Alex Salmond has issued a dramatic warning that any delay or prevarication by Westminster on its promise of enhanced devolution for Scotland will force people Scots to “take matters into our own hands”.
The threat of a Scottish UDI – unilateral declaration of independence – was repeatedly emphasised by Mr Salmond in his outgoing speech as SNP leader in Perth.
Still technically Scotland’s First Minister until the new SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, takes over, Mr Salmond came close to vowing an effective UDI if Scotland was denied further devolved powers.
These were promised as part of the last-minute deal brokered by the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, in the final weeks of September’s independence referendum campaign when the Yes campaign was ahead in polls for the first time.
The late intervention by Mr Brown, which became a “vow” backed by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties, was seen a crucial in winning the vote. Mr Brown promised a No vote did not mean no change, and that an almost federalist UK lay ahead.
A commission being chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin is examining what further powers could be devolved to Edinburgh. It is expected to produce draft legislation by January. However, its timetable has been criticised as being “unrealistic”.
And in a barn-storming exit from front-line nationalist politics yesterday, where he promised “Scotland will become an independent nation” eventually, Mr Salmond attacked Downing Street’s hesitation. “The UK parties should be in no doubt – give Scots the power we demand, or Scotland will vote to take it,” he said.
He repeated the threat of the Holyrood parliament defying Westminster’s sovereignty, saying: “If the Westminster gang reneges on the pledges made in the campaign, they will discover that hell hath no fury like this nation scorned.”
Mr Salmond has steered clear of the issue of a UDI during his lengthy political career. But that ended when he said: “So let the message be very clear from this hall and this country to the Prime Minister – delay, prevaricate, block or obstruct the implementation of what was promised, and Scotland will take matters into our own hands.”
As part of her leader’s speech today, Ms Sturgeon is expected to back Mr Salmond and announce that Scotland does not intend to wait for future Westminster authority to hold another referendum.
She is expected to announce details on how Scotland could re-run the referendum if it is adversely affected by Westminster-driven austerity policies, or if the UK votes to leave the EU but the Scottish electorate votes to remain.
Although Mr Salmond will no longer be in charge of the SNP, few expect his influence to diminish. He is expected to shortly announce an intention to return to Westminster as an MP next May.
The morning after Scotland voted to stay part of the UK, Mr Cameron insisted that Scottish devolution needed to proceed “in tandem” with an English-votes-for-English-laws reform of Westminster.
Mr Salmond called that decision “cynical and depressing” and said it pandered to the Tory backbenches.
He told the SNP in Perth: “Only David Cameron could take a groundswell for Scottish independence to be a mandate for reform in England.”
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