The office in Portland, Oregon, was established after a month-long fact-finding visit by Gil Paterson, a senior SNP administrator. Party managers, seeking to build on this year's electoral success, in the regional and European elections believe that the venture will encourage expatriate Scots to support the party financially. Alex Salmond, the party leader, said: 'In 1992 the SNP spent pounds 130,000 on its campaign, compared with almost pounds 20m for the Tories. Never again will we fight an election with that kind of disparity in funding. Opening an American office is one way we can begin to compete on a level playing field. There is a huge amount of goodwill to be tapped.'
Mark McKnight, a fourth-generation Scot who is helping to set up an SNP constituency office in the US to complement the fund- raising venture, said that hundreds of Americans of Scots descent had expressed interest in joining the party and in making donations.
SNP officials, who estimate there are almost 20 million people of Scots descent in North America, plan to open further fund-raising offices in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco, and in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
The SNP annual conference opens in Inverness today, with the main business the drawing up of an independence prospectus, a key plank of the SNP strategy to replace Labour as the dominant party in Scotland at the next general election. SNP leaders, buoyed by results in regional and European elections, say it will put forward a 'fully-costed, water-tight programme' for the first four years of an independent Scotland.
This year the party took control of two regional councils, captured its second European seat and humiliated Labour in the Monklands East by-election. Mr Salmond said: 'We have crashed through the credibility barrier.'Reuse content