The Scottish National Party (SNP) has a "date with destiny" at next May's Holyrood polls, leader Alex Salmond has declared.
He told the SNP conference in Perth today that his party was "in the business of hope", he was standing for the job of Scottish first minister "and we are running to win".
The SNP is in a buoyant mood as it gathers just seven months before the Scottish parliamentary elections next year. The party is catching up with Labour in the opinion polls and the support for independence among voters is high.
A recent YouGov poll found that 44 per cent would back an independent Scotland, compared to 42 per cent who would not, and today Mr Salmond said the SNP would "ride on the crest of a wave - this time, in our time, there will be change for Scotland".
He condemned the record of the Scottish executive, saying his country had been "let down", and condemned the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition for their "total lack of ambition" in promoting Scottish interests.
Although Mr Salmond took some pot shots at his political opponents, including Gordon Brown, who was "not fit to be prime minister", he concentrated on providing a vision for what the SNP could do in government.
He said: "To the nurse struggling in the ward, to the fisherman worrying about losing his boat, to the young couple trying to get a foot on the housing ladder, to the farmer trying to get a start in the industry, to the student struggling with loan debt, to the shopkeeper trying to compete with the big battalions.
"To these people and to many more, the message from this conference is - we have heard you, we're coming and we are bringing hope and change for Scotland."
He reiterated his pledges on free education, unilateral nuclear disarmament and to pull troops out of the "political misadventure" that was Iraq. And he accused the "dead hand of the British Treasury" for stalling Scotland's economic growth.
On the key issue of the environment, Mr Salmond also pledged to make Scotland Europe's "clean green energy powerhouse", citing a recent report by Professor Stephen Salter showing the country could produce five times the green energy it needs.
But he stressed: "We need to think big, not act small. Because Scotland, our infinite Scotland, is not small."
However, a Labour party spokesman said: "It's time the SNP were honest about the choice voters face next year - more doctors, nurses, police and teachers with Labour or separation and isolation with Alex Salmond's nationalists.
"Voters face a clear choice in 2007 - Labour will deliver investment in schools and hospitals, tough action on crime and a strong, stable economy.
"The SNP are determined to break up Britain, damaging jobs and injecting risk and uncertainty into the Scottish economy."