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Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"Alex Salmond is preparing to hand over the reins of power"
 real 56k

banner Monday, 18 September, 2000, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Party prepares for Salmond swan song
SNP photo op
Mr Salmond intends to stay active within the party
The Scottish National Party has unveiled the agenda for its annual conference, where a new leader will be elected.

The gathering in Inverness later this month is Alex Salmond's last as national convener after 10 years in the post.

As well as holding the leadership election, the SNP will launch its Westminster election campaign.

The agenda is themed by related policy areas. This will see poverty, equality and social justice resolutions debated in the same session.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: Stepping down after 10 years
Speaking to BBC Scotland, Mr Salmond refused to be drawn on which candidate he is backing, the current deputy leader John Swinney or social security spokesman Alex Neil.

But he reiterated his stance on the single currency and the party's independence referendum policy - both areas where Mr Neil disagrees with him.

Publishing the agenda in Edinburgh, Mr Salmond said: "We are closer than ever to achieving our objective of national freedom and equally important is that the party leadership has a clear-sighted view on how to get there."

National secretary Stewart Hosie said the conference would give the SNP "the ideal platform to set out our positive vision for an independent Scotland".

"This year's conference is also critical for another reason. We are electing a new national convener and a new senior vice-convener.

SNP headquarters in Edinburgh
SNP headquarters in Edinburgh
"Conference allows all delgates and observers from branches and constitutencies the opportunity to see, hear and meet the candidates for all of the party's positions," he added.

Deputy leader John Swinney and the party's security spokesman Alex Neil are vying for Mr Salmond's post, while there is a three-way battle for the deputy's jobs.

Justice spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham, transport spokesman Kenny MacAskill and Peter Kearney have been nominated.

Mr Salmond will be standing for election as an ordinary member of the party's national executive.

The leadership contest is expected to dominate the conference, at the Eden Court Theatre from 20-23 September.

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