Scotland politics

SNP conference: Salmond in warning to coalition

SNP leader Alex Salmond has issued an independence rallying call, as he warned the UK government that its days of telling Scots what to do "are over".

Addressing his party's first conference since its landslide election win, the first minister said Scotland needed independence to realise its potential.

The Scottish government will stage an independence referendum towards the end of the five-year parliament.

Mr Salmond said a ballot paper question on more powers may be included.

But he insisted the SNP would be campaigning for full independence.

Mr Salmond has accused the Westminster coalition of £1bn of deficit-reducing spending cuts to the Scottish budget and reaping the benefits of north sea oil.

But, ahead of the forthcoming referendum, he told delegates in Inverness: "The days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do or what to think are over.

"The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future.

"No politician, and certainly no London politician, will determine the future of the Scottish nation.

"The prime minister should hear this loud and clear.

"The people of Scotland - the sovereign people of Scotland - are now in the driving seat."

Mr Salmond branded the UK government's Scotland group a "cabinet sub-committee to attack Scottish independence".

He said: "Lets get this right. Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander sit in a committee working out how to do Scotland down - and they engage in this while the European monetary system teeters on the brink of collapse, while the jobless total in England is at a 20-year high and inflation more than double its target.

"And these politicians wonder why they carry no confidence among the people of England, never mind the people of Scotland."

Mr Salmond said: "Our message to this quad of ministers - stop attacking Scottish aspirations and start supporting economic recovery."

The Holyrood government has come under fire from opponents, who say the party is delaying the referendum because it is scared of losing.

And they also say the SNP's tacit support for the alternative of full fiscal responsibility, known as "devolution max", which may be included as a second question on the ballot paper, is a "failsafe option" for the party.

But the Nationalists say they are sticking to a manifesto commitment on the timetable for the referendum.

Mr Salmond told the packed conference hall: "Fiscal responsibility, financial freedom, real economic powers is a legitimate proposal.

"It could allow control of our own resources, competitive business tax and fair personal taxation.

"All good, all necessary but not good enough."

Mr Salmond went on: "Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the Clyde, we could still be forced to spill blood in illegal wars, such as Iraq, and we would still be excluded from the councils of Europe and the world.

"These things only independence can bring - which is why this party will campaign full square for independence in the coming referendum."

"We have the talent, resources and ingenuity.

"The only limitations are our imagination and our ambition. So give Scotland the tools, put the people of Scotland in charge and see our nation flourish as never before."

Mr Salmond said the SNP had proven itself in its first term in office and had helped people through tough economic times, with measures like the council tax freeze, abolition of prescription charges and small business bonus scheme.

He also said recorded crime was at a 35-year low, while international companies, such as Amazon and Mitsubishi, were investing in Scotland.

The first minister expressed an aspiration to re-industrialise Scotland, announcing an £18m marine energy fund, as part of £35m of investment over the next few years.

On oil and gas, Mr Salmond said Westminster had "coined in" £300bn from Scottish waters, quoting figures suggesting another £230bn was available over the next 40 years.

'Parties without leaders'

"London has had its turn out of Scottish oil and gas," he said, adding: "Let the next 40 years be for the people of Scotland."

And, attacking the Scottish parties, two of which are looking for new leaders, Mr Salmond said they had "lost touch with the people".

"Labour and the Tories are parties without a leader. The Liberals have a leader without a party.

"In the election the people decided Labour were not fit for government - right now they are not fit for opposition."

Elsewhere, Mr Salmond announced the government's non-profit alternative to PFI private sector tie-ups would deliver 30 new schools.

And he said 700,000 homes would get access to energy efficiency measures, next April.

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