Salmond hails vote ‘breakthrough’

Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Departing SNP leader Alex Salmond will hail the independence referendum as the “most significant breakthrough in Scottish political history” – even though voters opted to stay in the UK.

Mr Salmond, who steps down as SNP leader at his party’s conference today, will insist Scotland has “changed utterly” since the historic vote on September 18.

Within hours of the referendum result being declared he announced his decision to step down as both SNP leader and First Minister.

Today, his deputy Nicola Sturgeon will succeed him as SNP leader, before being formally voted in as Scotland’s first female first minister at Holyrood next Wednesday.

When Mr Salmond makes his speech to the conference this afternoon, he will restate his belief that Scotland will leave the UK, as he sets the party the challenge of increasing its membership to 100,000 by next May’s general election.

SNP membership has more than trebled since September 18, and is now said to be 84,000 and rising by party bosses.

Mr Salmond is expected to tell conference that while 45% of voters backed separating from the UK, they should ” proclaim what each of us knows with a greater certainty than ever before – Scotland will become an independent nation”.

He will tell party activists: “W hilst we lost that vote, we also won a great deal. September 18 2014 will come to be seen as the day Scotland took control of her own destiny.

“It was a day of empowerment. Of engagement. Of confidence. It reawakened in millions of Scots a sense of purpose and of hope.

“It ended – forever – the top down politics of the past and ushered in a new era of participative politics the envy of the democratic world.

“So regardless of Yes and No, let us all agree that from September 18 2014 the clear winner can be Scotland.

“And when the history of Scottish independence is written, be in no doubt that September 18 2014 will be remembered as the most significant breakthrough in Scottish political history.”

He will say that ” despite everything that the Westminster establishment threw at Scotland, 45% of the people – 1.6 million women and men living and working in Scotland – chose hope over fear” and voted for independence.

That is a “much higher number than our opponents ever thought possible”, Mr Salmond will tell the conference.

“After the referendum, those very opponents believed that Scotland had been quietened, that we’d had our day in the sun and we should be politely put back in our box. They thought it was all over… well it isn’t now.

“Because in truth, delegates, everything in Scotland is now different. All has changed and changed utterly.

“Because of the 55% who voted No many did so on the last minute promise of radical constitutional reform within the union.”

He will continue: ” Let us set ourselves a target. Our party had tripled in size but it can grow further yet by reaching out further to the people.

“Let us ensure that by next May’s election, the SNP reaches something which has never been done in Scottish politics – 100,000 members representing the national cause.”

Ms Sturgeon, who has been Scotland’s Deputy First Minister for the last seven years, will succeed him unopposed, with no other leadership candidates having put themselves forward.

After she announced she was vacating the post of deputy leader, three candidates put themselves forward for the role: Holyrood Transport and Veterans Minister Keith Brown, Angela Constance, who is Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment in the Scottish Government, and SNP Treasury spokesman at Westminster Stewart Hosie.

The result of the party’s ballot for the deputy leadership position will also be announced at the conference this morning.

A Scottish Labour Party spokesman said: “Two months ago more than two million Scots voted to remain part of the UK. Now, only a few weeks later, in a display of breath-taking arrogance, the First Minister decides their views are not relevant as he ploughs on with his politics of grievance and division.

“The sovereign will of the people of Scotland is clear and that is to remain part of the UK. The SNP should accept and respect this and get on with the job of using the powers they have now to make Scotland a better place.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Alex Salmond does his best to rewrite history, but the fact is the people of Scotland voted decisively to remain part of the UK.

“He said it himself, that the referendum was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity for Scotland’.

“Alex Salmond is now playing to the gallery by declaring independence will now happen within a matter of years.

“The people of Scotland voted against independence for good reasons because they realised Scotland has a better future as part of the UK, while seeing right through Alex Salmond’s flawed economic case and his scaremongering on the NHS.

“It’s about time he accepted the democratic decision of September’s vote and let Scotland move on, rather than continuing to sow the seeds of division.”

Published: Friday 14th November 2014 by The News Editor

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