UK & World News
SNP: Salmond Challenges Cameron To TV Debate
Alex Salmond has challenged David Cameron to a TV duel on Scottish independence within months, ahead of the referendum next year.
In his speech at the SNP conference in Perth, Scotland's First Minister said he wants a debate with the Prime Minister soon after he publishes a white paper on independence on November 26.
Up to now, Mr Cameron has been resisting demands from Mr Salmond for a TV debate on independence, offering Tory and LibDem Coalition ministers instead.
But raising the stakes in the independence battle ahead, Mr Salmond declared: "So here's the deal Prime Minister.
"We'll publish the white paper then you and I must debate. First Minister to Prime Minister. The choice is yours.
"Step up to the plate - or step out of this debate!
"After that I will take on whichever of your substitutes you care to put up."
Voters in Scotland will decide if the country remains part of the UK in a referendum on September 18, 2014.
Mr Salmond told his 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 Scotland with the information necessary to assess the opportunities of independence."
Mr Salmond said the independence white 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.
Mr Salmond branded the Prime Minister's refusal to debate with 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 Government 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 campaign 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 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 wages of the lowest paid in Scotland fail to keep up with the cost of living."
But new Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: "The SNP has had 80 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 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."