SNP Conference: Alex Salmond says an independent Scotland would renationalise Royal Mail and scrap bedroom tax

First Minister demands a televised referendum debate with David Cameron

Political Correspondent

Alex Salmond described the voters who will decide if Scotland leaves or remains part of the United Kingdom next year as the “independence generation” who had “tasted” devolution and now wanted the power to choose “a different path” from the governments in Westminster they had not voted for.

In a competent rather than barnstorming leader’s speech to the SNP’s conference in Perth, 333 days before the referendum date next year, the First Minister repeatedly emphasised Holyrood’s progressive credentials and said an independent Scotland would renationalise the Royal Mail, scrap the bedroom tax and set up a Fair Work Commission to ensure the minimum wage kept pace with inflation and the cost of living.

He also threw down a gauntlet to David Cameron to take part in televised debates with himself over the contents of a detailed White Paper on independence – which will be published on 26 November, the week of the St Andrew’s Day celebrations.

To loud applause, he told the delegates: “We’ll publish the White Paper, then you and I must debate … The choice is yours. Step up to the plate or step out of this debate.”

In a speech full of socialist policies and intentions that would have been a star turn at any pre-Tony Blair Labour conference, the SNP leader tried to differentiate his Holyrood administration from Westminster under both Labour and the Conservatives.

He said the Scottish government’s record on free personal care, protecting the NHS from privatisation, the continuing free access to university education and council tax freeze pointed to Scotland having progressive priorities. He said: “This is not a something- for-nothing country, but a something- for-something society.” He promised that his party would defend the “social progress” made by Holyrood.

He announced a new £60m investment fund, with £20m contributed by the European Union, that aimed to boost business start-ups which focused on employment opportunities for 3,000 mainly young people.

And in a side-swipe at Mr Cameron’s promised renegotiations with the EU, the First Minister said: “We will not allow action on youth unemployment to be restricted by the parochial insularity of Westminster.”

Given Ed Miliband’s recent boldness over energy price control by the state and his admission that Labour had not abandoned its socialist inheritance, Mr Salmond’s avoidance of the word “socialism” anywhere in his speech was at odds with the left-leaning independent Scotland that he was promising.

On the UK minimum wage, he said this had failed to rise in real terms for the 70,000 in Scotland who received it. “If this [policy] had been in play in the last five years – the lowest-paid Scots would today be a total of £675 better off.”

With a twist of the political line advocated by the Works and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Salmond said: “Work should pay – and we must ensure that work pays by raising the skills and rewards of Labour, not be reducing people to penury and despair.”

The November White Paper, he said, would offer a written constitution, a promise to keep key public services in public hands and to protect the public against monopoly power.

On nuclear disarmament – again emphasising how an independent Scotland would do things differently – Mr Salmond said: “We seek a country which judges its contribution on how useful it can be to the rest of humanity, not on how many warheads it can dance on a Trident submarine.”

Scotland’s oil wealth is central for Mr Salmond. He did not disappoint the Perth gathering. He said only two of the world’s oil-rich nations had failed to set up oil-related sovereign funds to benefit future generations – “the UK and the Republic of Iraq. Vast oil wealth is not a problem for Scotland. The problem for Scotland is that, for 40 years, Westminster has squandered that vast oil wealth.”

Mr Salmond’s job over the next year is to convince those still undecided about independence. An emotional appeal for nationhood is expected to be part of the Yes campaign’s push to close the gap on their Better Together opponents.

Mr Salmond started the process in Perth, saying “the independence generation” were “truly privileged because, in less than one year’s time, we can stop imagining and we can start building”. Scotland, he said, had been moving towards the referendum date for more than a century, but insisted: “Our time is now.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?