Alex Salmond makes pledge over Scottish economy

 

There is no danger the independence referendum will distract the Scottish Government from working to boost the economy, the country's First Minister insisted.

Alex Salmond said he believed Scots would vote in favour of leaving the UK when the ballot is held in two years' time.

But he also stressed his Scottish National Party (SNP) administration in Edinburgh was "entirely focused" on efforts to tackle the economy.

New figures yesterday showed the recession north of the border had deepened, and while unemployment across the UK fell there was an increase in the number of Scots out of work.

However, Mr Salmond argued the financial powers independence would bring were key to boosting economic performance.

"The link between constitutional change and having that economic power is absolutely fundamental," the First Minister told BBC Radio Scotland.

"Which is one of the reasons why I believe we will win this referendum."

Mr Salmond told the Good Morning Scotland programme the SNP was closer than ever before to achieving independence.

But a new poll published on the first day of the SNP annual conference in Perth showed fewer than a third of Scots favoured this.

Research by Ipsos Mori for The Times found 30% agreed Scotland should be independent, with 58% opposed to this and 12% undecided.

It comes days after Mr Salmond and the Prime Minister signed a deal which will deliver a legally binding referendum on independence in 2014, with David Cameron pledging to campaign to keep the United Kingdom "family" together.

The SNP leader said today: "We're closer to our objective than we've ever been before, and of course I believe we will win that vote on independence in two years' time."

When asked if the independence referendum would distract Scottish Government ministers from their efforts to boost the economy, Mr Salmond said: "There's no danger whatsoever, we are entirely focused on Scotland's economy."

He argued: "For our economy to reach its full potential and to avoid the long-term damaging austerity cuts in funding across Scotland's public services then the route to change that is to obtain control of Scotland's resources.

"We work tirelessly to improve the economy but our hands are tied by the Westminster budget, everyone knows that.

"We've managed to achieve great things in Scottish public services, including Scottish education, but they would be a lot better if we were able to control our own resources."

Mr Salmond's deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, also said she believed Scots would opt for independence when given the chance at the ballot box.

The Deputy First Minister cited polling evidence which suggested almost two thirds of Scots thought the SNP administration was "better at making decisions for Scotland".

A YouGov poll, commissioned by the SNP, found 64% of those surveyed believed this, compared to 24% who thought the UK Government was better.

The same poll found 45% would be likely to vote for independence in the referendum if they could be persuaded that leaving the UK would mean their family would be economically better off.

The four-day conference will focus on the opportunities the SNP believe independence will bring Scotland, with Nationalists seeking to contrast these with the consequences of remaining part of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said: "As SNP delegates gather today in Perth, we can take stock of just how far Scotland has come on the country's home rule journey - which I believe we will complete in the autumn 2014 referendum by voting Yes to independence.

"A Yes vote is there to be won, and I believe will be won in two years' time. We know that a clear majority of people in Scotland believe that the Scottish Government is better at making decisions for Scotland than Westminster - by 64% to 24% - which is an essential foundation of the case for independence, and is also testament to the success of the degree of independence offered to us by devolution.

"And most people are likely to vote Yes for an independent Scotland if they believe that they and their family will be better off."

PA

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