SCOTTISH Labour leader Johann Lamont has claimed that Scotland benefits from being part of a United Kingdom with London at its heart.

She used a speech in Edinburgh last night to defend "the remarkable international city state of London" and its role generating wealth for the UK.

Her comments followed claims by First Minister Alex Salmond that London was increasingly damaging the Scottish economy by attracting an ever greater share of wealth and jobs.

He has argued that UK economic policy had been tailored to meet the needs of London and the south-east, to Scotland's detriment.

But, delivering a David Hume Institute lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Ms Lamont said: "I believe wealth should be redistributed to where it is needed.

"I think that one of the best ways we do this is through the United Kingdom.

"I think that the UK is not just made up of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I believe that we live in a union of five - Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the remarkable international city state of London. The UK is the machinery by which we redistribute wealth among those five constituent parts. And we all benefit."

She added: "I don't believe we should give that up lightly since it represents in essence the sense of community we regard as a Scottish value: rich helps poor."

She said the UK was "more about redistribution" than Scotland and accused SNP ministers of failing to initiate a single policy that transferred wealth from rich to poor.

Accusing the SNP of being "small C conservatives," she also challenged the First Minister's claim that Scotland was more naturally left-wing than England.

She said: "If we voted Yes on September 18th, it might mean we get rid of a few Tories but we will still have conservatives right here at home. The small C conservatives who put a brake on other people's radical visions for change, and whose voices can often be heard louder than those who have none."