Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Salmond renews independence pledge
The nationalist MSPs celebrate election success in the May poll
The leader of the Scottish National Party has declared his party has never been in a stronger position to deliver independence to Scotland.
He told reporters at the Inverness gathering that the party was stronger and more united than ever before and reiterated the SNP's commitment to an independent Scotland.
Mr Salmond said: "The essence of the internal debate - whether or not independence will be achieved through a devolved parliament - has been settled.
Mr Salmond added: "The SNP begin our conference in excellent heart, and with a stronger base of support than at any point in our history."
The SNP leader used the latest statistics to illustrate how close he believed the party is to winning overall power in Scotland.
"A 3% swing would put the SNP ahead of Labour in the regional list ballot and a 5% swing would propel us ahead of Labour in the first-past-the-post vote.
"Indeed, a swing of 12% - taking SNP support into the low 40s - would put us well on the way to achieving an overall majority, with some 60 seats."
The conference timetable will concentrate on Labour's fuel tax policy, welfare cuts, social housing and the SNP's strategy for the future.
Throughout the get-together, activists are expected to be urged to join in modernising the party.
This conference theme was made public when Mike Russell, who is now a South of Scotland region MSP, said the party "could do better" and must set its sights on toppling Labour.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Russell said the party had reason to celebrate its success but must move forward.
He defended the party's "penny for Scotland" policy, which was criticised in some quarters as a vote loser during the elections, and said a "whispering campaign" against Alex Salmond would fail to unseat him as leader.