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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
'Prepare for power' says Salmond
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond was in a confident mood at the start of the conference
The Scottish National Party has opened its annual conference with a claim that it is on the verge of taking power.

The party believes the conference, which started on Wednesday, will put the finishing touches to its programme for the Holyrood elections next May.

Leader Alex Salmond said: "The SNP goes into this conference in a buoyant and confident mood after a period of sustained success."

A green energy plan was unveiled on the first day of the conference in Perth.

Mr Salmond also condemned the British Olympic Association for planning to enter a UK football team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

We are preparing for government and we are preparing to win
Alex Salmond
SNP leader

He said: "At a time when the Scotland football team is doing so well, we should be supporting our team not trying to undermine it."

Officials are also to explain how they can enhance education, with a stress on specialism and discipline.

Mr Salmond said the annual gathering would act as a springboard for the 2007 election.

He insisted the race for power would be between the SNP and Labour, with Mr Salmond the clear favourite over current First Minister Jack McConnell.

He said: "We are preparing for government and we are preparing to win."

Speaking to BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme said, the SNP leader added that his party were now "hammering" Labour in the polls.

He said: "The only time I can remember that we've challenged the Labour party for supremacy in Scottish politics in such a sustained way was back in 1998 in the run up to the first Scottish parliamentary elections.

"There's one big difference between now and then and that basically is that at that time people hadn't tried devolution, they hadn't tried the devolved parliament.

"We've now had seven years of devolution and I think there's a pretty overwhelming feeling in Scotland that now we've got a parliament, we may as well make it a real parliament with real powers, so it can do real things for Scotland."

Alex Salmond sets out his party's ambitions

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