Labour’s Iain Gray has claimed that Alex Salmond’s description of the Labour front bench as “second rate” proves that the SNP leader is “desperate”.
Mr Salmond yesterday declared the 2011 Holyrood election a straight fight between the SNP and Labour front bench teams and argued that “person for person”, his own team of ministers is “far stronger” than those led by Iain Gray.
The SNP leader described Iain Gray’s team as “second rate” and claimed that Holyrood was an institution ready to be taken forward:
Mr Salmond said:
“In previous terms of Westminster Tory government, Scotland lacked political protection. Now we have a Parliament which offers not only a bulwark against unwanted Westminster policies but also an institution which can and will take us forward to a better future.”
The First Minister added: “May is a key moment in Scotland’s journey. And for the people of Scotland the choice is clear – a second rate Labour Party, or a second term with a talented, positive SNP team.”
Mr Salmond also suggested that a second SNP win would provide an irresisitible platform for obtaining more powers for the Scottish parliament and a referendum on independence.
He said: “If we get a mandate at this election, our position in demanding the power Scotland needs will be irresistible.
“If we have an overall majority, we’ll have a mandate for Scottish independence. If we win the election, we’ll be in the position to turn the Scotland Bill from a mouse to a lion.
“We’ll be in a position, certainly, to get the referendum [on independence] because I doubt very much if the Parliament would turn us down after being re-elected.”
Mr Gray responded by claiming that comparing the two front bench teams showed that the SNP leader was: “increasingly desperate as he runs out of ideas and time”.
Labour’s Holyrood leader is trailing in a personality battle with Alex Salmond who remains a clear distance ahead of his political rival in opinion polls. The Labour leader has adopted a negative approach in his dealings with the SNP and recently attacked Alex Salmond’s choice of headgear when the FM visited the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
He has described the Scottish government as “serial apologists” and has claimed that they have cost thousands of Scottish jobs.
Gray suffered embarrassment last week after he caused a diplomatic row between Montenegro and Scotland over comments he made linking the small independent country to ethnic cleansing and war crimes. The Montenegrin Embassy sent a letter to the Scottish Labour leader demanding an explanation for the slurs.
There are also concerns over Mr Gray’s ability to handle pressure situations after appearing to momentarily freeze in a live interview when being quizzed on his party’s council tax policy during the Scottish Labour conference last year.