THE SNP yesterday unveiled a poll showing the party's strongest ever support for independence, on the day when they launched their list of candidates for Holyrood.

The survey by regular Herald pollsters System Three showed 82% of the population saying it thinks there should be a constitutional referendum on independence.

On the next query about how respondents would vote on the issue, the result was a 21% lead on independence, with support running at 54% to 34%.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said he could not imagine a better time to be pushing new candidates for the SNP. He contrasted the open approach of his party with the attitude of New Labour in Scotland, claiming that there was no hint of any ideological cull in his party's selection.

There were 175 approved SNP candidates announced at a press conference in Glasgow. The group attracted immediate and hostile attention from the Labour Party, with a lengthy press release explaining why the SNP was hopelessly split and dividing candidates between different wings of the party.

However, this was the precise opposite of the expected pattern as seen by most observers.

While Labour is coping with controversial exclusions from their selection process, the opposite is true of the SNP, with the selection team including all sections of the party.

SNP leader Alex Salmond was quizzed on why supposed opponents such as Kenny McAskill and Margo MacDonald had featured on the list.

His answer was that this was the way his party did business, in contrast to the way Labour's selection list was closed down.

Mr Salmond said his party remained confident and felt no need to close down critics - particularly at a time when polls showed huge support for independence. They approved 175 potential candidates, of which 49 were female and 40 are councillors. The SNP say 40 of those approved are under the age of 35 and 16 are over 60.

Labour accused the SNP of ''papering over the cracks'' of different factions.

Rosemary McKenna, who chaired Labour's selection board, said: ''The SNP remains as it always has been, a rag-bag of opportunists desperate only for power. This panel reveals that the SNP could deliver nothing in a Scottish Parliament except chaos and division.''

But Mr Salmond said Labour's cull of applicants along ideological grounds was in stark contrast to the SNP's fair and inclusive approach. ''We represent all of Scottish society, all of our party, and will represent all of Scotland's Parliament,'' he said.

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The panel of SNP candidates eligible to seek selection is as follows:

Councillor Brian Adam, Aberdeen; Bashir Ahmad, Glasgow, a founder of Scots Asians for Independence; Alasdair Allan, SNP staff in Peterhead; Councillor Frank Anderson, Livingston; Councillor Helen Angus, Arbroath; Councillor Ian Angus, Arbroath; Councillor Gordon Archer, Glasgow, who joined from Labour; Adam Ardrey, Bothwell, an advocate; Glynne Baird, recently returned to Edinburgh from Brussels, wife of executive director of Scottish Financial Enterprise; Chrissie Bannerman, Balmaha, Stirlingshire; Ian Bayne, Glasgow; Alex Bell, Edinburgh, former BBC journalist, now on SNP HQ staff; David Berry, North Berwick; Catriona Black, currently living in London; Mungo Bovey, Edinburgh advocate; David Bowie, Strathaven social worker; John Brady, Glasgow; Hilary Brown, Leith; Councillor Keith Brown, Dollar; Jim Byrne, Glasgow.

Alan Cameron, Ellon, Aberdeenshire; Councillor Campbell Cameron, Oban; Councillor Colin Campbell, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, former head teacher and party defence spokesman; Gillian Campbell, Dundee; Calum Cashley, Dundee; Tom Chalmers, Glasgow solicitor, party housing spokesman; Councillor Douglas Chapman, Dunfermline; Councillor Danny Coffey, Kilmarnock; Councillor Angela Constance, Livingston; William Craig, Montrose; Councillor Bruce Crawford, leader of Perth and Kinross; Councillor Duncan Crawford, former policeman from Lossiemouth; Stuart Crawford, Edinburgh; Christine Creech, Edinburgh solicitor; Chris Cunningham, Glasgow, housing worker and brother of MP; Roseanna Cunningham, MP for Perth; Andrew Currie, Invergordon.

Anne Dana, businesswoman who contested Leith last May; Lynne Devine, Forfar, former Labour Party member; Pat Dishon, Edinburgh lecturer and tour guide; Andrew Doig, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire; Noel Dolan, Glasgow, former Scottish Television producer; Dick Douglas, Auchtermuchty, former Labour MP, now water ombudsman; Councillor Ewan Dow, Bridge of Earn, finance convener of Perth and Kinross.

Dorothy Grace-Elder, Glasgow journalist: Annabelle Ewing, Glasgow solicitor, recently returned from Brussels and daughter of Winifred Ewing; Fergus Ewing, Drymen, Stirlingshire, solicitor and son of Winifred Ewing; Margaret Ewing, MP for Moray, parliamentary leader of the SNP, and wife of Fergus Ewing; Dr Winifred Ewing, MEP for the Highlands and Islands; Linda Fabiani, housing worker from Strathaven; Sandra Farquhar, Dunblane; Donald Ferguson, Edinburgh solicitor; Stuart Fergusson, Arbroath lifeboatman; Rachel Findlay, South Queensferry; Gerry Fisher, Dollar; Iain Fleming, Largs.

The Rev Bev Gauld, Carnwath, Lanarkshire; Stewart Gibb, Edinburgh, worker in information technology; Councillor Kenny Gibson, Glasgow Council group leader; Rob Gibson, Evanton, Inverness-shire; Dr Anne Lorne Gillies, Glasgow, singer and party culture spokeswoman; Ian Goldie, Edinburgh; Councillor Clark Goodison, Scone; Councillor Alan Grant, Blairgowrie.

Colin Hagerty, Coatbridge; Duncan Hamilton, Milngavie; Ian Hamilton QC, North Connell, Argyll, veteran nationalist involved in first unofficial return of the Stone of Destiny; Dr John Hargreaves, Edinburgh; Clare Hay, Bridge of Allan, worker in information technology; Jenny Herriot, Rowardennan, Stirlingshire; Councillor Kate Higgins, Stranraer; Stewart Hosie, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire; Councillor Ian Hudghton, Forfar; Councillor John Hulbert, a GP in Longforgan, Tayside; Fiona Hyslop, Linlithgow; Adam Ingram, Kilmarnock; Dot Jessiman, New Deer, Buchan, crofter and English-born founder of New Scots for Independence; Councillor Peter Johnston, Armadale; Tom Johnston, Cumbernauld teacher.

Peter Kearney, Glasgow; George Kerevan, Edinburgh, economics lecturer and former Labour councillor; Dr Malcolm Kerr, Arran GP; Ian Kincaid, Polmont, offshore oil engineer; Roger Knox, Musselburgh; Councillor Janet Law, Perth and Kinross education convener; Alison Lindsay, Dollar; John Lloyd, Dalgety Bay, Fife; Councillor Richard Lyle, New Stevenson, group leader North Lanarkshire; Richard Lochhead, Broughty Ferry.

Kenny MacAskill, Edinburgh, solicitor and party treasurer; Margo MacDonald, journalist and broadcaster, former MP and wife of Jim Sillars; Councillor Ian MacKay, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire; Councillor Bill MacKechnie, group leader in West Dunbartonshire; Councillor Sandy McKenzie, Conon Bridge, Ross-shire; Murdo MacLennan, Stornoway; Councillor Bill Martin, Barrhead, Renfrewshire; Tricia Marwick, Glenrothes, worker in voluntary sector; Jim Mather, company director in Glasgow; Fiona Matheson, Stromness, Orkney; Michael Matheson, Stirling; Councillor Kathleen McAlorum, Mossend, North Lanarkshire; David McCann, Alloa; Greg McCarra, West Calder; David McCarthy, Kinross, retured Unilever executive active in Business for Scotland; Councillor Gordon McDonald, Buckie; David McGlashan, solicitor in Condorrat, North Lanarkshire; Jim McGregor, Armadale; Irene McGugan, Forfar social worker; Jim McGuigan,

Hamilton; Dr Ian McKee, Edinburgh GP; Fiona McLeod, Bearsden; Councillor Glennis Middleton, Forfar; Calum Millar, Prestonpans, worker in information technology; Councillor Gavin Scott Moncrieff, Skye; Alasdair Morgan, MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale and national secretary of party; John Mowat, teacher in Kirkwall; Roger Mullin, Kirkcaldy, adviser to overseas governments; Councillor Rob Munn, Edinburgh; Alan Murdoch, Perth businessman; Councillor Gordon Murray, former Cumbernauld provost.

Karen Neary, Hamilton housing worker; Alex Neil, Ayr, policy vice-convener of party, once of Labour; Alasdair Nicholson, worker in the voluntary sector on Lewis; Councillor Kim Nicoll, Galston, Ayrshire; Stephen Noon, of party's Westminster staff; Stephen Norris, Wigtown butcher; Alan Park, Glasgow solicitor; Gil Paterson, Bishopbriggs; Elizabeth Quinn, Glasgow; Lloyd Quinan, former television weather forecaster.

Frank Rankin, Glasgow; Harry Rankin, Dunfermline; Alasdair Reid, Brussels economic adviser; George Reid, Bridge of Allan, former MP, broadcaster and Red Cross official, party constitution spokesman; Frank Riley, Musselburgh; Angus Robertson, Vienna-based broadcaster; Councillor Keith Robertson, Auchterarder. Shona Robison, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire; Scott Rorison, Ballachulish; William Ross, Shetland; Michael Russell, Colintraive, Argyll, the party's chief executive.

Alex Salmond, MP for Banff and Buchan and leader of the party; James Scott, Edinburgh, retired senior civil servant; Paul Scott, Edinburgh; Shirley Seaton, a London-based tax lawyer; Robin Shaw, Glasgow; Robert Shirley, Edinburgh; Allan Sillars, Inverness; Calum Smith, Perth, runs constituency office of Roseanna Cunningham; Stewart Stevenson, Linlithgow; Kaukab Stewart, Edinburgh teacher; Sandy Stronach, Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire; Isobel Strong, Rothesay; Nicola Sturgeon, Glasgow lawyer, education spokeswoman and party vice-convener for publicity, contested Govan last May; Graham Sutherland, Edinburgh; Elaine Sweeney, Crieff, youngest candidate at 21; John Swinney, MP for North Tayside and party Treasury spokesman.

Richard Thomson, Edinburgh; Kay Ullrich, Irvine, social worker and veteran candidate; Jean Urquhart, Ullapool; Councillor David Watson, East Kilbride; Maureen Watt, Banchory; Michael Weir, Brechin solicitor; Andrew Welsh, MP for Angus; Colin Welsh, social worker from Lower Largo in Fife; Councillor Sandra White, Paisley; Maire Whitehead, Glasgow head teacher; Andrew Wilson, Edinburgh, the young economist poached from the Scottish Office who helped uncover the #27 billion historic Scottish budget surplus, now back in private sector; Councillor Bill Wilson, Glasgow; Tom Wilson, Glasgow; Councillor Anne Winning, Lanark; Fergus Wood, Aberfoyle sheep farmer; Blyth Wright, avalanche expert in Aviemore; Douglas Yates, former policeman from Barrhead, Renfrewshire; James Yuill, Clydebank.