Scotland politics

SNP conference 2012: Alex Salmond condemns UK government's 'Lord Snootys'

The SNP leader has told his party the time has come to vote for independence and rid Scotland of the UK government's "incompetent Lord Snootys".

Alex Salmond warned the Perth gathering that a "no" in the 2014 referendum would deliver "nothing" for Scotland.

He said only independence could protect key policies delivered under devolution and help Scotland prosper.

Earlier this week Mr Salmond agreed a deal paving the way for a referendum to take place.

He said the ballot would be a once-in-a-generation chance for Scotland to turn its potential into prosperity.

Mr Salmond was making his first big push for independence since signing the Edinburgh Agreement alongside Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday. It includes;

  • a statutory order to be legislated at Westminster, granting Holyrood powers to hold a single-question independence referendum by the end of 2014 and covering other issues including campaign broadcasts
  • a "memorandum of agreement" signed by political leaders confirming that the details of the referendum would be settled at Holyrood
  • and a significant role for the Electoral Commission watchdog in advising on the wording of the question, the running of the referendum and areas including campaign finance.

The first minister told delegates in Perth it was now "game on for Scotland".

Branding Westminster "beyond salvation", Mr Salmond told the conference: "Friends, our nation understands there is work to do if we are to make Scotland the place we know it can be.

"Work to build a fairer nation, to turn potential into prosperity."

He added: "Scotland can vote 'no' and secure nothing, or we can vote 'yes' to get the platform we need."

At the start of the 45-minute address, Mr Salmond made reference to former chief whip Andrew Mitchell's alleged use of the word "pleb" and Chancellor George Osborne's first class train ticket row.

The gathering heard him ask: "Why on earth do we allow this bunch of incompetent Lord Snootys to be in positions of authority over our country?"

He further questioned: "And why does the Labour Party believe that they can survive getting into bed with them in the no campaign?

Mr Salmond went on to outline a vision of an independent Scotland "united by ambition and confidence".

He said: "Over the next two years our task is clear - to tell the truth about Scotland and what we can achieve. To proclaim that we have, in ourselves, all we need to truly prosper.

"That, together we can rebuild our nation creating a Scotland that flourishes - in body and in spirit - once again.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond carry a "yes" placard

"Standing alongside the other nations of these islands as as a new partner and true friend.

"That, delegates, is the platform on which we shall win independence for our country."

Turning to the independence 'no' campaign, Mr Salmond said: "Instead of telling people in Scotland what they can do, they tell us what we can't do."

He went on: "Just think of it. Labour, the party which brought the country to its financial knees, unites with the Tories, the party of onmishambles, to tell Scotland that we are uniquely incapable as a nation."

Attacking his political opponents, Mr Salmond said the Tories had declared only 12% of Scots households were responsible for "generating Scotland's wealth".

And he said policies like free care for the elderly, concessionary bus travel and an end to university fees for Scots students were under threat by a review of universal services announced by Scottish Labour, which the first minister branded a "cuts commission".

The first minister said such policies were part of the "social contract" between the parliament and its people, adding: "Some call it universality and say its time has passed.

"I call it human decency and its time is now."

Mr Salmond went on: "Friends, what was won could now be lost.

"Have no doubt, what was gained with devolution can only now be guaranteed with independence."

"And so Labour and Tory - the two great pillars of the Union - united in a death grip programme to sweep away concessionary travel, free prescriptions and education

Mr Salmond also used his speech to make a number of announcements, including;

  • telecom firm THREE creating almost 400 new jobs in Glasgow
  • a £11m family nurse partnership fund to support the future of children
  • and legislation to guarantee all 16 and 17-year-olds would get a right to vote in the independence referendum.

Nato vote

The politician addressed the conference the day after delegates overturned the SNP's traditional anti-Nato stance.

Members spent nearly three hours debating the issue.

Angus Robertson MP put forward a resolution saying an independent Scotland should become a member of the pro-nuclear weapons organisation.

That was opposed by several MSPs and rank and file members, but the new policy was voted through 426 to 332.

Mr Robertson told the conference that the fresh approach was developed following discussions with other countries.

He added that a change of view was dependent on Trident nuclear weapons - which are currently based at Faslane Naval base on the Clyde - being removed from Scotland.

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