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EDITIONS
Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
No milk or honey for the SNP

An inflated figure of John Swinney awaits delegates as they arrive at the Eden Court Theatre on the banks of the river in Inverness.

He smiles and appears to say: "Welcome to an independent Scotland, the land of milk and honey."

But inside, the message is slightly different. In his leader's speech he told us: "Our new approach will be to present independence - not as a land of milk and honey - but as a land of opportunity."

So out goes the reliance on Scotland's oil and in comes the hard graft of ambition.

He promised a new age of innovation. So no new taxes - the penny for Scotland was dropped a fortnight ago - and instead the SNP will use Labour's slush fund of 370m.


We turn our backs on centuries of lawlessness and instead look forward to the world as it should be

John Swinney
You didn't realise there was a slush fund? Oh yes there is. The money is locked away in a contingency fund and in a government reform fund.

It doesn't matter that the Scottish Executive deny these funds are for slush, the SNP will use the money for an 11% pay rise for the nurses, 1,000 more police officers and to cut primary school class sizes to 18.

And by the way, the new Scotland will have no more nuclear power stations, no more privatisation and the real potential of the Scottish economy will be unleashed. Growth will not drag along at 1.9% - the average of the last 20 years - it will rise at least to the European average of 2.5%.

There was mention too of foreign policy; no war with Iraq without solid proof of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and a proper UN mandate.

"It means we turn our backs on centuries of lawlessness and instead look forward to the world as it should be," said Mr Swinney.

Ghosts laid to rest

So that was the glowing message from the stage of the Eden Court Theatre. The audience loved it.

"I've been waiting for John Swinney to make a speech like that for some time, " one young SNP man told me.

They cheered Honest John to the modern rafters. The heather-purple stage backdrop rocked to the rock music as he glad-handed his way through the crowd to the door.

John Swinney
John Swinney: "Release our potential"
With this speech several ghosts had been laid to rest. Alex Neil the old champion of "Scotland's Oil" was somehow left looking a little old-fashioned. Alex Salmond, the former leader, became the cheer-leader rather than the impresario at this performance.

It's more Tony Blair than Che Guevara, but it was a revolution all the same.

So the delegates are walking on air after this conference in Inverness, like the picture of their leader outside the hall.

There have been no rows or whispering campaigns.

Suitable resolutions on the economy, the food industry, fishing, crime, transport, tourism and the arts have all been passed unanimously.

Fancy dress party

The party says its days of protest are over, it's now a party of government.

So the show has gone rather well so far. But it was just a show.

Next on stage at the Eden Court Theatre will be Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus in which Eisenstein and his unfaithful wife Rosalinde meet at a fancy dress party. And rehearsals have begun for the Christmas panto, Sleeping Beauty, in which a sleeping country wakes up to find a handsome prince bending over her.

We won't know until the elections in May whether we have been watching a farce or a romance.

See also:

27 Sep 02 | Scotland
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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