'Democracy rocks' for Nicola Sturgeon at Glasgow Hydro

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Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon said it was an amazing end to a momentous week

Scotland's new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has followed in the footsteps of pop stars Kylie Minogue, Beyonce and Lady Gaga by appearing in front of 12,000 people at Glasgow's Hydro arena.

The SNP leader said the gathering of independence supporters was another historic first for the party.

Ms Sturgeon said it was "an amazing end to a momentous week" in which she had become Scotland's first female leader.

"Democracy rocks", she said as she thanked the crowd for attending.

Ms Sturgeon, who replaced Alex Salmond as party leader and first minister, paid tribute to him as "remarkable and outstanding".

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About 12,000 people were in Glasgow's Hydro arena for the event
Image source, PA
Image source, PA
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Nicola Sturgeon was supported by SNP deputy Leader Stewart Hosie and former First Minister Alex Salmond
Image source, PA

Mr Salmond, who appeared on stage as one of 44-year-old Ms Sturgeon's support acts, said she was "the most brilliant young woman in Scottish politics".

A range of musical acts appeared before Ms Sturgeon took to the stage, including Eddi Reader and bagpipe band the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

The afternoon's entertainment concluded with Dougie MacLean singing his anthem "Caledonia."

During her speech, Ms Sturgeon said: "I know we did not win the referendum but don't the parties on the other side look for all the world like they lost?"

She told the crowd that "Scotland will become an independent country."

Ms Sturgeon said SNP membership had risen from 25,000 at the time of the referendum to more than 92,000.

The new party leader said she hoped that figure would be 100,000 by the election in May.

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Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon became SNP leader and Scotland's first minister this week

Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond poked fun at the Lib Dems who are holding their autumn Scottish conference in Dunfermline.

The new SNP leader said she was pretty sure her event had beaten the Lib Dems on numbers but she had heard that "the phone box they are holding it in is pretty full".

Alex Salmond had earlier said that 50 years ago the SNP had held an annual conference in Bridge of Allan at which 36 attended, " a bit like the Lib Dems today".

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Singer Eddi Reader performs at the Nicola Sturgeon rally at the SSE Hydro

Ms Sturgeon also turned her fire on the Labour, saying they would pay a heavy price for their "cosy referendum alliance" with the Conservatives.

She said both Labour and the Tories needed to be forced not to backslide on The Vow, their promise of substantial new powers for Scotland.

The first minister urged people to vote SNP in May as the only way of sending a signal to Westminster that Scotland was intent on holding the parties to that vow.

Ms Sturgeon ruled out ever going into coalition with the Tories and set down the rules for co-operation with Labour at Westminster.

She demanded more powers for Scotland, an end to austerity and no new nuclear weapons.

"Not only does the old Westminster system not work for Scotland but it does not work for many other parts of the UK", Ms Sturgeon said.

She called for a "progressive alliance" with parties such as Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Green party in England to change the Westminster system.

Ms Sturgeon ended her speech by saying: "This is a great time to alive in Scotland. Our democracy is more vibrant than probably anywhere else in Europe."

She said more powers would give Scotland a better chance of unlocking its potential but there was still only one "master key which unlocks all of the doors to a better, fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland and that key is independence".

"History is with us, the wind is set fair. We will build the Scotland our people deserve, let us get on with that job."

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