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Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 12:30 GMT
Scottish National Party

The Scottish National Party sees itself as Scotland's independence party.

It has secured a place as the main opposition party within the devolved Scottish Parliament with 35 seats.

However, it sees the parliament as a means by which it can achieve its ultimate goal of an independent Scotland, with its own voice in Europe.

It sees itself as a moderate, left-of-centre party, founded on social democratic principles.

John Swinney
John Swinney: Won SNP leadership last September
"We stand for giving the people of Scotland the chance to... decide the amount of investment in public services they want and the amount of benefits they wish to allocate to those in need," the SNP declared in its Platform 2001 statement.

"All those powers are with London at present and we stand for transferring them to the Scottish Parliament."

History

The party was established in 1934 and won its first Westminster seat in a by-election in 1945. It has had a continuous presence at Westminster since 1967.


Inequality is getting worse... our health and education systems lag behind the rest of Europe where once they led the world... and homelessness is at record levels

Scottish National Party

Its leader for 10 years, Alex Salmond, announced his sudden resignation in July last year.

He further surprised commentators by saying he would not stand again for the Scottish Parliament but would fight to keep his Westminster seat in the coming election.

The SNP won six Westminster seats in the last general election - double its previous number.

Gradualist

Last year's leadership contest threw up an interesting clash.

The then deputy leader John Swinney was seen to represent those who view the Scottish Parliament as the cornerstone of the party's progression towards independence.

On the other side was Alex Neil, a critic of that approach, who argues that devolution is a distraction from the battle for independence.

Mr Neil lost the internal election by 268 votes to Mr Swinney's 547.

Sean Connery donation ban

The party has been famously backed by Sir Sean Connery who has donated up to 50,000 a year.

However, this could end under new funding rules which ban donations from people not registered to vote in Britain.

Sir Sean, who lives abroad, is not entitled to vote, though he does own a home in London.

The SNP, which last year reported an overdraft of 400,000, is considering a challenge to this ban under the Human Rights Convention.

Standing for Scotland

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: Former SNP leader aims to keep Westminster seat
Under its party slogan "We stand for Scotland", the SNP states that while Scotland is a "rich country" it is not a "rich society".

"Inequality is getting worse not better under Labour. Many of our schools and hospital buildings are rundown. Our health and education systems lag behind the rest of Europe where once they led the world.

"Our transport infrastructure is suffering the chaos caused by decades of under-investment and homelessness is at record levels."

The SNP, which holds about 200 council seats, wants Scotland to have full control over taxation - currently limited to three pence on income tax - the power to set the minimum wage and to distribute housing beneft.

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