FIRST Minister Alex Salmond was to set out his vision for Scotland taking control of its own energy reserves today.
He was due to tell the opening session of the SNP’s annual conference in Inverness that fuel poverty amid Scotland’s plentiful energy made it “imperative” that the Scottish Parliament had responsibility for “our nation’s abundant resources”.
He was expected to talk of the “enormous potential” of Scotland’s energy reserves to power the country forward “to our future as an independent nation”.
The four-day gathering in the Highland capital is being billed as the SNP’s biggest conference with a claimed 2000 delegates, lobbyists, visitors and members of the media in attendance.
A record number of diplomats from more than 20 countries were also expected. The SNP said it was evidence that Scotland’s first majority government and the “increasing momentum toward independence” were capturing international attention.
Mr Salmond was expected to tell the conference: “We meet in good heart and great spirits, with a strong mandate from the people as a majority government based on our record, team and vision for Scotland.
“Fuel poverty for Scots amid our energy plenty is unacceptable. It is a powerful illustration of the need for Scotland to gain access to our own abundant resources.
“Gaining responsibility for our own energy resources with independence is the key to ensuring that this enormous potential works for the benefit of the people and economy of Scotland.”
Speaking ahead of the conference, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said with a majority Nationalist government, Scotland was taking a positive and confident path as a nation.
She said: “We have shown that we can govern well, and in the interests of the whole nation. Scotland’s NHS is safe from Tory privatisation plans, our students have been protected from tuition fees for their higher education, and we are maintaining the 1000 extra police officers on our streets.
“And within our current powers we have pursued an alternative economic strategy – a ‘Plan MacB’ – which has delivered lower unemployment and higher employment rates than the position across the UK as a whole. But we could do so much more with more powers for our parliament.”
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray criticised Mr Salmond for playing a “sleekit” game over his promised referendum and said he should use the conference to spell out his plans.
He said: “The referendum is too important an issue to play party politics. As First Minister and leader of the SNP, it is his duty to come clean with Scotland and lay out his plans for a referendum.
“This is not a game. It is about the future of our country. All our children and grandchildren would have to live with the social and economic consequences of separation.”