Salmond bows out with self-rule call

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Indy Politics

Alex Salmond, the outgoing leader of the Scottish National Party, predicted in his farewell speech yesterday that his party would achieve independence "in this political generation".

Alex Salmond, the outgoing leader of the Scottish National Party, predicted in his farewell speech yesterday that his party would achieve independence "in this political generation".

Mr Salmond, who steps down today after 10 years as leader, told the annual conference in Inverness: "We have built the SNP over these last 10 years on the rock of our own tradition - not New Labour's shifting sands. The founders of our party realised independence was not an event but a process. We are now in that process - the process of independence."

He defended his gradualist approach to winning independence, which has come under repeated fire from the party's fundamentalist wing. His successor will be chosen today in a contest between his current deputy, John Swinney, 36, a gradualist, and the left-winger Alex Neil, 49, who is demanding a more urgent campaign.

Mr Salmond bowed out as an ICM poll for The Scotsman showed the SNP had built a big lead in voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament as Labour's support slumped after the fuel crisis.

For the first time, ICM put the SNP ahead in both the first (constituency) vote, where it is on 38 per cent to Labour's 31 per cent, and the second (party list) vote, where it is on 36 per cent to Labour's 31 per cent.

Mr Salmond said: "Independence will arrive in this political generation. It has been a privilege to lead you part of the way. I look forward to helping my successor and you complete our journey." He charted the party's progress from a position where it had four MPs in a Westminster parliament of 650 to its current position of having 35 MSPs out of 129 at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

* A security scare disrupted Mr Salmond's swansong. After the police were told that a device had been found, the Eden Court Conference Centre was cleared for 20 minutes but nothing was found.

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