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banner Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
SNP delegates remember US victims
John Swinney
John Swinney has rewritten his keynote address
The Scottish National Party opened its annual conference with a motion of condolence for victims of the terrorist attacks in the USA.

Events happening overseas and the threat of war have overshadowed the party's meeting, in Dundee.

Party chiefs have already moved to alter the agenda in the light of the thousands of lives which have been lost in the US.

Addressing the conference, SNP leader John Swinney urged caution in any response to the terrorist outrage.

Party Vice President, Professor Neil MacCormick, told delegates that military action should be taken, but not against innocent people.

A planned debate on an independent Scotland's membership of Nato, and its role in the defence organisation, has been dropped.

Liane Dorsey
Liane Dorsey attended the start of the conference

Mr Swinney said recent events had "substantially changed the environment in which we find ourselves".

He added that a debate on defence matters and Nato membership was neither appropriate nor practical.

Mr Swinney said he was setting up a team, covering a wide range of opinions, to assess developments and that it would report back next year.

Under normal circumstances there would be robust exchanges between delegates at the conference.

But that circumstances are not normal can be seen in the fact that the SNP conference opened with a period of silence.

Liane Dorsey, the US consul to Scotland, was in the hall as an observer.

Any response has to be targeted, evidence-based, and effective in its purpose.

SNP leader John Swinney

Mr Swinney said: "This is not a time for us to rush to conclusions, but to reflect and come to wise conclusions."

Prof MacCormick told the conference that discussing matters of defence would be insensitive at this time.

Instead, his thoughts and prayers were with those in the US who had lost loved ones in the terrorist attack.

He said: "What those who carried out those attacks did was, quite strictly, a crime against humanity.

"To be in a hijacking of any kind must be terrifying.

"To be hijacked and then used as no more than ballast on a fuel-laden missile directed at a skyscraper is unspeakable.

"Something must be done but it must be different in kind, not just in degree, from the crime we confront."

Earlier, Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland that starting Wednesday's session with a motion of condolence was "a very appropriate way" for a democratic political party to begin its conference in the present climate.

He forecast a period of "tremendous fluidity" in future debates about international affairs.

"I want to make sure the SNP is properly equipped to handle that debate and to have that debate in a dispassionate way - when it's far away from the very raw emotions that still exist about the attacks in the US," he said.

The SNP leader said he had established a review team to look at whole areas of policy, which would report in the coming months.

Innocent victims

Of the west's response to the American atrocities, Mr Swinney said the criteria for intervention had to be precisely defined.

"Any response has to be targeted, evidence-based, and effective in its purpose," he said.

"All of us want to see those who those who perpetrated last week's attack brought to justice.

"We want to see them punished for what they have done. What we do not want is a spiralling number of innocent victims, because too many people's lives have been destroyed by the events of last week already."

BBC Scotland's Alan Grant reports
"Several international motions have been dropped"
Political Editor Brian Taylor reports
"Events in New York and Washington have muted domestic politics."
SNP leader John Swinney
"Issues of international affairs are fundamental to Scotland in the world."
See also:

19 Sep 01 | SNP
Euro 'no' vote urged by MSP
12 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scotland's leaders united in sorrow
26 Aug 01 | Scotland
SNP takes policy message on tour
23 Sep 00 | SNP
Emphatic SNP win for Swinney
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