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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 March 2007, 15:29 GMT
Salmond 'ready to rule Scotland'
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond reaffirmed his commitment to independence

SNP leader Alex Salmond has told his party's conference he is ready to be the next first minister of Scotland.

It came as Mr Salmond unveiled his party's programme for the first 100 days of government, if they win power.

Addressing the SNP conference in Glasgow, Mr Salmond pledged movement on class sizes, health, control of oil revenues and independence.

But Chancellor Gordon Brown said the SNP's policies were not properly thought out.

Mr Salmond reaffirmed his commitment to an independence referendum within the four-year Scottish Parliament term.

The only thing really small about Scotland is the small mindedness of those currently in charge
Alex Salmond
SNP leader

He said the SNP had an unprecedented momentum ahead of the poll on 3 May.

The SNP leader hit out at Prime Minister Tony Blair for "coming up to Scotland to talk down to us".

Mr Salmond promised a smaller government, which would fight for Scotland's rights abroad, co-operate with the UK Government where needed and work towards lower and fairer taxation.

He also vowed to challenge Trident being replaced on the Clyde and seek early talks with Westminster on transferring responsibility for North Sea oil to Holyrood.

'Think big'

"Scotland may be small in population, but we are not small in thought or ambition. We are only small if we think small," he said.

"The only thing really small about Scotland is the small mindedness of those currently in charge. The SNP think bigger and better.

"And how absurd of Labour to argue that this supposed 'best small country' is somehow incapable of running all of our own affairs."

On Saturday, Nationalists received a boost when the leading Scottish businessman Brian Souter announced he was donating 500,000 to the SNP election campaign.

It came after the former chair of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir George Mathewson, voiced his support for Scottish independence.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown emphasised Labour's record on employment

However, in a newspaper interview, Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "I don't hear the current leaders of the financial services industry repeating these things."

Although the SNP are ahead in the opinion polls, because of the voting system in Scotland it is unlikely that any party will have an overall majority after the elections.

If the SNP is the largest group, Mr Salmond knows he will have to enter talks with other parties.

However, the Chancellor, tipped by many to take over from Prime Minister Tony Blair when he steps down later this year, attacked the Nationalists.

He said there were holes in the party's plans to replace the council tax with a new local income tax.

The SNP revealed details of the scheme earlier this week, but Mr Brown said they had "fallen apart" when asked if it would apply to unearned income.

Sir Sean Connery
All of my life-experience tells me that an independent Scotland will be successful
Sir Sean Connery

"They have fallen apart on spending because we have shown in great detail how all the spending commitments of the SNP just do not add up," he said.

The conference also heard a message of support from long-term SNP supporter Sir Sean Connery.

Sir Sean told delegates in his broadcast that the party offered a "new renaissance of confidence" in culture.

"All of my life-experience tells me that an independent Scotland will be successful," he said.

The conference then heard proposals for funding of the arts to be improved to make it easier to access funds.

On climate change, the SNP said it would introduce a bill setting mandatory carbon reduction targets of 3% a year.

The pledge came from environment spokesman Richard Lochhead, who said Scotland could go "much, much further" than Westminster's plans for tackling climate change.

But the Green Party challenged the Nationalist environmental credentials, saying the party backed major new roads, a second Forth crossing and airport expansion.

Stagecoach tycoon donates to SNP
17 Mar 07 |  Scotland
SNP claims unprecedented support
17 Mar 07 |  Scotland
PM attacks banker's SNP support
16 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Parties clash on Trident and tax
15 Mar 07 |  Scotland

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