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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
"They accused Labour of talking up the Tory threat"
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Saturday, 3 March, 2001, 19:16 GMT
Swinney aiming for May election
SNP conference
Roseanna Cunningham will take centre stage
Scottish National Party activists have been warned against complacency - and to expect a May general election.

At the close of the SNP's spring conference, in Glasgow, party leader John Swinney said he was still expecting Prime Minister Tony Blair to call the general election for 3 May.

Speculation has been mounting that the poll might need to be put back until later in the year because of the growing crisis over foot-and-mouth.

But Mr Swinney said he thought 3 May remained the preferred date and that his party workers should be ready for the battle.

He also unveiled a pledge card promising more police, a better health service and smaller class sizes.

Roseanna Cunningham
Ms Cunningham: Labour is scared of SNP support
Mr Swinney used his conference address on Friday to urge people to trust in his party to take them on to general election victory.

The keynote speech on Saturday was delivered by his deputy, Roseanna Cunningham.

She railed against Labour at Westminster with a sharp attack on the "nobodies" in the ranks of Scottish Labour MPs.

It was a development of a theme first raised on Friday when former party leader Alex Salmond dismissed most of Scottish Labour MPs as "the largest bunch of political nonentities" in history.

In her closing address, Ms Cunningham accused Labour MPs of viewing the Scottish Parliament with "contempt".

She said: "On every issue where it has mattered, Tony Blair's New Labour nobodies have let Scotland down.

"And they have done so because Scotland simply doesn't figure high enough in London Labour's priorities."

John Swinney
John Swinney is looking to a May election
The SNP faces the task of entering the Westminster election with largely low-profile candidates, except for Alex Salmond, the sole SNP MP seeking re-election to Westminster.

But Ms Cunningham said: "Never mind unknown candidates - Scottish Labour MPs have become past masters at the art of the unknown MP."

Her closing speech, like all at the Glasgow gathering, was a rallying cry for an campaign in which the SNP aims to portray itself as the sole party that can protect and advance Scotland's interests both in London and Edinburgh.

Ms Cunningham said: "It is our MPs who will take Scotland's interests to the heart of Westminster and argue for them there.

"It is only our candidates who will offer a contract with the Scottish people.

"It is only SNP candidates who can say to the people of Scotland with absolute confidence that in this coming general election they, and they alone, will put Scotland's interests first."

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See also:

02 Mar 01 | Scotland
Swinney seeks trust of the voters
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
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