Scotland politics

SNP conference: Nicola Sturgeon says No campaign 'in deep trouble'

Scotland's deputy first minister has attacked the campaign to keep the Union, saying it was in "deep trouble", ahead of the independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon also said PM David Cameron was "struggling to locate that part of his anatomy" which would see him debate First Minister Alex Salmond.

But she told the SNP conference supporters still had to fight hard for a "Yes" vote in September's poll.

Ms Sturgeon added that Labour could "reclaim" its party with independence.

Her speech in Aberdeen came after The Guardian newspaper quoted an unnamed UK minister as saying a formal pound-sharing currency union between an independent Scotland could happen, despite it being ruled out by the UK government.

And, during a speech in the US, former Nato secretary general and Scottish Labour MP Lord George Robertson said Scottish independence would be cataclysmic for the West in an era of international turmoil.

Ms Sturgeon said: "With friends like Lord George, it's no wonder the 'No' campaign is in trouble - and it is in deep trouble."

She said of the "currency confession": "It speaks volumes that the blame game in the 'No' campaign has already begun.

"The Liberals say Labour isn't working hard enough. Labour says no-one believes in the Liberals anymore. And the Tories? Well, the lecture tour continues."

Hitting out at the prime minister's refusal to debate head-to-head with Mr Salmond on TV, Ms Sturgeon added: "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 that part of his anatomy that will allow him to agree to a debate with Alex Salmond."

Ms Sturgeon said the "blunders" of the 'No' campaign were a bonus for the other side, as she argued Scotland "can, should and must" be independent.

Polls still indicate support for the Union, but she said the momentum was now with a "Yes" vote, ahead of the 18 September referendum.

The SNP deputy leader's speech came as the party celebrated its 80th birthday, and following the death of one of its key early pioneers, Margo MacDonald, last week.

Ms Sturgeon told the conference: "After 80 years of campaigning, the last mile of our journey to independence is upon us - it may well be the hardest mile of all.

"So, we will encourage each other, cheer each other and, yes, if needs be, we will carry each other over the finishing line.

"But, friends, we will not fall."

She went on: "I want you to hear this and believe it in your heart - as a tribute to those no longer with us, for everyone lucky enough to be alive at this moment in history and, above all else, for the sake of generations to come - we are going to win.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon delivered her keynote speech to the Scottish National Party conference in Aberdeen
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon embraced her mother Joan after her address to the party faithful

"Scotland is going to be independent."

The Scottish government argues Scotland is the 14th richest country among the world's most developed nations, and with independence, would be able to take control of its own resources to better the nation.

This would include, says the party, taking responsibility for the economy, taxation, welfare and defence.

Ms Sturgeon also used her speech to reach out to Labour supporters ahead of the referendum, saying party stalwarts like former MP Dennis Canavan and ex-Strathclyde Council leader Charles Gray had come out for independence.

She said: "To every Labour voter in the country I say this - the 'Yes' campaign is not asking you to leave your party.

"Instead, it offers you the chance to get your party back.

"An independent Scotland will not mean the end of Labour, but it might mean a rejuvenated Labour.

"A Labour Party free to make its own decisions, a Labour Party no longer dancing to a Westminster tune.

"For everyone out there with Labour in your heart, the message is clear - don't vote 'No' to stop the SNP, vote 'Yes' to reclaim the Labour Party."

Ms Sturgeon also used her speech to say the Scottish government would set up an "independent living fund" to support the 3,000 people currently being helped by similar UK initiative, which she said had been closed to new applicants.

She added the fund would be boosted by an extra £5m to help disabled people.

And the deputy first minister also announced £1m of government funding over two years to support food banks, citing evidence that demand for such services in the UK was growing.

Half the cash will go to food supply organisation Fairshare, while the rest will be put into a fund to be shared among similar bodies, Ms Sturgeon said.