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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Salmond named as new SNP leader
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond led the party until 2000
Alex Salmond said it was "good to be back" as he recorded a landslide victory in Scottish National Party's leadership race.

The Banff and Buchan MP won more than 75% of the vote as he defeated Mike Russell and Roseanna Cunningham.

His running mate Nicola Sturgeon will lead the SNP in the Scottish Parliament after being chosen as deputy to Mr Salmond, who was leader until 2000.

Almost 80% of SNP members voted in the ballot after John Swinney resigned.

The poll was the first time that every member of the party was given the chance to vote in a postal ballot.

VOTES CAST - LEADER
Alex Salmond - 4,952 (75.76%)
Roseanna Cunningham - 953 (14.58%)
Mike Russell - 631 (9.65%)

Mr Salmond said that he and Ms Sturgeon would make political progress at the next Westminster election.

"Nicola and I intend to win the 2007 election in Scotland and we will do that by offering a vision to the people where currently there is just a vacuum.

"We intend to lead a government of purpose and direction so that we can offer the people of this nation the opportunity to move forward to independence, democracy and equality."

He said the party would develop a new economic policy and a new vision of social democracy for Scotland.

"We intend to lead with the head and the heart and touch the soul of Scotland," he said.

My job in the Scottish Parliament is clear - it is to shake up the SNP so that we can ship out Labour
Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon said: "I believe that he will lead us to victory in 2007, and between now and then, I can and I will take on (first minister) Jack McConnell in the Scottish Parliament and win."

She said she had a number of advantages over the Labour leader - including the fact that she looked better in a skirt.

"My job in the Scottish Parliament is clear," she said.

"It is to shake up the SNP so that we can ship out Labour.

"We will shine a light on the failings of the Labour-Liberal executive and there are many."

SNP leader John Swinney
John Swinney resigned after poor election results
Mr Salmond dismissed suggestions that leading the party while having a seat at Westminster rather than Holyrood would place him in an odd position.

However, BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor said: "It's a fairly silly outcome to some extent.

"The SNP is the party which has most invested in the strengthening of the Scottish Parliament, enhancing that parliament's powers and in their view taking it forward for independence.

"Now they have elected a leader who isn't a member of that parliament and that, on the face of it, is counter-productive."

Mr Swinney said he was giving his "unreserved support" to the new leadership team.

Media speculation

He stepped down in June following poor European election results.

Mr Swinney, who replaced Mr Salmond as leader four years ago, said constant media speculation over his leadership was the main reason for his decision to stand down.

Ms Cunningham, the MSP for Perth, was the first to declare her intention to stand for the leadership.

VOTES CAST - DEPUTY LEADER
Nicola Sturgeon - 3,521 (53.87%)
Fergus Ewing - 1,605 (24.56%)
Christine Grahame - 1,410 (21.57%)
Mr Russell and Ms Sturgeon followed suit, before Mr Salmond shocked Scottish politics by announcing his candidacy.

He had initially ruled out such a move, saying: "If nominated I'll decline. If drafted I'll defer. And if elected I'll resign."

However, the following month he said he had been persuaded to stand by the party's grassroots members.

Ms Sturgeon dropped her leadership bid to stand for the deputy's position on a joint ticket.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andy Cassell
"[Salmond] now has to reverse the party's recent decline which led to his predecessor's resignation"



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