Swinney promises ‘most comprehensive’ SNP election campaign yet

John Swinney speaks at the SNP spring conference at the SECC in Glasgow yesterday. He says the party will fight hard to win every seat it contests. Picture: PA
John Swinney speaks at the SNP spring conference at the SECC in Glasgow yesterday. He says the party will fight hard to win every seat it contests. Picture: PA
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The SNP has unveiled plans to target every internet user in Scotland as part of its “most comprehensive” election campaign yet.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the party is aiming to win all 73 constituencies in the Scottish Parliament election in May and make gains in the remaining “list” seats in Holyrood’s hybrid voting system.

He was joined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on stage at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow yesterday in front of 3,000 delegates.

Mr Swinney, who is to head up the SNP election campaign in the weeks ahead, told delegates the party is now a “huge political movement” with “enormous grassroots strength” in every part of Scotland.

He said: “As director of the election campaign I can promise you the most comprehensive campaign we have ever fought.

“Our campaign will be built on the foundations of the traditional doorstep campaigning – house by house throughout the country – that has been the hallmark of the Scottish National Party.

“But we will also add to that a stronger digital campaign to expand the scale, the scope and the reach of our message of hope and aspiration for Scotland.

“Our digital plan will have the aim of reaching every single internet user in Scotland by polling day.

“That is what we have to offer. A campaign driven by the largest doorstep and digital election campaign Scotland has ever seen.”

Mr Swinney takes over the role of campaign chief from Westminster leader Angus Robertson, who headed the last two Holyrood campaigns. He urged delegates to campaign “as we have never campaigned before”.

“I want to make absolutely clear that in this election, the SNP is fighting for every vote, in every seat in Scotland,” he said.

“Unlike other parties, we don’t believe in safe seats. We don’t believe in target seats Because to believe in safe seats is to take for granted the support of some. And to believe in target seats is to ignore others. So we fight hard to win every seat we contest.”

The SNP would campaign on its record in office over the past nine years at Holyrood, Mr Swinney said, including the council tax freeze, crime and employment.

He also promised a “bold agenda” for the next five years, after Ms Sturgeon set out plans for new maternity grants for low income families, more funding for pupils at schools in deprived areas and a doubling of free nursery provision, including free lunches for toddlers.

The SNP has soared in popularity since the referendum defeat in 2014 and is poised to repeat its near wipe-out north of the Border in last year’s Westminster election when voters go to the polls in May.

The electoral system would make it more difficult for the party to make significant further gains in the 56 regional list seats while other parties such as the Scottish Greens are targeting the second votes of SNP supporters.

The new “BothVotesSNP” slogan launched at the conference over the weekend aims to ensure the Nationalists keep up their vote share in the constituencies.

Mr Swinney said the SNP administration has contributed to making Scotland a “more confident country” over the past nine years.

He added: “That’s what I believe Scotland now is - a more confident country than the one I grew up in.

“A country that can see, by having a Scottish Parliament, we can create a better Scotland.

“A country that, having exercised these powers, demands more so we can make a greater difference in the lives of our people.

“But we learned in the referendum that if people are to be convinced of the merits of independence more of our fellow citizens must have confidence in the 
economic future of Scotland.”

Opposition parties accused the SNP of complacency by targeting all 73 constituency seats.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “It’s no surprise to hear the SNP top brass thinking the election is already wrapped up.

“But John Swinney is ignoring the two million people who voted No and those voters are being cut adrift by Labour and the Liberal Democrats too.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie leader also hit out at Mr Swinney’s speech.

He added: “The idea of a Scottish Parliament dominated by 73 constituency Nationalists plotting their next referendum will worry anybody who wants the next parliament to focus on raising educational attainment.”