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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Swinney makes plea for unity
John Swinney
John Swinney addressed delegates on Friday
Scottish National Party leader John Swinney has issued a plea for unity in his address to the party's conference.

Mr Swinney warned delegates in Inverness that the party would never win independence from the political margins.

"The objective of the SNP is to unite the people of Scotland in a demand for independence," he said.

"We will only do that if we are united ourselves and our unity will start at this conference, here and now."

Mr Swinney's speech was greeted with a standing ovation by delegates, who will cast their votes for the post of national convener on Saturday.

He has been challenged for the leadership by Glasgow activist Bill Wilson.

Political support

Mr Swinney had earlier told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that party members faced a "simple choice".

"It is a choice between the route into government and power and independence or off into the wilderness," he said.

In his conference speech, Mr Swinney said it was wrong to adopt an "all or nothing" approach to independence.

And he stressed that his party could not deliver its goal from the margins.

We can be obsessed with the hows of independence, but then we will be ignored by the vast number of people who need to know the whys
John Swinney
He said that the May election had taught politicians that they need to look outwards rather than inwards.

"We need to address the concerns of the electorate, not just the concerns of our party.

"We need to talk about issues people care about in a style and language they understand and respond to," he said.

The party leader said voters were not concerned about exactly when the SNP would hold a referendum on independence.

"We have made our democratic decisions about the right way to deliver independence," he continued.

National freedom

"We cannot spend our lives revisiting those decisions.

"We must go on and get ourselves in a position to implement those decisions, and we will only implement those decisions if this party is united, determined and with a burning desire to win elections that will deliver our national freedom."

He said the party faced a choice.

"We can be obsessed with the hows of independence, but then we will be ignored by the vast number of people who need to know the whys.

Democratic debate

"If they ignore us independence will remain a dream, and I am determined to make this dream a reality."

However, Mr Swinney's challenger has remained unrepentant.

Mr Wilson argues that the leadership contest has allowed the party a democratic debate on areas of disagreement.

The pair are due to go head-to-head for the first time on Friday evening in a hustings on the conference fringe.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell in Inverness
"It was a combative, even aggressive speech"

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13 Aug 03  |  Scotland

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