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Last Updated: Friday, 11 April, 2003, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
SNP calls for age of 'optimism'
John Swinney
Mr Swinney stressed Scotland's potential
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has launched its election manifesto with an appeal for "a new age of national optimism".

The manifesto for the Holyrood election includes commitments to reduce business rates, increase nurses' pay and cut primary class sizes.

The party appealed to the electorate to give it a chance to prove itself in government.

And it sought to reassure the public that a move to independence would only come with its permission.

'Abundant potential'

Launching the SNP manifesto in Glasgow, party leader John Swinney described Scotland as a "blessed" country with more potential "than perhaps any other nation on earth".

He commended the manifesto as a "practical policy programme".

"I want to create a new spirit for Scotland - a new age of national optimism," he said.

"An age in which we release the abundant potential in each and every one of us."

We will move onto independence only with your permission.
John Swinney
SNP leader

He emphasised his party's pledge of a referendum on independence.

"We will move onto independence only with your permission," he said.

The manifesto, entitled "The Case for a Better Scotland", came in the form of a glossy brochure, and an accompanying CD-Rom which included video clips and a message from Sir Sean Connery.

Mr Swinney pledged to create "the most competitive business rate regime in the UK" by cutting business rates over the next four years.

Not-for-profits trusts

He also wanted to create a "smaller and more democratic" government, reducing the number of ministers by a quarter and abolishing unnecessary tiers of "unelected, unaccountable public bodies".

A commitment to spend 46m on providing high speed broadband internet technology throughout Scotland was another manifesto pledge.

The SNP leader said his party would abolish Labour's private finance initiative scheme, putting in its place a system of not-for-profit trusts to build schools and hospitals.

He pledged to pay nurses in Scotland an extra 11%, additional to salaries south of the border, set up a national beds review, devolve powers to local healthcare organisations, and create an independent health inspectorate.

Nurses pay would be increased, the SNP said

The manifesto declares it to be the SNP's aim that by 2005, everyone will receive hospital treatment within six months of diagnosis.

Mr Swinney also matched Labour's tough talking stance on law and order and yob culture.

The manifesto pledges to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets.

Mr Swinney said that while too many people who should not be in jail were being sent to prison, the converse was also true.

He said: "This is my message to the hooligans: if you deprive decent people of a peaceful Saturday night, I will deprive you of your liberty on a Saturday night.

"The SNP will introduce weekend sentencing to take these thugs off our streets."

He also emphasised the party's pledge to cut class sizes in the first three years of primary school to 18 or fewer.

BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor
"John Swinney says trust him to govern"

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