DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has launched an outspoken attack on the SNP, accusing the party of unbelievable complacency and taking people for granted.
He insisted his Liberal Democrats would do “much better than expected” in Scotland at next year’s general election – including holding on to Edinburgh West.
And amid Nationalist claims that they could hold the balance of power at Westminster, he warned them: “Don’t count your chickens.”
In an exclusive interview during a visit to Edinburgh, Mr Clegg said: “The SNP have been very cocky and are already strutting their stuff, assuming they are going to be the largest party after the Conservatives and Labour. The complacency is unbelievable, they are just taking people for granted.
“I think it’s one of the reasons they lost the referendum. They became so cocky and so utterly sure that their own bluster and rhetoric would somehow win the day that they seemed very surprised when people developed a mind of their own.”
He acknowledged the SNP were riding high in the polls – “Their politics of grievance is skilfully executed,” he said.
But he said: “Talking now about what might happen after one of the most unpredictable elections I can remember is very foolish. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. I think the SNP are being very cocky and complacent, measuring up the curtains in Westminster as if they somehow owned the place.”
Mr Clegg admitted the deal his party did with the Tories after the 2010 general election had lost it support, but insisted the Lib Dems had restrained the Conservatives.
He said: “We have seen our poll ratings fall significantly because of our presence in the coalition. I totally understand why in a part of the country like Scotland where people have dark memories of the 1980s under the Conservatives, it’s not popular to go into coalition with them.
“But most people will remember that no-one won a majority back in 2010 so it was not unreasonable for us to play a role in creating a stable government – and we have a record we are very proud of.”
Mr Clegg said there were now clear differences between the three Westminster parties.
“George Osborne wants to cut remorselessly for ideological reasons even after the books have been balanced. Ed Miliband wants to continue borrowing for as long as they can and string out the pain of making savings. We would cut less than the Conservatives and borrow less than Labour.
“If we get that combination right, explain our record and explain the differences between ourselves and the other main Westminster parties, I believe with hard graft and good campaigning we will do much better than people predict.”
He said he was confident Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart could win again. “He is not only a devoted constituency MP but a totally decent man.”