Cameron vows to fight UK break-up after SNP victory
Published 07/05/2011 | 05:00
Scotland's first minister and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, (left), and deputy leader of the party, Nicola Sturgeon, at a press conference in Edinburgh yesterday. David Moir
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to fight moves to break up the United Kingdom after Alex Salmond's Scottish nationalists claimed a historic victory in Edinburgh.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) yesterday won a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the first party to do so since devolution in 1999.
That result will allow Mr Salmond to call a referendum on ending the 304-year-old union between England and Scotland.
After arriving in Edinburgh by helicopter, Mr Salmond hailed his party's "historic breakthrough" and declared: "Scotland wants to travel in hope and aim high."
In an clear signal of intent, Mr Salmond said he planned to speak to Mr Cameron, "laying down markers as to what this result, this mandate, means for Scotland's relationship with the United Kingdom".
Mr Cameron said he would oppose any move to make Scotland independent.
"If they want to hold a referendum, I will campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre that I have," Mr Cameron said.
Some of Mr Cameron's advisers are now considering plans for him to travel to Scotland and make a major speech in defence of the union.
But one minister warned that Mr Cameron would have to go much further to combat the "formidable" Mr Salmond.
The source said: "You can't just go to Scotland, make a speech and leave it at that.
"There has to be more engagement across the government with Scottish issues: we're in for a long fight against Salmond."
Mr Salmond has said a vote on independence would not be held before 2013, but some Conservatives want to "call his bluff" by pressuring him to call the referendum sooner, believing that would make a 'No' vote more likely.
The nationalists won 69 seats, an increase of 23 based on the re-drawing of some constituencies, to 37 for Labour, a drop of seven on that basis from 2007.
The Conservatives took 15 seats, the Liberal Democrats five and the Greens two, with one Independent, according to results after all votes were counted.
The Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999 by the then Labour government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair after a near 300-year hiatus following the formation of the UK in 1707.
The first two administrations were coalitions of Labour and the Liberal Democrats before Salmond's minority government.
The legislature, with 73 electoral districts and 56 regional seats, has power over policy areas including education, health and justice, with foreign and defence policy plus broader economic matters controlled by ministers at Westminster in London.
A Scotland Bill currently going through the UK Parliament includes measures for Scotland to raise more of its own revenue and gain borrowing powers. (© Daily Telegraph, London)