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EDITIONS
Friday, 27 September, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Nationalists 'ready to govern'
The Scottish National Party has evolved from a party of protest to one capable of taking power, John Swinney has told activists.

The party leader spoke of the prospects of a Nationalist-led government in a keynote address to the SNP conference in Inverness.

Mr Swinney said he accepts that the SNP has attracted protest votes in the past, but he told delegates that his party was now ready to govern.


Our new approach will be to present independence, not as a land of milk and honey but as a land of opportunity

John Swinney, SNP leader
The SNP leader promised a reformed Scotland and issued warnings about life under Labour.

He said that the SNP would ensure shorter hospital waits, safer streets and better schools if the party gains power at May's Scottish parliamentary elections.

Boosting business was another key theme.

Mr Swinney promised to end the use of private cash in the public sector but warned that there was no "pot of gold" with which to ensure a smooth transition to independence.

The SNP leader said that Scotland needs the powers of independence to make a radical difference and "release its potential" - the party's new slogan.

He directed his fire at the Scottish Parliament, telling delegates that criticism over his move for a debate on Iraq showed the limitations of the legislature.

John Swinney
John Swinney: "Release our potential"
He said: "They try to shout me down when I stray from the devolved agenda.

"Well I have a message for the unionists. Scotland is not a devolved administration, Scotland is a nation and a nation's voice must be heard."

At the centre of Mr Swinney's 40-minute speech was a promise that independence would create a passport out of poverty for many Scots.

Mr Swinney warned that the SNP would not use Holyrood's tax-varying powers to raise revenue if it won power but added that it would use a Labour "slush fund" of 370m held in reserve by his opponents.

Extra police officers

He promised better public services by smaller, more efficient government and an end to nuclear power, which won warm applause.

The SNP also pledged more money for nurses, smaller classes and 1,000 extra police officers.

Mr Swinney said: "Our new approach will be to present independence, not as a land of milk and honey but as a land of opportunity.

"An opportunity to compete, an opportunity to put our people back in control, an opportunity to release our potential, our potential as a talented and innovative people."

"An opportunity to wave goodbye forever to those who stamp down on Scotland's ambitions.

"That's the opportunity of independence".

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Support for independence has flat lined at 29%"
See also:

27 Sep 02 | Scotland
26 Sep 02 | Scotland
26 Sep 02 | Scotland
25 Sep 02 | Scotland
25 Sep 02 | Scotland
24 Sep 02 | Scotland
20 Sep 02 | Scotland
15 Sep 02 | Scotland
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