NICK Clegg will appeal to Labour and Conservative supporters to “lend” the Liberal Democrats their votes in an audacious bid to stop Alex Salmond returning to Westminster.
The Deputy Prime Minister is today expected to issue a rare cross-party plea to those who opposed independence on 18 September last year to vote tactically to defeat Mr Salmond in the seat the former SNP leader is contesting next month.
Lend us your vote and we can stop the SNP winningNick Clegg
In a campaign visit to the constituency in Mr Salmond’s home turf of Aberdeenshire, Mr Clegg will warn that the SNP would use a large block of MPs at Westminster to agitate for a second independence referendum.
The SNP has placed Gordon near the top of its hit list of target seats in next month’s election. The Nationalists finished in second place there behind the Lib Dems at the 2010 election.
Mr Clegg will insist that his party is best placed to defeat Mr Salmond in Gordon, where the former First Minister hopes to overturn a Lib Dem majority of 6,748 to return to Westminster after a five-year absence.
The Deputy Prime Minister will issue the plea to Labour and Conservative voters in the 11 Scottish seats held by the Lib Dems to vote tactically to prevent the SNP forcing the “break-up of the UK”.
He will issue a stark warning to supporters of the Union that a vote for Labour or the Conservatives risks letting the SNP make additional gains to hold sway over a minority government at Westminster.
Mr Salmond would potentially be able to say whether a government “succeeds or dies” by forcing it to accept SNP demands over powers for Holyrood and public spending, Mr Clegg will tell supporters in Gordon, where the No vote was around 65 per cent in last year’s referendum.
The Lib Dems face a major battle in Scotland, with high-profile names including Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander and former UK party leader Charles Kennedy at risk of being ousted in their Highland seats during a potential SNP surge.
However, Mr Clegg’s speech in Gordon will also be seen as personally targeting Mr Salmond in a seat that covers a similar area to the constituency he already represents at Holyrood.
Mr Clegg will say: “If you are someone who is considering voting for the Conservative or Labour candidate, my message to you is this: lend us your vote and we can stop the SNP winning in your constituency.
“In 11 Scottish seats, you face a simple choice: do you want an SNP MP or a Liberal Democrat MP? In these seats the Liberal Democrat candidate is the only one that is in a position to beat the SNP.”
Mr Clegg will campaign alongside Gordon candidate Christine Jardine and deputy Lib Dem leader Sir Malcolm Bruce, who is retiring as MP for the area after 32 years at Westminster.
The Lib Dem leader will accuse the SNP of being a danger to the economy and brand it “the party of debt” as he issues the plea for tactical voting to save as many of the Lib Dems’ 11 Scottish seats as possible.
Mr Clegg will warn sweeping SNP gains on 7 May could allow the Nationalists to influence the government by forcing it to pursue higher borrowing.
He will say: “The SNP are not the party of Scotland, they are the party of debt. They want to borrow more and more money – an eye-watering £180 billion – and their plans for full fiscal autonomy will cost the people of Scotland £7.6bn.
“They will risk our economy and leave our children and grandchildren to pay for it for years to come.”
SNP election campaign director Angus Robertson said: “This is a sign of desperation from the Lib Dems who are clearly extremely worried by the message they are getting on the doorsteps.”
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