Scotland politics

Scottish Lib Dem conference: Clegg predicts Salmond election failure

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLiberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says his party will "wipe the smile off Alex Salmond's face" in the general election

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has predicted that his party will "wipe the smile off" Alex Salmond's face by preventing him from returning to Westminster.

The former SNP leader hopes to win the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire from the Lib Dems on 7 May.

But at the party's Scottish conference, Mr Clegg insisted his party "will do so much better than anyone thinks".

"It won't be easy, but winning shouldn't be," he said.

He added: "We are showing that with hard work, strong local campaigns and a record of delivering for people in Westminster, Holyrood and communities across Scotland, we can and will win.

'Incredible resilience'

He told an election rally at the party's Scottish conference in Aberdeen that the Liberal Democrats had shown "incredible resilience in the last five years", adding this had helped them to achieve "incredible things".

"That resilience will see off the SNP challenge in the seats we hold," he said. "And it will wipe the smile off Alex Salmond's face in Gordon too."

He said: "I've heard the predictions. I've seen the polls. But let me tell you this: we will do so much better than anyone thinks."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alex Salmond, who has been promoting his referendum diaries, is fighting the Gordon seat

The deputy prime minister hailed Christine Jardine, the party's candidate in Gordon where Lib Dem MP Sir Malcolm Bruce is standing down, as being a "passionate, hard-working community champion".

In contrast he said Mr Salmond had spent more time writing his referendum diaries "than listening to the concerns of local people".

He added: "Christine sees being an MP as a chance to change people's lives for the better, Alex Salmond sees it as a chance to make one person's life better - Alex Salmond's."

With support for the SNP having increased in the wake of last year's independence referendum, Mr Clegg said people south of the border had "watched the so-called SNP surge with alarm and confusion".

'Record of action'

While he claimed Labour had no response to this "after years of taking the people of Scotland for granted" he insisted the same could not be said for the Liberal Democrats.

"We are a grassroots party built on decades of hard-working campaigners fighting to deliver for their local areas," Mr Clegg said.

"No matter who our opponents are, or which parties make up the governments in Holyrood and Westminster, our focus is on making the lives of the people we represent better."

He argued that Liberal Democrats in Downing Street had increased pensions, raised the income tax threshold, and had handed more powers to Holyrood.

He told the rally: "We have put Scotland at the heart of the UK government's agenda, with Scottish Liberal Democrats sat around the cabinet table to make sure we deliver.

"The SNP may have taken their eye off the ball in government, but the Liberal Democrats never have."

He said it was his party's record in government that "gives credibility to our plans for the next five years".

Mr Clegg said his party's priorities in the election campaign would be "finishing the job of balancing the books fairly, cutting taxes, investing in education and health, protecting our environment and a stronger Scotland".

'Fair approach'

He stressed: "We can say we will do these things because, unlike ever before, we have a record of action in government to back us up.

"While the job of fixing our economy is not over yet, the end is in sight."

He added: "By sticking to our sensible and fair approach to balancing the books, we can end the era of austerity in three years' time."

Mr Clegg said the Liberal Democrats had also made improving mental health care a priority, and challenged the Scottish government to commit more funding to services in this area for children and young people.

Earlier the Lib Dem leader told the BBC one of the "surprises" of the general election would be "how many, not how few, Lib Dem MPs are returned, including in Scotland".

He also accused Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of "presumptuousness" by talking about the possibilities of a coalition or deals.

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had a "fight on their hands" but insisted they had "anchored" the UK coalition government in the centre ground.

He said there would have been "higher unemployment, higher interest rates, higher poverty in Scotland" if the Lib Dems had not gone into coalition and "fixed the economy".

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites