Salmond pushes Scottish referendum vote

Alex Salmond has said a referendum bill offering independence to the Scottish people will be enacted during the current Scottish parliament.

The Scottish National party (SNP) leader, delivering the leader’s speech at the SNP conference in Aviemore, said the bill would be placed before Holyrood in time for it to be passed by the current parliament.

Mr Salmond challenged those opposing his party’s policy of advocating complete independence from Britain to agree an alternative “scheme” and be “judged by the people” on the issue.

“If not then do not try to prevent the people from having their say, because it is the same people who will decide the next government in Scotland,” he said.

Mr Salmond also used his speech to announce a cut in the number of Scottish non-government organisations and a plan to upgrade the road transport infrastructure linking Edinburgh and Glasgow.

He said the M8, currently part-motorway and part-dual carriageway, is “not acceptable” and announced that “there will finally be a complete, end-to-end motorway between two of our great cities”.

The Scottish first minister attacked the Westminster government on a number of issues, basing his arguments around claims that the decisions made in London were unrepresentative of the wishes of the Scottish people.

He compared Scotland to Norway, a country with a similar-sized population, and said Scotland’s role in the world could be as significant as Norway’s if it was granted full independence.

Gordon Brown’s government was criticised for its handling of the recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks and the ongoing presence of the Trident nuclear weapons based on the river Clyde.

“This government. will not rest until those weapons of mass destruction are removed,” he said, to applause from conference delegates.

He received a standing ovation after his closing remarks: “The challenge to this government and to this party is to embody the Scottish national interest – to stand up for Scotland and to inspire a generation.

“Conference, this party and this government intend to do precisely that.”