SNP's blueprint `a damp squib'

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The Independent Online
THE SCOTTISH National Party unveiled its blueprint of ideas yesterday, promising policies based on "enterprise, compassion and democracy" in the run-up to campaigning for the Scottish Parliament elections.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said the three "key themes" would cover a range of policy intentions to culminate in a fully-costed manifesto next year.

These included reforming business rates, proportional representation in local elections - and an end to "discrimination" against students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland studying in Scotland.

But the document is likely to be criticised at the party's annual conference this month for its lack of an radical edge and distinctly Blairite caution.

Helen Liddell, the Deputy Scottish Secretary, said the SNP statement was a damp squib. "The poverty of policy in this document is because the SNP is party-ridden with factionalism. All the separatists can offer is constitutional turmoil while the needs of the people of Scotland are ignored."

Wearing her other hat, as education minister, Mrs Liddell announced an extra pounds 24m to help teachers deliver the "Higher Still" improvements to standards in schools and colleges.

Donald Dewar, Scottish Secretary, will today make a "vision statement" on which Labour will fight next May's election to the new parliament. Although Labour will adopt the campaigning title "Scottish New Labour", Mr Dewar is appealing to traditional voters, emphasising education, social justice and inclusive communities.

Tommy Graham, the Labour MP, yesterday vowed to fight the party decision to oust him. He may seek judicial review in the Court of Session. Pat Lally, the Glasgow Lord Provost, used the same route to force the party to reverse disciplinary action this year.