Sun, Apr 13, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Scotland’s first minister to address independence

AFP, ABERDEEN, Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond was expected to reach out to voters yesterday in a key speech on the nation’s independence referendum, saying the ballot is about the country’s future and not that of his Scottish National Party (SNP).

“A ‘yes’ vote in September is not a vote for me, or for an SNP government in 2016,” Salmond was expected to say at the Scottish National Party’s spring conference in Aberdeen, their last before the historic poll.

“It’s a vote for a government in Scotland that the people of Scotland choose, pursuing policies the people of Scotland support,” an early version of his speech reportedly said.

“A government in control of tax, the economy, social security, employment, immigration, oil and gas revenues, European policy and a range of other areas currently under Westminster control. It’s about putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands,” it added.

Salmond opened the conference in Scotland’s oil capital on Friday, urging delegates to seize “the opportunity of a lifetime” in the referendum set for Sept. 18.

Salmond delivered the rallying cry as the SNP marked the 80th anniversary of its foundation at its final conference before the ballot, which could result in the end of Scotland’s 300-year link with the UK.

Salmond was expected to add yesterday that, if the people of Scotland vote ‘yes’ in the poll, work would begin “immediately” on the transition to independence.

This would include the formation of a negotiating team and the start of talks with Westminster before the end of September.

“An all-party ‘Team Scotland’ negotiating group, including non-SNP members, will be convened,” he was expected to say in his keynote speech. “It will secure expertise from across the political spectrum and beyond. And from Scotland and beyond.”

The SNP is campaigning for a “yes” vote, while Britain’s Conservatives, Labor and the Liberal Democrats are in the “no” camp and want Scotland’s 5.3 million people to remain part of the UK.

Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used her keynote speech on Friday to say the party was preparing to step up its campaign for a “yes” vote in the five months before the poll.

“Over these next months, we will redouble our efforts,” Sturgeon said. “We will work harder than we have ever done before.”

“Because the prize is this: not the end of the journey, but the beginning of a better future,” she added.

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