By Martin Kelly
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has insisted his party are focused on creating jobs as the local election campaign enters its last few days.
Campaigning on the final weekend of the Scottish Local Elections, the SNP Leader pressed home the SNP’s message of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and attacked the opposition claiming that they are mired in throwing “mud, mud, mud”.
Mr Salmond is seeking to re-inforce the party’s central message that every SNP council will be focussed on working to protect jobs and the economy and work alongside the Scottish Government to help people into long-term employment.
It comes as latest figures show Scotland has the lowest unemployment and highest employment of any nation in the UK, and contrasts with the news that the UK is now officially in a double-dip recession.
Mr Salmond will be out meeting voters in Fife and Glasgow today (Saturday) and will seek to highlight the SNP’s decision to stand 175 more candidates than in 2007. The SNP claim this is a reflection of the Party’s confidence in its policy platform.
Commenting the First Minister said:
“Our message is focussed on how SNP Councils will be 'can-do' councils which can create and protect jobs, jobs, jobs for Scotland.
“Across Scotland we have had the confidence to stand more council candidates than ever before, and they are supported by an unprecedented number of activists who are getting our message out.”
Mr Salmond contrasted his party’s positive message with that of Labour who, he claims are offering nothing but smears.
“In contrast our opponents have been left mired in throwing mud, mud, mud as they have no answers to the SNP’s positive vision.
"People don't want their local council to spend its time bickering with other councils and with the Scottish government. Instead, every SNP council will be focussed on working to protect jobs and the economy.
"SNP councils will work with the Scottish Government to ensure every 16-19 year old not in work, education or training is offered a learning or training opportunity, as we help them take their first steps into the world of work."
The SNP leader also pledged to extend his party’s policy of no compulsory redundancies and to protect councils and families from what he described as “the worst of the Westminster spending cuts”.
“In the elections last year, the people of Scotland gave a huge vote of confidence in our record in national Government. On Thursday they can bring the same record and vision to their local council.”
The First Minister’s message coincided with more accusations from Labour, with leader Ed Milliband labelling Mr Salmond “an undercover lobbyist” for the Murdoch Empire.
Mr Miliband’s accusations follow attacks by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who accused Mr Salmond of liking “rich men”. Labour have refused to accept the meetings between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch were related to jobs and have asked for evidence.
Mr Miliband said: “If, as he claims this was all part of a concerted effort to bring jobs to Scotland, why wasn’t he open about his support for the BSkyB bid? Why wasn’t he open about the fact that he was set to lobby Jeremy Hunt in favour of the BSkyB bid. If he had nothing to hide, why did he hide it?
“What he actually did was acted as an undercover lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch, and I don’t think that’s what people expect from the First Minister in Scotland. I think they want a First Minister who will stand up for ordinary people in Scotland, not the rich and powerful.”
However the First Minister hit back and accused the Labour leader of “humbug and hypocrisy”, pointing out that Mr Miliband himself met with Mr Murdoch at an exclusive garden party, hosted by the tycoon, last July.
It also emerged that that Mr Miliband had also sought support from the Sun newspaper and had reportedly promised an exclusive to the Sun on Labour’s new policy initiatives.
“I will stand and my party will stand for the main stream of Britain, for Sun readers and their concerns.” the Labour leader reportedly said.
Commenting on Labour’s new set of policies, Mr Miliband added: “You’ll read about it first in the Sun.”