Independent Scotland will be ‘Closest Friend’ to rest of UK

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Addressing an audience of Yes campaigners in Perth this evening, First Minister Alex Salmond has told those gathered of his admiration for the greatest grassroots political campaign in Scottish history.

The First Minister said the show of people power contrasted with the Westminster establishment’s cobbled together more powers offer, which has fallen apart in the face of Tory backbench opposition.

In his eve of poll speech, Mr Salmond also outlined the “enduring bonds” which he said will continue to link an independent Scotland with friends, neighbours and family in the rest of the UK.

In his speech the First Minister told a capacity audience:

“This has been the greatest campaign in Scottish history –and you the greatest campaigners.

“We meet tonight on the eve of the most exciting day in Scottish democracy.

“We do so to catch our breath for the day ahead – a day which Scotland will never forget.

“Tomorrow is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“A precious chance to leave our mark in the pages of history.”

The First Minister delivered his speech on the eve of the independence referendum which is expected to see the biggest democratic participation ever seen in Scotland.  A push to get as many people on the voting register as possible ended with an amazing 97% of people becoming eligible to vote.

In his speech Mr Salmond said: “I have  toured this country on many a campaign. But never have I experienced such a remarkable wave of political activism.

“If we win tomorrow – and that is now in your hands – it will be because of the thousands of individuals all across Scotland who have become leaders in their communities.”

The First Ministrer highlighted the eleventh hour offer from the three Unionist parties which followed a tightening of the polls, describing it as, “the reaction of the powerful few who believe they always know what is best – that power should always be in their hands.”

He added: “So the Westminster parties cobble together separate, contradictory proposals for more powers – none of which offer any answers to the real challenges we face. They fail to come up with an agreed package that the voters can judge and scrutinize and vote on.

“Instead they say ‘leave it to us, we will sort it out’ – behind closed doors, among themselves in the committee rooms of Westminster.”

Mr Salmond criticised the move as being “out of touch and out of time” and stressed the fact that support of Westminster MPs would be required in order to implement any proposals for more powers.  Already several Conservative MPs have said they will try to block any further devolution.

He said: “It would be Westminster MPs and the House of Lords who would have the power.  And the Prime Minister’s backbenchers have already made it crystal clear that they would fight tooth and nail to prevent any serious tax and economic powers being devolved to Scotland.  So within 24 hours  even  this  last  minute, vague intervention from Westminster has fallen apart.”

The SNP leader cited it as evidence that Scotland’s future must be in Scotland’s hands.

“It makes the case for Yes more clearly than ever. Tomorrow with a Yes vote we can deliver for Scotland real power – the power to choose hope over fear, opportunity over despair.” he said.

The First Minister is alsounderlined the depth of feeling that existed in Scotland towards the rest of the UK.

He added: “To our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom, I say this. We don’t seek division, but rather equality. A new, better and harmonious relationship founded on our enduring bonds of family and culture.

“In an independent Scotland you will find the closest friend, most honest counsel and most committed ally. What we seek is a relationship of equals in these isles for our mutual advantage.

“So friends let us tonight sleep well, and tomorrow grasp Scotland’s opportunity of a lifetime.”