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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 February 2007, 17:51 GMT
Lib Dem pledge support for young
Nicol Stephen
Nicol Stephen addressed the conference on Saturday
The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has said he wants to create new opportunities for young people.

Nicol Stephen also told his party's Scottish conference in Aviemore that he wanted to turn Scotland into the renewable energy powerhouse of Europe.

He again ruled out an independence referendum, which would block a future coalition with the SNP.

And he accused the SNP and Labour of mounting the most bitter, personal and negative election campaign yet.

Future of Scotland

Mr Stephen, who is currently deputy first minister in the ruling Labour/Lib Dem coalition at Holyrood, set out a detailed action plan for the first seven months in government if his party were to win at the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

This would include plans to recruit 1,000 new community police officers and cutting business rates north of the border below English levels.

A Future of Scotland Bill would be published in June, which would see the graduate endowment scrapped and greater rights for young people, he said.

Mr Stephen also promised a sentencing and crime reduction bill would follow in July, with the party's community policing plans to follow in August, including 1,000 new community police officers.

This is shaping up to be the most bitter, negative, personal campaign we've ever witnessed
Nicol Stephen

A Scottish energy bill would be published in September containing plans for 100% of electricity to be generated from renewables by 2050.

The Lib Dem leader said health plans - including 100 new and refurbished community health centres - would follow in October.

This would be followed by the business rate plans in November and then their education plans in December, including smaller class sizes as well as new teachers and sports coaches.

In a wide ranging speech, Mr Stephen won applause when he ruled out any "back door" route to independence through a referendum.

He also warned that the election campaign will turn nasty.

"Already we have seen negativity and name calling, not only from the SNP, but now also from Tony Blair and his increasingly unpopular Labour Party.

"The language is brutal, bruising, abrasive. This is shaping up to be the most bitter, negative, personal campaign we've ever witnessed."

Earlier, deputy education minister Robert Brown said the party would create an entitlement for all two-year-olds to have up to 15 hours a week in a supervised playgroup.

Watch Nicol Stephen at the conference

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