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The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Mr Swinney feels that Westminister still controls the post-devolution purse strings"
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SNP Leader John Swinney
"What lay at the heart of my speech was the need for us to complete the powers of the Scottish Parliament"
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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 15:38 GMT
Swinney seeks trust of the voters
John Swinney at conference
Mr Swinney said voters could trust his party
Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney has urged the people to show their trust in his party and take them on to general election victory.

He also attacked Labour at his party's spring conference at Hampden Stadium, in Glasgow, on Friday.

In his keynote speech, he told delegates: "At the heart of our election campaign lies our desire to win the trust of Scotland."

He said people were right to be "cynical" about 'New Labour's' promises.

SNP logo
Nationalists gathered for their spring conference
But he told delegates that the Scottish people had always been able to trust the SNP.

"We have no split loyalties. We stand for Scotland," he said.

He said more than 160bn of North Sea oil and gas revenue had been taken by the London Treasury over the last 25 years - equivalent to 32,000 for every Scot.

Mr Swinney said his party wanted the Scots to have control of that wealth.

"We are proposing that the majority of future oil revenues should be invested in a special fund - a future generations fund.

"The income from that fund will then be available to finance the desperately needed improvements in the public service infrastructure of our country," he said.

He said he also wanted to commit the party to a series of principles which would eradicate poverty in Scotland.

'Lost his bearings'

And he described Labour's response to the problem as a "scandal".

"Instead of tackling poverty they are trying to spin it out of existence," he said.

He told delegates that Prime Minister Tony Blair had "lost his bearings" and that Scotland was bottom of Labour's list of priorities.

Mr Swinney said Labour and the Tories believed that those living in Scotland were incapable of running their own country.

"They are terrified of the idea that the lives of millions of Scots would be improved if control of Scottish resources were in Scottish hands," he said.

"And that is why they will always run down the Scots - why they will always say we are too stupid and too poor to be trusted to run the affairs of our own country.

Scotland needed strong voices. Strong voices to argue for independence

John Swinney
"And that is why it is essential that we have a party that says precisely the opposite."

And he added: "Scotland needed strong voices.

"Strong voices to argue for independence. Strong voices to pursue the Scottish interest. Strong voices to protect Scotland from Wesminster rule.

"These strong voices will be a strong group of Westminster MPs at Westminser and we are going to make sure they are elected."

Earlier, former SNP leader Alex Salmond attacked Scotland's backbench Labour MPs at Westminster as "the largest bunch of political non-entities in history".

He accused Labour of creating apathy among its own supporters by continuing Tory policies, accused the Tories of permitting its English MPs to voice anti-Scottish sentiments, and the Liberal Democrats of "cuddling up to Labour in Scotland but pretending to be in opposition at Westminster".

Alex Salmond at conference
Alex Salmond launched a stinging attack on Labour
Mr Salmond told activists: "I am not going down to the Westminster Parliament to settle down.

"We are going down there to settle up for Scotland."

Mr Salmond said Scotland had a contingent of 56 Labour MPs at Westminster.

"If you take away the big, bad guys like Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Alistair Darling, and the occasional good or eccentric guy like Tam Dalyell, who are the rest?

"I don't think there is anybody in Scotland who could name more than six Westminster Labour MPs - and a lot of folk couldn't even name six.

"This is the largest bunch of political nonentities in political history."

Mr Salmond told the party faithful: "Some of them have been MPs for five, 10, 20 years, and nobody knows who they are. They have disappeared from the political landscape."

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See also:

02 Mar 01 | Scotland
SNP playing for dream victory
02 Mar 01 | Scotland
SNP spring conference attack
01 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
SNP: Let Scotland decide
15 Jan 01 | Scotland
Salmond defends Westminster move
27 Feb 01 | Scotland
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