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Enemies clash

Brian Taylor | 10:52 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

Two stories, one response. In both cases, Labour says that the SNP has made fundamental errors.

In both cases, the Scottish National Party is accusing Labour of seeking to deflect attention from other matters.

Case One: alcohol.

Labour's alcohol commission has now begun work, seeking solutions which, one must presume, do not involve minimum pricing as the party has already set its face against that.

Not without reason, the SNP questions why Labour cannot examine such issues within the ambit of the health committee which is considering the Scottish government bill - including, among other things, minimum pricing.

In short, the SNP reckon it's a wheeze to appear to be taking action while, in practice, blocking the proposal on the table - minimum pricing - which has medical backing.

Labour says no: this is constructive opposition, reflective of their position as the second largest party at Holyrood.

Instead of merely thwarting the Government, they are looking, seriously, for alternatives.

Labour 'mumping'

With regard to minimum pricing, they argue that it's a mistake, that it would not address the real problem drinkers as they would, arguably, be most resistant to price pressure.

As an interim, Labour has suggested clamping down on caffeinated drinks (such as one with a monastic origin.)

Case Two: lunch at Holyrood with Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Nationalists reckon Labour is only "mumping" about this issue at Holyrood because it has three MPs facing criminal charges at Westminster in relation to expenses.

Mr Salmond has now sought to "draw a line" under the issue by cancelling four proposed lunches with him (he disclosed a further three) and one with Ms Sturgeon, pending a ruling from the Holyrood authorities.

He notes further that no donations have yet been received.

In response, Labour's Iain Gray says this is insufficient: that Mr Salmond and his deputy have been "systematically selling access", that it is an abuse of office.


Nationalists say that is ludicrous: that the lunches, had they taken place, would have been highly public events in the parliamentary restaurant; that the donations would have been published in the normal way; and that Labour is scarcely well placed to criticise on the issue of party fund-raising.

In terms of tactics, Mr Gray perhaps now feels that he should have ventilated the topic earlier in questions to the FM on Thursday.

He has certainly pursued it since.

Mr Salmond, arguably, did not help his case with a somewhat over-excitable response to the points of order later, although one might note that he felt exasperated.

Following these exchanges, a Nationalist and a Labour MSP were over-heard discussing the matter in rather blunter terms in the garden lobby.

A further link between the topics?

They confirm, if confirmation were needed, that Labour and the SNP are enemies, not just opponents.


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