Scotland politics

SNP conference: Salmond attacks 'negative and depressing' No campaign

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Media captionFirst Minister Alex Salmond describes the No campaign as "laughable"

Scotland's first minister has branded the campaign for the Union "the most miserable, negative, depressing and thoroughly boring" in modern times.

Alex Salmond told the SNP conference Better Together was out of touch with reality, while momentum was building towards a "Yes" for independence.

He also used his speech to reach out to women voters, announcing an increase in female representation in his cabinet.

But the Better Together campaign said Mr Salmond was not giving the answers.

Mr Salmond's speech came ahead of the 18 September independence referendum.

The ballot will see voters asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Polls currently indicate support for the Union, but the Scottish government says momentum is moving towards its position.

Mr Salmond's speech came after recent remarks by former Nato secretary general and Scottish Labour MP Lord George Robertson, who said Scottish independence would be "cataclysmic" for the West in an era of international turmoil.

The SNP leader said: "The more the people of Scotland hear the case for 'No', the more likely they are to vote 'Yes'.

"And no wonder - they are the most miserable, negative, depressing and thoroughly boring campaign in modern political history.

"They are already out of touch with the people and now, I fear, they're losing touch with reality."

In contrast, Mr Salmond said, the "Yes" campaign was "positive, uplifting and hopeful", adding: "That is the basis on which we shall win this referendum and shall win our independence."

'Outstanding ministers'

The Scottish government argues Scotland is the 14th richest country among the world's most developed nations, and with independence, would be able to take control of its own resources.

Under independence, the SNP government has pledged a massive expansion in childcare, which it says would help women back to work and boost the economy.

Mr Salmond also said the SNP, under independence, would want companies to aspire to see their boards made up of at least 40% women.

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Image caption First Minister and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, said a "Yes" vote was not "a vote for me"
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Image caption Angela Constance [left] and Shona Robison are now full members of the Scottish cabinet
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Image caption Alex Salmond: "It's about putting Scotland's future in Scotland's hands"

The first minister announced junior ministers Shona Robison, who oversees equality and Angela Constance, who has the youth employment brief, would be made full Scottish cabinet members.

He added: "Subject to parliamentary approval, with these two outstanding ministers in the Scottish cabinet, we practice what we preach.

"The cabinet is our board as a country, and women will make up 40% of the members of the Scottish cabinet."

Looking ahead to 18 September, Mr Salmond said the referendum was not about the SNP, him or the wider "Yes" campaign.

He told the packed conference hall: "It's about putting Scotland's future in Scotland's hands."

"A 'Yes' vote in September is not a vote for an SNP government in 2016.

"It's a vote for a government in Scotland that the people of Scotland choose, pursuing policies the people of Scotland support.

"It is a vote for a government in control of tax, the economy, social security, employment, immigration oil and gas revenues, European policy and a range of other areas currently under Westminster control."

The first minister went on: "That may be the SNP. It may be Labour. It may be a coalition."

In an attack on the Conservatives, he added: "I tell you what it won't be - it won't be a government led by a party with just a single member of parliament in Scotland.

"A government dismantling our welfare state. Determined to privatise public services."

'Deeply ironic'

Mr Salmond went on: "In an independent Scotland, we can give this guarantee: the era of unelected Tory governments handing out punishment to the poor and the disabled will be gone and gone for good."

In the event of a 'Yes' vote, the first minister told the conference, talks with Westminster on the transition to independence would begin before the end of September.

The "team Scotland" negotiating group would include non-SNP members and expertise from across the political spectrum, from both inside and outside Scotland.

However, Better Together's campaign director, Blair McDougall, said of Mr Salmond's attack: "There's something deeply ironic about someone being quite so negative in complaining about negativity, but I can't think of anything more negative than risking people's pensions, people's jobs, people's mortgages, which is exactly what Alex Salmond has done today.

"He's still giving us no answers to the really big questions that people need answers to before they go to vote in September."