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Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Tough times ahead for Swinney
John Swinney and Alex Salmond
Changing the guard at the top of the SNP
The new leader of the Scottish National Party is planning how he will reshuffle his frontbench team to unite the party with an election on the horizon.

John Swinney beat Alex Neil in the contest to succeed Alex Salmond by more than two votes to one.

Because the men have fundamental differences on the best way to achieve independence, pundits have predicted Mr Swinney will need to work hard to stop divisions in the party.

On Sunday, the day after his win in Inverness, Mr Swinney said he would take his time over the appointment of the key people to surround him.

'Fairly clear ideas'

He even promised to have a day off on Monday, further delaying the announcement.

He said he was delighted by the size of his endorsement, but talking to BBC Radio Scotland, he refused to be drawn on what the future might hold for his defeated rival.

"I've got some fairly clear ideas, but I want to consult, I want to consult my deputy who has just been elected, before I go any further I want to consult with Roseanna Cunningham about the appointments I want to make," he said.

John Swinney
Mr Swinney is expected to point the way to independence
"That's the style I operate in to make sure I am taking with me, but the commitment I gave the party throughout the campaign which I reiterated yesterday is that I will preside over inclusive leadership in the Scottish National Party."

He added: "And I want to be held to that."

On his first day in his new post Mr Swinney faced a blow with a new poll putting Labour 10 points ahead of the SNP and 12 points ahead of the Tories.

The poll in the Sunday Mail is a stark contrast to an NOP poll for Channel 4 News, released on Saturday, which showed the Tories opening up an eight point lead over the Westminster government.

Scottish Opinion Ltd questioned 818 Scots for the Sunday Mail poll, asking them who they would vote for in an election for the Westminster Parliament.

A total of 34% backed Labour, 24% the SNP, 22% the Conservatives, 16% the Liberal Democrats while 4% supported others.

Scottish Labour slips

In contrast the NOP poll put the Conservatives on 40%, ahead of Labour on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 22%.

The Sunday Mail survey also found that most voters back Tony Blair as the party leader they trust most to run the country.

The Lib Dems' Charles Kennedy was backed by 14% of voters while the newly elected leader of the SNP John Swinney polled just 6%.

However in a blow to Labour, the majority of voters - 65% - said their opinion of the Labour party in Scotland had changed for the worse over the past two months.

Just 1% said their view of the party had changed for the better while 31% said they had not changed their opinion at all.

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See also:

23 Sep 00 | SNP
Emphatic SNP win for Swinney
23 Sep 00 | Scotland
Swinney's winning ways
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