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Salmond reveals white paper date


First Minister Alex Salmond will tell the SNP annual conference that there is a "common-sense argument" for a yes vote in the independence referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond will tell the SNP annual conference that there is a "common-sense argument" for a yes vote in the independence referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond will tell the SNP annual conference that there is a "common-sense argument" for a yes vote in the independence referendum.

Alex Salmond has revealed the date his Scottish Government will publish its blueprint for independence.

The white paper, which will make the case for Scotland to leave the UK, will be made public on Tuesday November 26.

As he announced the date to cheers at the SNP annual conference in Perth, the Scottish First Minister also issued a fresh challenge to David Cameron to debate the country's future with him.

Voters in Scotland will decide if the country remains part of the UK in a referendum in 11 months' time.

Mr Salmond told party activists with that crunch vote now less than a year away they were the "independence generation".

He said: " As we move into this crucial year for Scotland we accept, indeed relish, the challenge to furnish the people of Scot land with the information necessary to assess the opportunities of independence.

"I can therefore announce the Scottish Government will publish the white paper on independence on Tuesday, November 26."

The date is just days before St Andrew's Day on November 30.

Mr Salmond said the paper would "spell out" what would happen between the referendum and Scotland becoming independent in spring 2016, if there was a Yes vote.

It will also "set out the why of independence" and reveal the SNP's "vision of Scotland", he said.

As he revealed the date the key document will be published, Mr Salmond again challenged the Prime Minister to debate Scotland's future with him on television.

Mr Cameron has already refused to take part in such a clash, pointing out he will not be able to vote in the referendum.

But the SNP leader said if the Tory would not debate independence with him he should "step out"of the debate over Scotland's future.

Mr Salmond told him: "Here's the deal, Prime Minister. We'll publish the white paper, then you and I must debate. Prime Minister to First Minister.

"The choice is yours. Step up to the plate - or step out of this debate."

He branded the Prime Ministers refusal to debate him "untenable", claiming Mr Cameron had "promised a respectful debate" but had then turned the "full guns of the Whitehall machine on Scotland", with the UK Govenrment publishing a series of papers against independence.

But the SNP leader's message to those opposed to independence was simple.

"We intend to win this referendum," the First Minister said.

He told SNP activists: "In less than one year's time we can stop imagining, and we can start building. Building the Scotland we know is possible."

Mr Salmond said a Yes vote in the referendum, to be held on September 18, was "not about a victory for the SNP, or even a victory for the Yes campaign".

Instead he stated: "It will be, above all, an act of national self confidence and national self belief."

Mr Salmond insisted that the more people knew about independence the more likely they were to back this, saying: "When the people hear the can do optimism of the Yes camapign up against the can't do dirge of the No campaign, then they vote Yes."

But he said under the current constitutional set-up, Scotland was "paying a heavy price for Westminster decisions".

He pledged one of the first acts of an SNP government in an independent Scotland would be to abolish the so-called bedroom tax - changes to housing benefit which mean those deemed to have extra rooms lose some of their cash.

This affects some 80,000 Scottish households, with Mr Salmond saying: "The bedroom tax is becoming a symbol of why independence is necessary."

He also vowed an SNP Government would bring the recently privatised Royal Mail back into public ownership.

The First Minister said its sale was "the latest instalment in Westminster's privatisation obsession" and added: "If elected in an independent Scotland I give this pledge - an SNP Government will bring our Royal Mail back into public hands."

Mr Salmond went on to claim the "Westminster economic system ain't working for Scotland" saying this had "created one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the developed world".

Now with the independence referendum taking place next year, he said the country "had a choice between two futures".

Scotland could "accept our status as an economic region of an unbalanced and unequal system" he said, or could alternatively "embrace the powers of a national economy".

This he said would give the country "the powers to compete, to grow businesses here in Scotland, to attract headquarters and to ensure our best and brightest can realise their ambitions in their own country".

Devolution, he said, had allowed Scotland to follow a "different path" from the UK and bring in policies such as free personal care for the elderly, free university tuition and the council tax freeze.

"With just a taste of independence we have been able to deliver fairer policies than elsewhere in these islands," he said.

"With a measure of independence on health, on education and on law and order, we have sought to make Scotland a better place.

"So let us consider what we can achieve by extending our powers over the things we don't currently control. Over our welfare system, our economy, our energy supplies and our international security."

Mr Salmond claimed independence would give Scots a "government which is on their side".

He also pledged an SNP government in an independent Scotland would act to improve pay.

He contrasted this with the Westminster Government that people in Scotland had "overwhelmingly rejected" which was "giving tax cuts to millionaires at the same time as cutting the income of the low paid".

But he said if Scotland left the UK and elected an SNP Government, it would establish a Fair Work Commission, adding the "central pillar" of this group's work would be to set a minimum wage guarantee.

"This guarantee will ensure a minimum wage that rises, at the very least, in line with inflation," Mr Salmond told the conference.

"Let us pledge that never again will the wage sof the lowest paid in Scotland fail to keep up with the cost of living."

He also said his Scottish Government would increase its efforts to tackle youth unemployment, which he described as "perhaps the fundamental issue facing society as we move out of recession".

Mr Salmond announced a £60 million package of investment, which will help start more than 700 businesses and support some 5,000 firms to grow, thus creating more than 3,000 jobs, including opportunities for young people.

European Regional Development funding of £20 million will support the scheme, which Mr Salmond said would "support vital opportunities for our young people".

But Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar said Mr Salmond " didn't have a single thing to say about people's lives today" claiming his speech was "just empty promises about an imagined world after independence".

The Labour MP hit out and said: " When will our First Minister stop acting like he is in opposition and realise he is in Government? This speech was all about the powers he wants, not about what he will do with the powers he's got.

"Scotland remains on pause while the nationalists dream up goodies for the referendum campaign that they know they won't have to deliver on.

"At the start of his conference, the First Minister asked the people of Scotland who they trust. After days of uncosted promises and baseless assertions, the answer won't be Alex Salmond and the SNP."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: " The SNP has had eighty years to work up its independence position, so it is surprising that it has taken them this long to produce their White Paper. Let's hope the wait will have been worth it.

"Scots deserve answers based on fact, not assertion. In areas like pensions, financial services and defence sector jobs where they would have the power to act, the Scottish Government should answer the detailed questions about what independence would mean.

"In those areas where it could not act alone, but would need to negotiate with others - including on the terms of EU membership and where it wants to share arrangements with the rest of the UK on the currency that Scotland would use and welfare systems - the Scottish Government should acknowledge that fact, too.

"So far, the SNP's track record has been to say anything and do anything to win the referendum.

"The public must have the full facts and details to make up their own minds if they want to remain within a UK family that has served us well for 300 years, or to leave it forever."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP claimed the SNP leader's speech was " retail politics at its very worst - everything on offer, but with no price-tag attached".

She added: " He is taking the Scottish public for mugs by claiming that they don't need the details, they just need to trust him and everything will be OK.

"It's a big gamble for a man already shown to be untrustworthy on basic issues such as telling the truth about EU legal advice.

"All along, the SNP mantra has been that they don't need to answer questions or give information because everything will be revealed in the White Paper.

"Well, the SNP have set a high bar on what will be in the White Paper and - now that we have a date - if they fail to deliver the public will never forgive them.

"The people of Scotland know that we are better off together as part of the UK and Alex Salmond's own lauding of the country's successful food and drink sector and recovering economy just proves it."

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