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Salmond woos Mumsnet

ALEX Salmond pledged to maintain free education and free personal care yesterday as he attempted to woo one of the most potent political forces of recent years – Mumsnet members.

The First Minister told the popular parenting website that he was proud of both policies and, quoting from Robert Burns’s A Red, Red Rose, added: “The rocks will melt wi’ the sun before I’ll allow any change to them.”

In a wide-ranging webchat, he also defended a £500,000 donation from Stagecoach founder Brian Souter, who, in 2000, campaigned to retain a law banning schools from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. Mr Salmond rejected a suggestion the cash would affect SNP policy, saying the party’s stance on equality was “well known”.

During the online grilling he also revealed his favourite biscuit was a Tunnock’s chocolate caramel wafer, thereby dodging one of the most potentially explosive bullets in modern politics.

Mumsnet members were en-raged two years ago when Gordon Brown seemed to avoid the now infamous “biscuit” question, over which snack was his favourite. The former Prime Minister was even forced to take to Twitter the next day to answer the question, revealing it was “anything with a bit of chocolate on it”.

Mumsnet is fast becoming a major player in politics, and both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have previously set out to win over its members.

The internet network for mothers claims that it taps into a crucial demographic rarely heard in political debate, but who politicians need to secure votes from in order to clinch elections.

Its growing political influence was highlighted last month when Mr Cameron was forced to re-spond to a Mumsnet member who said that spending cuts would mean she would be forced to put her disabled child into care.

During his online Q and A, Mr Salmond also admitted that he had changed nappies in the past, although he said he did so badly.

He even apologised to a woman and her four-year-old child for accidentally hitting them with an umbrella at the Turriff Show last year. “If I had realised I would have said sorry at the time,” the First Minister said.

A number of questions centred around the Souter donation announced at the weekend.

At one point it seemed as if the Mumsnet crowd thought the SNP leader was avoiding the question, with a few saying so explicitly. One said: “So far nothing on the Brian Souter/gay marriage question. Am I the only one who cares if that’s changed SNP policy?”

Another, called Venusandmars, appeared to encourage the First Minister, saying: “Liking your answers Mr Salmond, and looking forward to your reply about civil partnerships.”

But Mr Salmond rejected suggestions the donation should be taken as a signal that the SNP are supportive of Mr Souter’s stance on homosexuality.

And he said that he “deprecated” comments made by Bill Aitken, the Scottish Con- servative justice spokesman, at the weekend questioning whether a rape victim had been a prostitute.

Although he said that he did not think that the remarks “really represented” Mr Aitken’s views, he added: “As for the repercussions, it seems to be the best thing is don’t vote Tory.”

However, the First Minister did dodge one question, refusing to reveal his racing tips to the Mumsnet faithful.

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