Sturgeon tells SNP conference: “This is our moment”

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SCOTTISH Nationalists have ended their annual conference with pledges of determination to win next year’s independence referendum.

At a closing rally, First Minister Alex Salmond said trust, passion and commitment were the key themes which would help them to victory.

And Deputy First Minister Nicola Surgeon declared: “It is our moment and we are not going to let it pass.”

Mr Salmond quoted an opinion poll showing the Scottish Government had a plus-23 per cent rating while the Westminster government’s was minus-28 per cent.

“The trust comes because we are a government elected by the Scottish people,” he said.

The conference had shown a passion for creating a more prosperous and just Scotland.

And Mr Salmond said the commitment of those who believed in independence to fight for the cause was the Yes campaign’s “secret weapon”.

Earlier, Education Secretary Mike Russell announced cash for student bursaries will rise next year to £105 million, meeting a call from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland for this to increase in line with inflation.

And he said the minimum income students from poorer backgrounds get from loans and other financial support would also rise from £7,250 this year to £7,500 next year.

He also announced thousands of Scottish students doing postgraduate courses at universities north of the border would be able to apply for a loan of up to £4,500.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, in his address to conference, stressed the different approaches to policing north and south of the border. He said: “In England and Wales, privatisation, whether in probation services or the police, is under way or being considered. Here in Scotland we will not privatise our police, fire & rescue or criminal justice services.

“It’s not just police and prisons we won’t privatise but criminal justice services. Probation is not for sale. Criminal Justice social work is a service not a business and will remain so.”