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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Leadership challenger slams Swinney
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson is challenger for the SNP leadership
The little-known activist challenging John Swinney for leadership of the Scottish National Party has launched a savage attack on the party chief.

Dr Bill Wilson accused Mr Swinney of ducking responsibility for presiding over a "plummeting" SNP vote in two successive elections.

And he said the party leader was "burying his head in the sand" by refusing to take up an offer of a series of debates with Dr Wilson.

The attack came the day after Mr Swinney's campaign launch in Glasgow, where the SNP leader predicted he would see off Dr Wilson's challenge.


Mr Swinney predicted the victory margin would be of the order of two-to-one, a figure which surprised observers who said it was tantamount to admitting he expects up to a third of the party to vote against him.

At his launch press conference, Mr Swinney defended himself against complaints by dissidents of control-freakery, and said he had no plans to take part in hustings debates, although he did not rule that out.

The SNP leader also said he expected the leadership contest to be a re-run of the last contest, in 2000, when Mr Swinney defeated Alex Neil to become leader of the SNP in succession to Alex Salmond.

But Dr Wilson claimed the battle would be no re-run.

John Swinney has been leader for 3 years

"The difference is John Swinney has been party leader for three years. He is not the challenger," said Dr Wilson.

"Under John's leadership the SNP has witnessed its vote plummet in two successive elections - 200,000 votes and an MP at Westminster and 200,000 votes and 8 MSPs at the Scottish elections.

"As leader John should be prepared to take responsibility for his record as leader and unfortunately he does not seem to be doing so."

Dr Wilson said party reform had not been on the agenda at the last leadership election, and Mr Swinney had not at that time proposed party centralisation and organisational changes which would "impoverish" many branches and take powers away from the grassroots.

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