Scotland politics

SNP 2011 conference: News in brief

Here is a round up of news from the four-day SNP conference being held in Inverness.

Cameron 'no mandate in Scotland', says Neil

Image caption Alex Neil said the David Cameron had no democratic mandate in Scotland

Veteran Nationalist Alex Neil has accused the prime minister David Cameron of trying to dictate the rules of an independence referendum to Scotland.

The infrastructure and capital investment secretary said the Conservative leader had "no democratic mandate in Scotland" and described his Liberal Democrat coalition partners as "Tory poodles".

He also said every visit to Scotland by a coalition minister is worth 1,000 votes for independence.

Mr Neil said: "Last week we got some very good news that will help us in the independence referendum. The UK coalition government said that every one of their cabinet ministers is going to come to Scotland regularly from now till the referendum.

"That means that every Tory minister is going to come to Scotland and every Liberal Democrat Tory poodle minister is going to come to Scotland. And every time they come to Scotland we will bag 1,000 more votes for the referendum."

MacAskill defends new anti-bigotry bill

Image caption Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill says sectarianism had no place in Scotland

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has defended controversial new legislation aimed at tackling sectarianism, insisting it would drag "a small minority of folk in our country into the 21st century".

In his speech to the SNP annual conference in Inverness, Mr MacAskill said sectarian songs were "songs of hate" and there was "no place for them in a modern Scotland".

He pledged that the Scottish government would "not shirk from taking the necessary action".

The minister's defence of the proposals came after he told delegates that the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing is still a live inquiry.

The promise was made in the light of the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Call for organ donor opt-out

The SNP conference urged the Scottish government to consider an opt-out system for organ donation, despite warnings from a retired health consultant it was "not the way to go".

Ian Grant, a retired consultant in intensive care, claimed such a system was "ethically doubtful", adding: "Bringing in a law of presumed consent on organ donation means a person having to opt out before death on a register for which there will be little if no publicity I suspect, at a time when they are not contemplating death."

Despite his warnings, Nationalists overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling on the Government to consider an opt-out.

SNP members attack Brown over contamination

SNP delegates launched an attack on former prime minister Gordon Brown for failing to clear up radioactive contamination in his constituency.

Earlier this month. the Scottish Environment Protection Agency closed the foreshore at Dalgety Bay, in Fife, because high-level radiation was detected.

It is believed to originate from radioactive aeroplane dials, burned and buried in reclaimed land, where radiation was first found over 20 years ago.

Fife councillor Douglas Chapman, who came a distant second to Mr Brown in the last Westminster election to the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat, which includes Dalgety Bay, said Mr Brown had failed to protect the community all throughout his political career.

Investment for 'early years' projects

SNP education secretary Mike Russell announced a £4.5m fund to support projects backing youngsters in the first few years of their lives.

Image caption Mike Russell said Curriculum for Excellence would be maintained

He said spending cash on children in their early years to give them the best start in life could save much more money in the long-run.

Mr Russell, said: "That type of imaginative project is typical of the responses we are trying to make in difficult times. But they are hard to make.

"The savage budget cuts being passed on from Westminster means we have to focus our resources ever more closely and carefully.

"Within these pressures, we are ensuring our investment in the world leading innovation that is Curriculum for Excellence is maintained."