Anger as Salmond plays apartheid card: He likens Scots clamour to vote to South Africa's first election

He said long queue of voters was similar to that of post-apartheid election
1994 vote came after centuries of cruel exclusion for black South Africans
Critics said first minister's comments were 'belittling' what happened
Labour ex-minister Peter Hain said the comparison was 'preposterous'

By John Stevens and Tamara Cohen for the Daily Mail
9 September 2014. Updated 10 September 2014

Alex Salmond sparked outrage yesterday by comparing the Scottish referendum to South Africa’s post-apartheid election.

The first minister said the sight of his countrymen waiting in line to register to vote was similar to that of black South Africans forming long queues outside polling stations in 1994.

But while Scots have long enjoyed the full trappings of democracy – and elect both Scottish and UK MPs – black South Africans were having their first sight of the ballot box after centuries of cruel exclusion.

Peter Hain, a Labour ex-minister and anti-apartheid campaigner, said Mr Salmond’s South Africa comparison was ‘preposterous’.

‘It was the first free, democratic election in South Africa’s history, when people who had never been allowed to vote in their lives did so,’ he added.

‘Comparing that with the Scottish referendum just underlines how the Yes campaign is resorting to desperation and irrationality.

‘South Africa was a brutal police state, with state terror, state-sponsored assassinations, torture, absolute denial of human dignity if you had the wrong colour skin.

‘To compare it to Scots seeking independence is just insulting to the freedom struggle that Nelson Mandela led.’

Last Monday I saw something I didn't ever think I'd see. In Dundee, I saw people queuing up - and it wasn't a short queue, it was a long queue - to register to vote... almost reminiscent of scenes in South Africa from 20 years ago when people queued up to vote in the first free election

Labour peer Lord Foulkes said: ‘It is an outrageous comparison. Black people were oppressed and unable to vote, which has never been the case in Scotland.

‘It is insulting to anyone involved in democratic elections here over the century and belittles what people went through in South Africa.

'This is typical of Salmond’s hyperbole. Scots have always been a key part of running the UK, including with Scottish prime ministers.

‘He accuses the No campaign of panicking, but making this comparison is just desperation.’

And BBC broadcaster Sue MacGregor, who was raised in South Africa by Scottish parents, said: ‘Voting was not possible for many in South Africa until that election, that is why they queued for one or two days to vote. It is not comparable.’

Describing what he saw in Dundee, Mr Salmond had said: ‘[It was] almost reminiscent of the scenes in South Africa that some of us of a certain age remember from 20 years ago or so when people queued up to vote in the first free elections.’

The first democratic elections took place in South Africa over three days from 27 to 29 April, 1994. Despite threats of violence, the voting was largely peaceful.

Mr Mandela, who had been imprisoned by the apartheid regime for 27 years, became the country’s first black president after his ANC party won 62.5 per cent of the votes.

The parliament in Holyrood was formed in 1999 following the referendum campaigned for by Donald Dewar two years previously.

Its powers including running the health service and education north of the border. Since 1707 there have been 12 prime ministers who were either Scots-born or of Scottish extraction.

Jim Murphy, Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, who lived in South Africa for several years as a child before returning to Scotland, said: ‘To compare any vote in Scotland, no matter how important, with South Africa’s first ever democratic election is crass.

‘Scotland is not Soweto and a decision on whether or not we stay British has no parallels at all with the beauty of the liberation of South Africa from the evil type of racism that was apartheid.’

He added: ‘Scotland’s first minister seems to be getting carried away with himself the nearer we get to referendum day.’

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