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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Tories aim to oust SNP
David McLetchie
David McLetchie condemned the SNP's record
The Scottish Tories could overcome the Nationalists to become the main opposition force at Holyrood, according to their leader.

David McLetchie launched an attack on the Scottish National Party (SNP) at his party's one-day gathering in Perth.

The speech signalled a new drive by the Tories to challenge the SNP's position as the main opposition party.

Mr McLetchie told delegates that it was a goal well within their grasp.

At the Holyrood election the Tories won 16.6% of the first-past-the-post votes and 15.8% of the list votes, compared to the SNP's 23.7% and 20.4%.

There is a desperate need for an official opposition that is also an effective opposition
David McLetchie
But Mr McLetchie cited recent polling figures which he believes favour his party.

"The Scottish Conservatives are on the way up and the SNP are on the way down," he told the conference.

"This is good news for us and good news for Scotland, as there is a desperate need for an official opposition that is also an effective opposition."

He accused the SNP of failing to hold the Scottish Executive to account and of failing to offer an alternative to Labour-Lib Dem rule.

And he combined this argument with an attack on Nationalist leader John Swinney, claiming the SNP's stance on the Dungavel Immigration and Detention Centre showed it was "totally unfit for government".

'Cynical opportunism'

"The people of Scotland are rapidly growing sick of the SNP's cynical opportunism," he said.

"SNP voters are rapidly growing sick of John Swinney's cynical opportunism."

Mr McLetchie argued that if the Tories overtake the Nationalists, Scotland would be free from "sterile constitutional debate."

"For them, every issue is viewed through a constitutional prism, with independence as the universal panacea for all ills," he said.

Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith promised choice for voters
"This simplistic nostrum has served only to distract attention from the real issues facing Scotland today."

UK Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith attacked Labour and the Liberal Democrats during his speech to delegates.

He said Labour's loss of the Brent East seat to the Lib Dems resulted from a voter backlash over public services.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "I've always said that Tony Blair's support was as wide as his grin and as shallow as his record.

"On Thursday, voters abandoned Labour in their droves. They abandoned Labour because they saw through the veneer and saw Tony Blair's record of rising crime and falling public services."

The Tory leader also questioned Lib Dem policies and said he was determined to ensure they lost seats throughout Britain in the future.

Mr Duncan Smith promised greater freedom for patients, doctors, schools and parents to determine services and treatment under Tory rule.

Mr McLetchie's attack on the SNP over Dungavel was strongly rebutted by the party's deputy leader.

Roseanna Cunningham said: "The Tories at Westminster have identified themselves with some extreme, anti-refugee policies.

"I would have thought that David McLetchie would have taken this opportunity to distance himself from those policies, rather than have a half-hearted dig at John Swinney."


SEE ALSO:
IDS says Tories in good shape
13 Sep 03  |  Politics
McLetchie unseats Labour minister
02 May 03  |  Scotland
McLetchie's plea to voters
03 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Tory defectors 'betrayed' party
02 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Tories focus on poverty
10 May 02  |  Scotland


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