election was so closely contested it gave Scotland the opportunity “to make our voice heard” in arguing for a “better and more progressive politics right across the UK”.
MS Sturgeon added: “John Major’s comments are silly, over the top and frankly they don’t show him in a particularly good light.
“These are the same politicians that, during the referendum campaign, urged Scotland to lead the UK, not leave the UK.
“Now they appear to say Scotland’s voice should only be heard if we say the things they want us to say and vote the way they want us to vote.
“My message to John Major is Scotland’s voice deserves to be heard in whatever way the Scottish people choose, and voting SNP means Scotland’s voice will be heard more loudly and strongly at Westminster than it has ever been heard before. But it will also be a voice for better and more progressive politics at Westminster, so perhaps it’s not surprising that John Major doesn’t like that.
“But what he is saying disrespects democracy; it’s up to people in Scotland to vote how they choose to vote and make their voice heard.”
Ms Sturgeon claimed the Conservatives were “clearly in panic and desperation”, as she attacked the speech made in the West Midlands yesterday by Sir John.
She said: “I’ll leave Tory prime ministers of yesterday to indulge in over-the-top language and I’ll continue to campaign positively for the votes and the trust of people in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to state that the SNP has “similar views” to Labour on key issues as she stepped up calls for an anti-Conservative alliance after May’s election.
Ms Sturgeon said SNP MPs would “vigorously and loudly” support a Labour government in some areas as she stressed common ground between the two parties over plans to crackdown on zero-hour contracts and increase the minimum wage.
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “The SNP’s record on workers’ rights simply doesn’t match their rhetoric.”
She added: “They are a party whose very existence is to divide the Labour movement on these islands, and we know when the left is divided it is the Tories who win.”