Scottish independence: Unionist opponents attack Salmond’s referendum focus

Opposition politicians have accused First Minister Alex Salmond of giving the Scottish independence campaign priority over Scotland’s well-being.

The comments follow Mr Salmond’s decision to move his deputy Nicola Sturgeon from her post as health secretary to spearhead the government’s referendum campaign.

Critics have hit out at the move dubbing Ms Sturgeon the “minister for independence”. The Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, said: “This reshuffle shows that the SNP government only has eyes for independence. They are more interested in running the referendum than running the country. We have repeatedly warned that the SNP would use the power of Government to split Scotland from the rest of the UK.

Increasing numbers of civil servants are devoted to breaking up Britain draining desperately needed resources to the achieving the SNP’s ambition. With the appointment of the Deputy First Minister to the post of Minister for Independence our fears have been confirmed.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson echoed these sentiments claiming that the government should be concentrating on issues such as increasing NHS waiting lists. She went on to say:

“That the health of the nation now plays second fiddle to the break-up of Britain says it all about this SNP administration.

“The First Minister has moved his most trusted lieutenant from one of Scotland’s most critical briefs to pursue his narrow nationalist agenda.

“The sooner the distraction of the referendum is behind us the better, and Alex Salmond can do what he was elected to do which is to serve the best interests of all Scots, and not simply champion those of the separatist minority.”

Veteran Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm also criticised Ms Sturgeon’s new role saying: “Alex Neil knows a thing or two about infrastructure little about health, Nicola Sturgeon vice versa. Appalling [that] only [the] referendum matters now.”

However, the Scottish Green Party were more conciliatory in their response with co-convener Patrick Harvie urging ministers to make the most of their new posts. Mr Harvie said: “We welcome the focus on building the case for independence and promoting economic recovery, and urge the Scottish Government to be bold. Nicola Sturgeon needs to build a positive, compelling vision of a more equal and forward-thinking Scotland rather than trying not to scare the horses.

 

Original article here – http://www.scottishtimes.com/unionist_opponents_attack_salmond_referendum_focus

NUS Edinburgh rally

An estimated 4,000 students took to the streets of Edinburgh to campaign against education cuts  this afternoon.

The National Union of Students (NUS) organised the event and marched the length of the Royal Mile to Holyrood, where a rally was held. Protesters heard SNP and Labour politicians pledge to avoid tuition fees in Scotland, and protect higher and further education spending.

SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, said: “I remember being here last winter for the candlelit vigil when tuition fees were being voted on in Westminster, and I promised then that there would be no tuition fees in Scotland.  I am proud to be standing here today saying we have delivered no tuition fees in Scotland.”

Russell gave assurances that a future SNP administration would seek to address further and higher education funding, and student support, saying: “I understand the link between student support and education.”

Labour spokesman Des McNulty MSP also vowed  to look at student funding. Comparing the situation in Scotland to that south of the border he said: “I would like to congratulate the NUS Scotland not only for organising today, but in joining forces with their English counterparts to campaign against the introduction of tuition fees of more than three times those at present. I believe that these measures are going to destroy significant aspects of education south of the border.”

In contrast to last year’s student demonstrations in London, this was a largely peaceful event. Protesters were in the main content to chant their mantra of ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts’ as they marched.

What little anger was on show was aimed towards Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Margaret Smith MSP. Despite NUS president Liam Burns’ efforts to make the crowd distinguish between Scottish Liberal Democrats and those in Westminster, she was met with a chorus of boos.

The boos and heckling returned sporadically throughout her time on the platform. Battling through the hostility, Smith launched a staunch defence of the Liberal Democrats record on education in the Scottish Parliament, and said:- “We are the party in government who scrapped Labour’s tuition fees, while Tony Blair and the Labour party were increasing tuition fees down south, so I don’t need any lectures from the chap in front of me.”

Scottish Green Party spokesman, Patrick Harvie MSP, questioned which of the other political parties the protesters could trust. Claiming he did not want to make empty promises he said:- ” I want you to make one promise to me. If I ever vote for tuition fees, I want you to promise to sack me.”

Burns closed the rally by warning the politicians that the protesters would continue fighting for their cause saying: “We have been let down before and we are not prepared to let this happen again. We have welcomed the support from Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrats and the Greens in saying no to any price tag on our education.

“We will cast our votes and will we show politicians of every colour in Scotland that the student voice will no longer be disregarded, misrepresented or ignored in elections, or by governments.”

Original article here