Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

SNP's pledge on cuts protection


Alex Salmond was addressing his party's conference in Aviemore

SNP leader Alex Salmond has put his party on a UK election footing, using his party's spring conference to declare: "More Nats means less cuts."

Mr Salmond promised to protect Scotland against predicted public spending cuts, but warned of tough times ahead.

The Scottish first minister also announced more funding for college places and green energy.

And he accused Labour and the Tories of wanting to put the brakes on Scotland's economic recovery with "savage cuts".

The SNP has set a target of increasing its tally of Westminster seats from seven to 20, and has argued it could hold the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament.

Mr Salmond told delegates in Aviemore the party had a clear challenge in the weeks ahead, adding: "On polling day, more votes means more Nats and more Nats means less cuts - that is the reality."

I can't stand here today and promise there will be no reduction in spending
Alex Salmond
First minister of Scotland

He also said the SNP, in the coming days, would team up with Plaid Cymru to unveil a joint platform of policies on which they would stand, should Westminster become "balanced on Scottish votes".

Moving to attack his opponents, the SNP leader said Labour and the Tories were parties "cut from the same cloth", and part of a "metropolitan machine" which had let Scotland down.

Mr Salmond said the two parties had the same agenda, which included: "Big cuts, savage cuts, cuts next year and then every year.

"Cuts that will go deep into Scotland's budget and hit hard the services we rely on.

"Cuts that could choke off recovery and threaten thousands of jobs."

Leader tribute

The policy of financial stimulus, said Mr Salmond, must be followed through, telling delegates: "We can't, we won't let the London parties put a brake on Scottish recovery."

He went on: "I can't stand here today and promise there will be no reduction in spending, or that there will be no pain, that we can stop every cut - no-one can promise that.

"But what I can promise is that we will do all we can to minimise the impact of those cuts here at home - to make sure the right choices, not the wrong choices, are made."

Billy Wolfe
Mr Salmond paid tribute to the SNP's former leader Billy Wolfe

Mr Salmond suggested a series of areas where cuts could be made, including scrapping the replacement of Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde or abolishing the House of Lords, making a saving of £100m.

And he said getting rid of the Scotland Office would free up £8m to help pay for 280 teachers, 300 nurses or 250 police officers.

"The Scotland office is a burden Scotland can no longer afford," Mr Salmond said of the UK government department.

He went on to announce a £12m marine renewable fund, coming after the announcement of new green energy leases for the Pentland Firth earlier this week.

And he announced a further £15m this year to fund 4,000 additional college places.

The first minister began his speech by paying tribute to former SNP leader Billy Wolfe, who died this week at the age of 86.

Mr Salmond said Mr Wolfe - who led the SNP to its greatest Westminster electoral success in 1974 with 11 seats won - was owed a "tremendous debt" by the party.

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