Salmond challenges ‘at bay’ Blair

Scottish National party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond has challenged Tony Blair to meet him in a “head to head debate” about the future role of Scotland in the UK.

His call for an open dispute on the future of Scotland follows the prime minister’s express wish to tackle the SNP “head to head”.

“I am sure the Scottish media, with whom Mr Blair has a noted relationship, would welcome this and would be willing to host such an event,” he said.

“Mr Blair can name the time and the place and then the people of Scotland can have an opportunity to see exactly why the SNP is the only party putting the interests of Scotland first.”

The political maneuvering comes ahead of next year’s elections to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood. Since the last election, when the SNP won 24 per cent to Labour’s 35 per cent, opinion polls have seen the SNP slowly advance on Labour’s lead.

At the last count by pollsters Mori between April and June this year, the SNP finally overtook Labour, with 30 per cent saying they were prepared to vote for Mr Salmond’s party compared to 28 per cent for Labour.

Mr Salmond compared Mr Blair’s current political status to that of Landseer’s famous painting, The Stag At Bay:

“He is at bay from his own pack of yapping Labour hounds,” he said.

The latest Labour backbencher to attack Mr Blair’s ongoing leadership is new MP Sarah McCarthy-Fry, who told the BBC yesterday that Mr Blair’s continued premiership meant her party was “not being able to discuss those policies and get that message over”.
“We seem to be stuck in a quagmire and everything goes back to the leadership succession,” she said.