Lib Dems Can Win, Insists Clegg

Liberal Democrats can thwart Alex Salmond's bid to return to Westminster, Nick Clegg will claim today as he insists his party "can and will win'' in the general election.

Despite the party's poor showing in opinion polls, Mr Clegg believes the Liberal Democrats will ``do so much better than anyone thinks''.

The Liberal Democrat leader is to address activists at an election rally at the Scottish party conference in Aberdeen this evening.

Mr Salmond, the former SNP leader, is hoping to return to Westminster by winning the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire - a seat which is currently held by the Liberal Democrats.

The former Scottish first minister is the favourite to win the seat, but Mr Clegg will insist his party can "see off the SNP challenge in the seats we hold''.

With Mr Salmond having just published his diaries from the referendum campaign, Mr Clegg will add: "At least then he will have another defeat to write a book about.''

He will argue that the party's resilience and the "incredible things'' it has achieved as part of the coalition Government will be key to doing well in May.

"Because of that resilience we can and will win this May,'' he will insist. "That resilience will see off the SNP challenge in the seats we hold.''

He will continue: "I've heard the predictions. I've seen the polls. But let me tell you this: we will do so much better than anyone thinks.

"In those seats where we are out in force, making our case loudly and proudly, we are the ones making the weather.

"I've seen it for myself in Liberal Democrat seats across the country - and it is just as true in Scotland as it is everywhere else.

"We are showing that with hard work, strong local campaigns and a record of delivering for people in Westminster, Holyrood and communities across Scotland, we can and will win.''

Mr Clegg will say: "It won't be easy, but winning shouldn't be.

"We need to persuade people every day between now and May 7 that their lives will be better with Liberal Democrat councillors making a difference in their communities, Liberal Democrat MPs and MSPs fighting their corner in Westminster and Holyrood, and Liberal Democrat ministers serving them in government.''

The Liberal Democrat leader will also use his speech to challenge the Scottish Government to commit to providing an additional £25 million of funding to improve mental healthcare for children and young people.

"For too long, mental health has been treated as a Cinderella service, neglected and under-funded,'' he will say.

"The consequences have been devastating for millions of people. One in four of us will suffer a mental health condition at some point in our lives. One in four.

"Three children in every classroom has a mental health condition.

"That is unacceptable in modern Britain.''

Mr Clegg will add: "We have started the work of undoing the neglect of mental health services in England but it cannot be done overnight. The Scottish Government must do the same.

"They can start by putting £25 million a year into mental health services for children and young people.

"That is the money Scotland will receive as a result of us investing to improve these vital services in England in this week's Budget.''

He will describe it as a "liberal mission'', adding: "We must not allow people to be denied the support, treatment and opportunity they need to get better and live healthy, productive lives.

"And we must work every day to end the devastating stigma that surrounds mental health.

"That is why I am so incredibly proud that we are the first party to put equality for people with mental health problems on the front page of our manifesto.''

Mr Salmond, referring to a new Survation poll for the SNP, said: "The general election on May 7 is about who is trusted to represent Scotland's interests at Westminster and the fact that only 4% of Scots trust the Lib Dems - while 46% of Scots back the SNP - will make for depressing reading for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.''

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