Party Conferences: Salmond hits at whingers

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SCOTS WILL be told today by Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party to stop whingeing and blaming the English for all their woes.

With the Scottish Parliament due to come into being in nine months, he believes Scots must accept responsibility for what happens north of the border.

The "whingeing Jocks" reputation really rankles with the Scottish people, but is unlikely to be lost while everything from poor housing and job losses to Scotland's place at the end of the weather forecast is blamed on a London conspiracy.

Mr Salmond's keynote speech to the party's annual conference in Inverness will focus on "identity, ideals and vision". A leadership source said he would tell the Scots to "stop whining and trying to shift the blame for everything that goes wrong to our neighbours south of the border". He will also dwell on the "climate of fear" in the public services and his belief that education standards can only be raised by boosting the morale of teachers.

Meanwhile, frustration among the party's grass roots over the leadership's sanitising of the conference and its refusal to declare its hand on taxation boiled over yesterday.

John Swinney, MP for Tayside North and the party's Treasury spokesman, confirmed that middle and upper-income earners would pay more tax in an independent Scotland. His admission came only after members publicly urged the leadership to be more "aspirational".

An SNP government would scrap the ceiling on national insurance contributions, imposing a bigger burden on anyone earning more than pounds 26,500. Someone on pounds 40,000 a year would pay an extra pounds 7 a week. The proposal featured in the party's 1997 general election manifesto, but no mention has been made of it in the debate over possible tax differences between Scotland and England.

The SNP has also tried to keep silent on whether or not it would use the "tartan tax" - the power of the new parliament to vary the basic rate of income tax by up to 3p in the pound.

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