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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 05:00 GMT
SNP to spring conference attack
SNP office
The SNP are ready to spring an attack on Labour
Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney is expected to launch a fierce attack on Labour when he addresses his party's spring conference in Glasgow.

In a rallying call to SNP activists ahead of this year's expected general election, he will use Friday's address at Hampden Park to accuse Labour of being Tory Leader William Hague's "big helpers" in Scotland by continuing Conservative Party policy.

Although a May election could now be in doubt because of the deepening foot-and-mouth crisis, the SNP will still use this conference to rally supporters - emphasising the message that the SNP stands for Scotland.

Independence will remain a key aim but there will also be a broader appeal, portraying the party as the champions of Scotland at Westminster.

John Swinney
John Swinney: Sets his sights on Labour
Mr Swinney is expected to attack Labour - accusing the party of continuing the Tory legacy in areas such as the Millennium Dome, Trident, longer NHS waiting lists and a growing gap between rich and poor.

In a reference to a recent speech by First Minister Henry McLeish, in which he accused the Liberal Democrats of being William Hague's little helpers, Mr Swinney will say that in Scotland, 'New Labour' are William Hague's "big helpers".

Mr Swinney replaced Alex Salmond as leader of the party last year. The latter left the position after a decade in charge.

The SNP holds great electoral hopes for the forthcoming general election and believes it can dent Labour's stranglehold north of the Border.

The party has long opposed the use of nuclear weapons and is expected to accuse Labour of continuing the Conservative Party's nuclear policies.

Originally, the SNP believed the spring conference would precede the general election by only a short period of time.

With the current foot-and-mouth epidemic sweeping the UK and local elections in England expected to be delayed, voters may not go to the polls for some time to come.

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