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Nats chaos as rebels defect to Labour; Election 97 countdown.

The Nats were thrown into a panic yesterday after the shock defection of two councillors to Labour.

The SNP leadership immediately denounced Borders councillors Willy McKay and Murray Hendrie as "trouble-makers".

But jubilant Labour claimed it was a major boost in the fight for Sir David Steel's former Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale seat.

The shock defection came as the SNP prepared to launch their manifesto today.

It also follows bitter in-fighting over McKay's bid to stand in the Tweeddale seat for the SNP.

After allegations of dirty tricks, a new contest was eventually ordered and McKay and Hendrie were expelled from the SNP group on Borders council.

But yesterday McKay denied his switch to Labour was sour grapes.

He said: "I have thought long and hard about this.

"This is an area of low wages and on that - and on education, health and a range of issues - it is Labour who can deliver."

Labour's Scottish campaign co-ordinator, Henry McLeish, said the defection was a "devastating blow" for the Nats.

He added: "It sends a message to all parts of Scotland that a vote for the SNP is a wasted vote."

But SNP chief Mike Russell played down the damage.

He said: "Frankly, this move adds to Labour's problems and diminishes ours."

There was more trouble for the party when leader Alex Salmond was savaged live on air by an angry SNP supporter.

Paul Rosano, 29, of Edinburgh, rang a phone-in on independent radio stations and denounced Salmond as "unpassionate, unconvincing, and uncharismatic".

And he complained: "It's the same dull tone."

But Salmond hit back: "That's just me - I'm afraid the SNP is stuck with me in that light."

He added it was vital the case for independence was put in a "thoroughly professional way".

He said: "It is vital that we not only have the passion that every self-respecting Scot feels for independence but that we also can express that passion head and heart.

"It's that combination that is going to win this nation independence."

It will include commitments to spend an extra pounds 50 million on the NHS in Scotland, repeal air tax for passengers in the Highlands and Islands and standardise the cold weather allowance
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Brown, Tom
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 7, 1997
Words:367
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