Alex Salmond: Independence referendum will 'end the nonsense'

The First Minister has insisted the "nonsense" will end in 2014 when the country votes on independence.

With a deal on the referendum now agreed with the UK Government, Alex Salmond said Scotland was the closest it had been for 300 years to becoming independent.

He also claimed the country could afford to leave the UK, saying it paid more in taxes than it received in spending.

Mr Salmond held up a copy of the Edinburgh Agreement he signed with Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, paving the way for the historic vote on the country's future as he opened the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference in Perth.

He told delegates: "Make no mistake, we intend to win this referendum for Scotland."

The First Minister went on to state: "Conference, in 2014 the nonsense ends," a reference to a George Robertson poem of the same title.

Mr Salmond read the work, which speaks about not being "content with just a devolved parliament" and says "our day is coming", before ending with the line: "In 2014 the nonsense ends."

But a new poll published on the first day of the conference showed fewer than a third of Scots favour independence.

Research by Ipsos Mori for The Times found 30% agreed Scotland should be independent, with 58% opposed and 12% undecided.

With the deal on the staging on the referendum now agreed, Mr Salmond said: "We're now closer to our goal of Scottish independence, not just in the 80 years of SNP history, but over the last 300 years.

"That's what awaits the people of Scotland in two years' time."

He hit out at the coalition at Westminster, which he said "couldn't run a tap, never mind a government".

And he insisted that Scotland could afford to leave the United Kingdom, saying: "At the last count Scotland contributed 9.6% of the UK's taxation and received in return 9.3% of the UK's spending. That gap is £2.7bn, or to put it another way £1000 for every family in Scotland.

"That's £1000 we could spend on vital services, £1000 which means the country could borrow less, we could save for the future, we can defend the vital services that are part of the social fabric of Scotland."

Mr Salmond said: "That fact tells us an independent Scotland will have the resources to invest in the economy and defend the services of the Scottish people."

He also argued that if his SNP administration could be trusted to run areas such as health, education and local government, it should also be trusted on areas such as defence and the economy.

Mr Salmond said if the Nationalists at Holyrood were "believed and trusted because of our track record in administration, then isn't that the platform to say 'if you trust this Government to run the health service, the education system, local government, and social services, then shouldn't we be trusted to run the economy, to run defence, Scotland's international representation?'."

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