Salmond urges Scots to vote for independence

Scottish first minister calls on voters to reach out and ‘grasp the opportunity of a lifetime’

Alex Salmond makes his keynote speech at the SNP Autumn Conference today in Perth,  Scotland. Photograph:  Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Alex Salmond makes his keynote speech at the SNP Autumn Conference today in Perth, Scotland. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 16:36

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond has told millions of Scots that they can determine the country’s “next chapter” by voting for independence in next year’s independence referendum.

Despite opinion polls showing he faces a hill to climb, Mr Salmond told the Scottish National Party’s conference in Perth today that ‘the energy is building’ behind the Yes campaign.

Offering a speech, which borrowed heavily in style from President John F. Kennedy, Mr Salmond told delegates: “And when the pages of books yet unwritten speak to generations yet unborn of this time and this place, of our Scotland today, what is the story they will tell?

“They can say that we who lived at this special time recognised a priceless moment for what it was. That those who saw this chance did not baulk at it.

“That those who were given this moment did not let it pass by. And that we, Scotland’s independence generation, reached out and grasped the opportunity of a lifetime when it came our way.”

Since Thursday, SNP delegates have privately voiced concern about the independence campaign, believing that it is finding it difficult to overcome fears created by those favouring the continuation of the Union.

However, Mr Salmond’s speech - coming just 333 days before Scots will go to the polling stations - has done much to settle nerves: “There is work to be done, let’s go and do it,” he told them.

Calling on Scots to “reach out and grasp the opportunity of a lifetime”, Mr Salmond said: “We will not wake up on the morning of September 19th next year and think to ourselves what might have been.

“We WILL wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation – ready to build a new nation both prosperous and just.

“After almost a century of Scotland moving forward to this very moment – let us ask ourselves these simple questions:

If not us - then who? If not now - then when? Friends - we ARE Scotland’s independence generation. And our time is now,” he told cheering delegates.

Up to now, Mr Salmond’s demands for a head-to-head debate with British prime minister David Cameron has been refused by No. 10 Downing Street, which prefers the No campaign to be led by Scots.

However, Downing Street’s strategy may become harder to defend over the next 11 months, since it is clear that the SNP intends relentlessly to criticise him for not turning up.

Mr Cameron had promised “a respectful debate”, yet had “turned the full guns of the Whitehall machine on Scotland” by issuing a series of papers that have questioned the pro-independence case.

“He wants to dictate the terms of the debate without of course debating himself. He wants the power without the democratic responsibility and that is simply not on.

On November 26th, Mr Salmond announced that the Scottish Government will publish its White Paper laying out the details of the arguments behind independence.

“So here’s the deal, Prime Minister. We’ll publish the White Paper. Then you and I must debate, First Minister to Prime Minister. The choice is yours. Step up to the plate, or step out of this debate.