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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
SNP challenger claims 'victory'
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson says he has raised the debate
The challenger to the leadership of the Scottish National Party has said his campaign has already succeeded.

Party activist Dr Bill Wilson will attempt to secure the post of national convener of the SNP at the party's conference in Inverness.

SNP leader John Swinney has dismissed the challenge as divisive and damaging.

But Dr Wilson said that despite it being improbable he would win, he had already gained a higher profile for the independence debate than during the last Holyrood election.

I've said consistently that I think this will strengthen the party not weaken it
Dr Bill Wilson
"I think we can win by achieving the objectives we set out to achieve, we're worried about the rightwards drift of the manifesto, we hope we can stop that," he told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"We're worried about the failure to emphasise independence and it has to be said that John Swinney is talking more about independence than he was during the election campaign.

"The fact that you're not guaranteed success in politics doesn't mean that you don't put your arguments forward and I've said consistently that I think this will strengthen the party not weaken it."

He also raised concerns about proposals to centralise the voting system within the SNP, which he branded a threat to party democracy.

Referendum strategy

Mr Swinney rejected claims that Dr Wilson had won already by getting him to talk more about independence, saying he found it a "really funny remark".

The party leader said independence had been "centre stage" during the SNP's Holyrood election campaign.

He also stressed that the referendum strategy had been supported by the party membership.

"It gives us a credible route as to how the SNP can deliver independence," he added.

Delegates will cast their votes for the post of national convener on Saturday.

Bill Wilson
"Internal debate is healthy for a political party"

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