Salmond bids for Westminster seat
Former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond has launched his bid to win a seat at Westminster, saying it is "impossible to stand on the sidelines with so much at stake" for Scotland.
After months of speculation, Mr Salmond announced that he is a candidate for the SNP nomination for the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire in next year's general election.
The seat shares some areas with his Aberdeenshire East Holyrood constituency and is currently represented by Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce, who is retiring in May.
Speaking in the town of Ellon in the constituency, he said that there is the "prospect of real power for Scotland" if the SNP wins a significant number of seats at Westminster.
He criticised the recommendations of the Smith Commission on more powers for Scotland set up in the wake of a No vote in the referendum, but believes Scotland can "emerge from next year's election in a commanding position" with an increased number of MPs.
He said: "It is now clear what we have to do as a country in order to secure that progress; the progress which we were promised. Three things are now self-evident.
"Firstly, the Smith Commission has now reported, and as we suspected, has not lived up to what was promised.
"This is not fiscal autonomy, it is not devo-max, it is not home rule, it is certainly not near federalism.
"What it is is something which leaves 70% of taxation under control of Westminster, and more than 80% of social policy.
"That is not the fault of Robert Smith ... it is just a fact of life that the Westminster parties will concede as little as possible.
"Therefore it is up to Scotland to make certain and to ensure that they get away with as little as possible."
Referring to Gordon Brown's decision to stand down as an MP, Mr Salmond continued: "It is also clear that the man who said he would stand as guarantor of that near federalism has now ridden off into the political sunset, leaving us with a showdown with the three Westminster amigos."
He added: "For those who voted Yes the referendum offered the possibility of real change. For many who voted No they absolutely insist that 'the vow' given to Scotland should be redeemed. And therefore, with so much commitment among the people and so much at stake for Scotland I think it's impossible to stand on the sidelines."
Mr Salmond will remain as an MSP until at least 2016 and if elected to Westminster he plans to donate one of his salaries to charity.
The former SNP leader was previously the MP for Banff and Buchan between 1987 and 2010, and said the north-east of Scotland has been his political home since entering politics.
"There was never the slightest possibility of me seeking to represent anywhere other than this beautiful part of Scotland," he said.
"I am first and foremost, and always will be, a constituency Member of Parliament.
"I believe however that the north-east of Scotland has led the way in Scottish politics before, and I believe we can do it again next May."
The Gordon seat, which will now become one of the most-watched in next year's general election, was won by the Lib Dems with a majority of 6,748 over the SNP in 2010.
Incumbent MP Mr Bruce, who is retiring, urged Mr Salmond to "bring it on" and the new Lib Dem candidate, Christine Jardine, said the former first minister had "failed" the area as an MSP.
"People in the North East know Alex Salmond is more concerned with delivering independence by the back door than standing up for Gordon," Ms Jardine said.
"In coming years we will see big new home rule powers come to Scotland. We will have a Scottish welfare system for the first time and control over billions of pounds of tax will come to Holyrood. But instead of welcoming the historic Smith agreement he seems to be fixated with picking it apart in his quest for independence.
"Meanwhile, he says he wants to support our local NHS and improve transport links. What people in Gordon will be asking is why he did not do something about them when he had power at Holyrood."
Speaking in Ellon, Mr Salmond said he would not seek to replace Angus Robertson as the SNP group leader at Westminster, but would seek "to have a role in negotiating the progress for Scotland which would arise from a powerful group of SNP MPs and our allies".