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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK

UK Politics

Alex Salmond: Reassuring business over tax
SNP seeks look at Scotland's books

Scottish nationalists are set to pledge that they will scrutinise the country's finances before deciding whether to press for the Scottish Parliament's tax-varying powers to be used.

Alex Salmond: We want to govern Scotland well
Delegates at the party's annual conference in Inverness are due to debate a resolution which says that Westminster had never provided "effective scrutiny" of public spending in Scotland.

The resolution also bemoans what it says is a lack of democratic accountability for money spent by the Scottish Office.

If passed it would commit the SNP to a "critical examination" of existing Scottish Office expenditure to find out what spending priorities should be altered, and where "waste, duplication and bureaucracy" could be eliminated.

Business tax worries

The debate, on Thursday, follows the SNP Treasury spokesman John Swinney's comments on Wednesday said that the party would consider raising income tax or increasing the tax burden on big firms.

[ image: The SNP: Preparing for next year's elections]
The SNP: Preparing for next year's elections
When the Scottish Parliament comes into operation next year it will be allowed to raise or lower income tax rate by up to three pence in the pound. It will also have powers to alter uniform business rates.

Nationalists are using their conference to put detailed policy flesh on the bones of their campaign for elections to the parliament in May next year.

On Wednesday, the head of the biggest employer based in Inverness, David Sutherland, of the Tulloch construction group, warned that if the SNP led Scotland to independence and put up taxes, then his firm would move south to England.

The SNP leader Alex Salmond responded by stating that the party was aiming to win the elections with the backing of the business community, not its opposition.

He said: "We have to be credible across a whole range of policies and I'm very confident we have the platform and the people in the Scottish National Party to do that.

Euro vote

The conference session on Thursday is due to begin with a debate on the order in which the SNP's eight candidates in next year's European elections should be ranked.

With all of Scotland treated for voting purposes as one vast Euro constituency next May, the order in which each candidates' name appears in party lists is crucial to their chances of getting elected under the proportional representation system.

The conference will also hear from the SNP's parliamentary leader at Westminster, Margaret Ewing.

She is expected to urge grass-roots activists to go all-out to win in the forthcoming elections.

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