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Conference delegates air their views
"There was an attempt to overshadow the conference"
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banner Friday, 22 September, 2000, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Delegates dismiss Blackford attack
Allegations of sleaze have been rife
Scottish National Party delegates and members have joined the party's leadership candidates in dismissing a conference attack on party leaders by suspended treasurer Ian Blackford.

John Swinney and Alex Neil won warm backing from the SNP faithful when they said Mr Blackford's allegations of financial mismanagement would neither shroud the conference nor the leadership campaign.

John Swinney backer Hector MacAulay, of Crieff branch, said: "There was an attempt to overshadow what was going on here at the conference, but I think it absolutely backfired.

Hector MacAulay
Hector MacAulay: "Fundamental mistake"
"I think Ian Blackford made a fundamental mistake in trying to level an accusation at certain leaders within the party.

"I really think that a majority of the delegates have come out on the side of the leadership on this one wholeheartedly.

"I think this will come out in John Swinney's favour."

Derek Mackay, of Renfrew town branch, said: "This conference is about electing a new leader to take the SNP forward and to work for independence. This conference is not about expenses or anything else.

Derek Mackay
Derek Mackay: "Blown out of proportion"
"What I do know is that some of the media have blown this out of proportion. What we have with New Labour are accusations about Bernie Eccleston - millions of pounds - £300,000 loans to Peter Mandelson.

"That's real big news and that's money to change government policy."

Allan Moore, a member of Dalgety Bay branch, said: "There could be a very brief spell of damage but I don¿t think (Mr Blackford) is that credible so I don't think it will damage the party.

"Alex Salmond, I think, is completely honest, more than that, John Swinney is absolutely squeaky clean - if he says it's okay, it's got to be okay."

Mr Blackford was instantly dismissed by Glennis Middleton, an Angus councillor.

Glennis Middleton
Glennis Middleton: Claims dismissed
She told BBC News Online: "I don't think it's a case of (the candidates) trying to brush the allegations aside.

"I think Mr Blackford is damaging himself. He's certainly not damaging the party and I think he's raising more questions than he thinks he's answering.

"I have no knowledge whether Mr Blackford is supporting Mr Neil's campaign or not, I think perhaps Mr Blackford supports Mr Blackford.

"His allegations would have had more credence if he'd raised them some months ago when they allegedly happening."

Alex Neil supporter Thomas Slider, of Ayr branch, said: "I don't think this has marred the campaign at all.

"I think his main agenda is to get justice. He basically carried the can and was forced out. It was really unconstitutional what happened to him.

"Mr Salmond has maybe had a tight grip of power and doesn't like to see people challenge him."

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See also:

22 Sep 00 | SNP
Salmond bows out
21 Sep 00 | SNP
SNP leader sides with deputy
19 Jul 00 | Scotland
SNP treasurer steps up fight
14 Jun 00 | Scotland
SNP treasurer dispute 'over'
13 Jun 00 | Scotland
SNP suspends treasurer
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