Scotland politics

SNP conference: Alex Salmond sets UK election target

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Media captionAlex Salmond bows out as leader of the SNP saying a new era is beginning and Nicola Sturgeon will "make history"

Alex Salmond has set a target for the SNP to win a majority of Scottish seats in the 2015 Westminster election.

As he handed the SNP leadership to Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond also called on party supporters to help grow its membership to 100,000.

The outgoing first minister also told the SNP conference that Scotland would eventually be independent, despite September's referendum "No" vote.

Mr Salmond has not ruled out standing for Westminster himself next year.

He told delegates in Perth the SNP was in majority government in Scotland, had 72 parliamentarians across three parliaments and more councillors than any other party.

Mr Salmond who stands down as first minister next week, said: "Let us now set a target of winning our first UK general election in Scotland."

'Smears and lies'

He said only a vote for the SNP in 2015 would force the Westminster parties to deliver on their pre-referendum promise to increase the Scottish Parliament's powers in return for a "No" vote.

Mr Salmond told the conference: "Getting that vote in 2015 depends on you - the members of this party."

And he said of the SNP, which currently has 85,000 members: "Let us ensure that by next May's election, the SNP reaches a level which has never been seen before in Scottish politics - 100,000 members representing the national cause."

Mr Salmond said Scotland could still be a winner despite the outcome of the referendum, adding: "Despite everything the Westminster establishment threw at Scotland - the fears, the smears, the lies and the scares - 45% of the people, 1.6 million women and men living in Scotland, chose hope over fear.

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Image caption Alex Salmond tells his party conference that the dream of independence was still alive
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond both addressed the first day of the SNP conference

"A much higher number than any of our opponents ever thought possible when we started this campaign.

"And after the referendum, those same opponents believed that Scotland had been quietened, that we'd had our day in the sun and we should be politely put back in our box.

"They thought it was all over - well it isn't now."

Mr Salmond said that if the "Westminster gang" reneged on their pledge for more powers, they would find that "Hell hath no fury like this nation scorned".

He told delegates: "Let the message be very clear from this hall and this country to the prime minister - delay, prevaricate, block or obstruct the implementation of what was promised and Scotland will take matters into our own hands."

Turning to his opponents, Mr Salmond said Scottish Labour - currently without a permanent leader - was "intellectually bankrupt and politically hollow", while the Conservatives were now "marching to the beat of a UKIP drum".

'Make history'

He went on to pay tribute to his successor as leader and soon-to-be first minister, Ms Sturgeon, adding: "Nicola, your contribution to where this party now stands has already been immense.

"Your future contribution - I have no doubt - will be to make history."

In his final message to the party, Mr Salmond Scotland had risen to the challenge of change.

"The people will not disappear back into the political shadows and the nation will not fade into the dark.

"This country has changed and changed utterly, and that is the change which will carry us forward - forward to independence."