Poll gives SNP boost on eve of conference

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Indy Politics

Scottish Nationalists gathered for their annual conference yesterday, buoyed by an opinion poll which puts them ahead of Labour.

Scottish Nationalists gathered for their annual conference yesterday, buoyed by an opinion poll which puts them ahead of Labour.

The nationalists claimed the poll, carried out by System Three, which puts the SNP on 36 per cent to Labour's 34 per cent in first-past-the-post voting intentions in the Scottish Parliament, was the first ever to give them an opinion poll lead at the time of their annual conference.

"Even before the recent protest against high fuel taxes, Labour support was already on the slide in Scotland, with the SNP in pole position", said party leader Alex Salmond as his troops gathered in Inverness.

"With a Westminster election likely at some point next year, the SNP are enjoying our strongest ever pre-election position. SNP delegates look forward to coming to a party conference where real decisions are made."

The same poll put SNP voting intentions for a Westminster election at 28 per cent, well behind Labour.

Mr Salmond claimed his party was "raring to go" into the Westminster campaign. But he did not attend the beginning of the conference yesterday. Instead he was in Edinburgh to do verbal battle with First Minister Donald Dewar for the last time at Question Time in the Scottish Parliament.

Next week that task will fall to the man who succeeds Mr Salmond as SNP party leader in a vote on Saturday of the 800 voting delegates at the SNP's 66th annual conference.

The contenders are deputy leader John Swinney, 36, seen as the gradualist favourite son of the nationalist mainstream, and the more radical Alex Neil, 49, who wants a sharper, more urgent, public campaigning edge for the party. Mr Swinney is viewed by many as the likely winner.

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