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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 18:00 GMT
Salmond hails independence plans
Alex Salmond launches his blueprint
Alex Salmond launched his blueprint for independence
A blueprint to deliver independence within six years has been launched by the Scottish National Party.

Leader Alex Salmond unveiled the paper, Raising the Standard, which sets out his party's hopes for success.

It also includes details of a referendum on independence, should the SNP emerge victorious from the Holyrood elections in 2007.

The document coincided with the launch of the Independence Convention on St Andrew's Day.

According to the blueprint, within its four-year term of government, an SNP-led executive would hold a referendum asking people to decide on the future of Scotland.

They would be asked to vote on whether "the Scottish Parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British Government so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state".

Mr Salmond said he would be willing to form a coalition with any party, except the Conservatives, but added that a referendum would have to be part of any coalition agreement.

Final settlement

If the public agreed, an SNP-led executive would begin talks with the UK Government to detail a final settlement and the transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament, while informing the United Nations and European Union.

A declaration of Scottish sovereignty would be drawn up by the parliament in Edinburgh and, according to Mr Salmond, the following Holyrood elections, in May 2011, would be within an independent nation.

The paper also confirms the nationalists' commitment to retain the Queen as head of state for an independent Scotland for as long as the Scottish people want her to remain so.

The nationalist leader said it was time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the devolved Scottish Parliament, nearly seven years after it was established.

He said the ongoing debates on the state pension age, nuclear power and asylum seekers were all being decided by Westminster not Holyrood, despite specific Scottish concerns.

The current debates require a re-examination of Scotland's political position
Alex Salmond, SNP leader

Pensions were being debated in isolation of the fact that life expectancy was three years lower north of the border, he claimed, while new nuclear power stations were being proposed "without reference" to Scotland's rich renewable energy resources.

"The current debates demand a re-examination of Scotland's political position," said Mr Salmond.

"The standard of debate in Scottish politics demands that re-examination.

"We are publishing in the run-up to St Andrew's Day and the Independence Convention our contribution to that debate to show how a transition from a devolved parliament to a real parliament with real powers can be managed and managed effectively."

The Independence Convention will provide a forum for people of any political persuasion who support Scottish independence.

'Constitutional navel-gazing'

However, the SNP's political opponents dismissed the proposals contained in the blueprint.

The Scottish Conservative deputy leader and enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser accused the nationalists of "constitutional navel-gazing".

He said: "There is nothing new to offer here, just the same old failed left-wing policies. It is not surprising therefore that the SNP are stuck in the independence groove, shrieking out a tune that nobody in Scotland wants to listen to.

"We should be concentrating on making devolution work and this refusal to do so from the SNP shows why they have been on the slide since 1999."

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party said: "This policy poses more questions than it answers, such as who would set interest rates in an independent Scotland? The Bank of England? It would be fitting given the SNP's backing for the Queen as Head of State.

"In 2002 the SNP were 'talking independence', now with 'Raising the Standard' it is reduced to merely a whisper. This document does nothing to answer the many fundamental questions about the SNP's least popular policy."

Euan Robson, convener of the Scottish Lib Dems' Holyrood group, claimed nationalists had failed to adapt to devolution.

"How can a party with a leader who is not even a member of the Scottish Parliament be taken seriously on the future of that same parliament?" he said.

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