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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Salmond sets his sights on 2007
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond is aiming for a big increase in seats at Holyrood

The leader of the Scottish National Party has urged party members to have "confidence" in victory at the next Holyrood elections.

Alex Salmond told the annual conference in Aviemore that a targeted strategy can deliver results.

He said the SNP's aim for 2007 was to win seats across Scotland from Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.

Mr Salmond also told delegates: "Our economy can be the new Celtic tiger not the Caledonian pussycat."

In his keynote speech, the SNP leader told delegates that the party needed to gain 20 first-past-the-post seats and then others from the regional list.

He told delegates they needed to have confidence in three things, "ourselves, our programme and our country".

Mr Salmond said: "Our political strategy is clear - clear as crystal. We intend to win the elections of 2007."

'Move forward'

"We intend to demonstrate to Scotland that we have the competence and credibility to run Scotland and run it well.

"We intend to offer the people of this country, within the first term of office, the opportunity to move forward to independence."

Mr Salmond began his speech by paying tribute to retiring party president Winnie Ewing, whom he called the "outstanding Scottish politician of her generation".

However, he dismissed speculation that Ms Ewing could have been sent to the House of Lords if the SNP had not voted to retain its opposition to taking seats there.

The present action in Iraq has resulted in carnage with no end in sight
Alex Salmond

Mr Salmond said: "How glad I am that this party will not be nominating any Scottish patriot to sit on the ermine benches between Lord Archer and Lord Watson."

On international issues, Mr Salmond challenged the prime minister over Iraq.

A long time opponent of the US-led invasion, he called on Tony Blair to set out the details for the withdrawal of British troops.

"The present action in Iraq has resulted in carnage with no end in sight," he said.

"It is a war built on a lie which has fanned the flames of international terrorism.

"The consequences for this country have been murder and atrocity on the streets of London, essential liberties under serious threat and communities relations under real pressure."

Winnie Ewing with Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Winnie Ewing receives a tribute from the leadership and delegates

Mr Salmond then turned his sights to Scotland's oil revenue.

He referred to a secret memo written in the 1970s by Scottish Office adviser Gavin McCrone on North Sea oil and the difference it could have made to Scottish economy.

"McCrone said that an independent Scotland would have title to 99% of the oil revenues and that the only thing wrong with SNP estimates is that they were too low," Mr Salmond said.

He added: "McCrone said that oil had overturned the economic arguments against Scottish nationalism. Labour said Scotland couldn't manage."

"Every bottom of every political barrel was scraped to keep London's grip on Scotland's oil. And they are still at it today."

"This chancellor is getting 1bn a month from Scotland's wealth. Right now, it is the black black oil, which is filling Brown's black hole."

Mr Salmond said Scotland's oil had disappeared "down the gullet of the London Treasury", while Norway had established a fund which would see the country remain prosperous for generations after its oil had run out.

Brian Taylor at the Aviemore conference

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