Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson to push independence

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A FORMER leader of the SNP will argue this week that the party must do far more to drive home the benefits of independence, comparing Scotland's membership of the Union to a passenger remaining on board the Titanic.

• Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson: "Independence has been relegated as a solution" Picture: TSPL

Gordon Wilson will use the Scotland on Sunday lecture at this week's SNP Conference in Perth to argue that Alex Salmond has not done enough to promote independence as the solution to the financial crisis which is now gripping the country.

While supporting the SNP leadership's strategy in government, he says the crisis - which saw both the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland turn to the United Kingdom taxpayer for support - has made Scots look to British solutions.

Wilson, who led the SNP throughout the 1980s and was succeeded by Alex Salmond in 1990, has now retired from frontline politics but will argue in the lecture that an independent Scotland would have the natural resources to recover from the hit it took over the banking crisis.

He points to the still plentiful reserves of oil, the burgeoning tidal power industry, and the country's overflowing reserves of water as the key sectors which would secure a prosperous future for an independent Scotland.

Speaking prior to the lecture, which takes place on Friday, Wilson said: "Independence has been relegated as a solution.

"Britain is a failing state and I don't think people realise yet the difficulties it has. It is a world power unable to support its military. It is bankrupt. Staying with it is the Titanic option."

He added: "But if Britain is bankrupt, why not Scotland? I make the point that jobs come from resources.

"Oil, which is still going to be worth a hell of a lot of money for some time. A new issue is tidal power and we have got to get in at the ground floor there.

"And the other one is going to be water. There is a growing shortage of fresh water across the world and water-using industries are going to want to come here because we have plenty."

Wilson's comments come with polls showing that, despite being in office for nearly four years, the SNP has yet to persuade a majority of Scots to support independence.

Labour strategists now believe that the banking crisis of 2008 has killed off all momentum for secession.

However, Alex Salmond has pledged to put independence "front and centre" of the 2011 Holyrood campaign, hoping to sell it as an answer to the forthcoming cutbacks.

The SNP meets in Perth on Thursday for its last annual conference before the 2011 Holyrood election.

The party is currently well behind Labour in the latest polls and has recently decided to ditch plans to push an independence referendum bill through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scotland on Sunday Lecture series covers the four major Scottish party conferences and is made possible by the generous support of Fleishman-Hillard, the international communications company.

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