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banner Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Scots urged to raise their profile
Dundee Caird Hall
The SNP has meeting in Dundee
By BBC News Online Scotland's Brian Ponsonby in Dundee

Although terrorist atrocities in the US and teething troubles with defence policy took centre stage at the Scottish National Party conference, a few other issues made it onto the agenda on Friday.

Two of the party's frontline spokesmen brandished figures which, they said, back the call for "financial independence" from Westminster.

Conference delegates called on party leaders to launch a "hearts-and-minds campaign" to raise Scottish self-confidence ahead of the 2003 Holyrood elections

Elsewhere, one MSP branded Scotland's presence in Brussels "anonymous" while the party announced its intentions to launch a recruitment drive.

Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson spoke up for "financial independence"

SNP finance spokesman Andrew Wilson ignited the row over "fiscal freedom" one-day before delegates were due to debate the issue.

Mr Wilson brandished research from the House of Commons library which he said proved that Scotland raises more tax per head of population than the UK as a whole.

The figures suggested only four countries from the 29 member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) taxed more per head of population.

Luxembourg topped the tax-take league table with 11,786 raised per head, followed by Norway (11,483), Denmark (10,782) and Sweden (8,650).

Scotland came in fifth place with 8,132 - well ahead of the UK in 16th-place with 5,662.

'Ample financial base'

Andrew Wilson said: "We pay more tax per head of population so why don't we get more back?

"The argument is about revenues raised, rather than public expenditure."

He added: "Scotland has an ample financial base to support independence, which is why the Scottish Parliament needs to control the nation's resources, instead of subsidising London."

Delegates also backed calls at the conference to raise Scotland's profile at home and on the international stage.

Kay Ullrich
Kay Ullrich wants to see Scotland's profile raised

The party's member for West of Scotland Kay Ullrich won massive backing for a resolution, which called for Scotland's profile to be raised around the world.

She said the country was still "politically impotent" on the continent and needed independence to restore its voice.

Describing a recent visit to Scotland House in Brussels, she said: "I was looking forward to something high-profile and in the heart of Europe.

"We were taken there and deposited at the door - and if we had been on our own we would never have found it.

'Ambition'

"It isn't exactly up a close, but at street level there is no sign over the door - just one name on a list of company names inside."

Delegates also backed a call by the party's Dollar branch to launch a hearts-and-minds campaign to raise Scottish self-confidence ahead of the 2003 elections to the Scottish parliament.

The motion said the campaign was needed to show voters that independence was the most effective way to improve their lives.

Dundee delegates
The conference has been overshadowed by events in the US

It was backed by Professor Neil MacCormick MEP who said: "Independence by negotiation is won by government negotiating with government.

"We have to project ourselves to our fellow citizens as a party with capability for government - a party in which people can have confidence in order to express their own confidence in themselves."

The hearts-and minds campaign will also be supplemented by a major recruitment drive.

Party member Kate Higgins said: "Ambition for our country should be matched by ambition for our party.

"This recruitment drive is aimed at making the SNP Scotland's biggest political party. This is a key goal in the drive to independence."

As part of the drive, current members will be asked to recruit one more member.

A direct mail campaign will also target lapsed party members and online recruitment methods will be simplified.

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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