Independence vote about Scotland's future, not the SNP: Salmond

Independence vote about Scotland's future, not the SNP: Salmond
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.

ABERDEEN, United Kingdom - Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond will reach out to voters on Saturday in a key speech on the independence referendum, saying the ballot is about the country's future not his party's.

"A 'Yes' vote in September is not a vote for me, or for an SNP government in 2016," Salmond is 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.

"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." Salmond opened the conference in Scotland's oil capital on Friday, urging delegates to seize "the opportunity of a lifetime" in the referendum on September 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 is expected to add Saturday that, if the people of Scotland vote 'yes' in the poll, work will begin "immediately" on the transition to independence.

This will 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 is 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, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are in the "no" camp and want Scotland's 5.3 million people to remain part of the United Kingdom.

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 September's historic poll.

"Over these next months, we will re-double 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.

"Scotland, an independent, free and equal member of the family of nations." Sturgeon included a pointed dig at British Prime Minister David Cameron over his refusal to take part in a head-to-head debate with Salmond over the independence issue.

"I can report today that the Prime Minister, who promised to fight for the union with heart, head body and soul, is still struggling to locate the part of his anatomy that will allow him to agree to a debate with Alex Salmond." Scotland has enjoyed increased autonomy since a 1997 referendum on devolution, and now looks after its own education, health, environment and justice.

But the UK parliament in London still decides defence and foreign policy, and the SNP wants full independence.

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