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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
SNP leader throws down gauntlet
John Swinney
The SNP leader said the only contest was in Scotland
Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney has said his party intends to use the general election as a springboard to the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2003.

Mr Swinney said the only opposition to Labour came from the SNP, as the Conservatives had lost their way.

And the SNP leader added that the party was the driving force behind constitutional change - which is a matter reserved to Westminster.

Speaking on the BBC's Election Call programme, Mr Swinney said the general election campaign in Scotland was vibrant compared to south of the Border.

He said there was no contest to Labour in England and the SNP would be pushing hard in the final days before 7 June to have a presence at Westminster.


I have every intention of leading an SNP administration after the 2003 election

John Swinney
Appearing alongside Plaid Cymru president Ieuan Wyn Jones, Mr Swinney said he was "bullish" about his party's chances of making a serious impact at Westminster before the Scottish parliamentary elections in two years time.

He said: "The election contest south of the Border is just dead, there is no real contest and there is no real opposition to the Labour Party.

"It is quite clear the Conservatives are going to be hammered south of the Border.

"The real election contest is here in Scotland, a vibrant contest between the SNP and the Labour Party."

Mr Swinney said his party was looking toward 7 June and beyond in its effort to break Labour's electoral stranglehold in Scotland.

Election posters
The parties are gearing up for the big day on 7 June

He said: "I have every intention of leading an SNP administration after the 2003 election.

"I would then initiate debate about increasing the powers of the Scottish Parliament."

Mr Swinney said the issue of independence would be resolved through a referendum for the people of Scotland.

"Our policy is the people who live here should have a role in the future of Scotland. We would welcome people to come and live here. Scotland is by no means full."

The SNP leader added that he could see the case for a single currency - which is an issue reserved to Westminster - "because Scotland is an export and manufacturing country".

Civic nationalism

When taxed on whether the SNP's brand of nationalism was secular or exclusive Mr Swinney said his party was determined to use Scotland's wealth for the benefit of everyone who lived there.

"Scotland is a wealthy country. We are contributing more than we are getting back. I want to make sure that the wealth of Scotland is used to tackle some of the real problems in our country.

"Like the fact that one in three of our children are born and brought up into poverty and one in four of our pensioners live in poverty."

He added that the party was determined to increase ethnic minority representation within its rank and file.

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