Unionists have killed off the independence vote - Alex Salmond
VOTERS in Scotland must wait until after next year's Scottish Parliament elections before they have their say in a referendum on independence.
First Minister Alex Salmond has ruled out a vote on independence before next year's Scottish Parliament elections.
Mr Salmond has resigned himself to the fact that putting his referendum bill before unionist parties at Holyrood would "end in the defeat", and he has opted instead to focus on trying to take the "case to the people" in the run-up to next year's poll.
The decision to abandon its referendum plans during this parliament comes despite the compromise of a public vote on the issue ahead of the 2007 election. Now Mr Salmond has confirmed he will ask his cabinet today to rubber-stamp plans to postpone putting legislation on an independence referendum to the parliament until after the May elections, after saying there was "no chance" of success during the current session.
He said: "We're now eight months away from the election; we're in the election run-up.
"If a choice between trying to convince one of three unionist parties to change their position, which is now pretty well entrenched in allowing those people to decide, or using that time to convince the people of Scotland to send us back with the sort of mandate that will make it irresistible, then I'll choose the people of Scotland.
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"The other parties would have shot it down in the parliament; they would have defeated it.
"Without the chance of getting through the parliament - and there is no chance now - then we're at the point where the people should decide."
Mr Salmond said the SNP would contest next year's Holyrood poll on the platform of full powers for the Scottish Parliament to prevent what he claimed were UK-imposed cuts.
He said: "The only way you can generate more revenue is if you have financial independence. That is going to be our narrative in the election campaign, and I want to get on to that narrative now."I don't see the point in going through a parliamentary process which I know is going to end in the defeat of the bill, when I can start taking that case to the people and saying, 'Look, we've got, not a total answer because no-one's got a total answer to this.
"But we've got part of the answer to facing up to this public spending crisis, and that answer is to get the financial powers into this parliament in order to deal with generating more growth, more revenue, and getting things done."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the First Minister said the SNP might also have to ask voters for a fresh mandate over plans to impose minimum prices for alcohol, as the move was "unlikely" to win enough support at Holyrood.
Opposition parties claimed Mr Salmond's failure to win support for a referendum and other key policies showed that his "ailing administration" had "run out of steam".
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "This is a lame-duck administration and it's clear that all its major flagship policies have failed. Mr Salmond's administration has run out of steam, particularly after this latest humiliation over the independence referendum."
Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser called on Mr Salmond to dissolve parliament and hold an election now.
He said: "The SNP government is in complete disarray and is dropping cherished commitments like hot coals.
"They should give us the last seven months of their time in office off and give us an election now."
Lib Dem chief whip at Holyrood Mike Rumbles claimed Mr Salmond was a "busted flush" who was heading for defeat at next year's elections.
Mr Rumbles, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: "Mr Salmond is heading for the buffers next year and he's doing so very quickly.
"He's a busted flush politically, and this referendum U-turn is just the latest in a long series of broken promises."
Mr Rumbles claimed that Mr Salmond had also been "fraudulent" towards voters by spending taxpayer's cash on promoting a referendum he knew he could not win parliamentary approval for.
However, Mr Salmond said that voter backing for his party at next years's election would massively strengthen the case for an independence referendum.
He said: "The only way to generate more revenue is through financial powers.
"So I want to get that narrative with the people and, frankly, now's the time for talking to the people. And, frankly, these parties will take their marching orders from the people of Scotland.
"If the people of Scotland say 'yes, we want the opportunity to get financial independence for the parliament', then the next parliament with that mandate will have to allow us to give the people that right."
Mr Salmond claimed he was on course to win next year's elections, despite the SNP trailing Labour in the polls.He said: "I think we'll win it comprehensively, not just because people want the right to decide their own future, but because we're the only party with a narrative of how to face up to public-spending reductions in Scotland and how you can change the circumstances which we otherwise will face.
"Three other political parties debating how they are going to manage 40 billions of cuts in public spending is the most unappetising prospect for anyone.
"People with an idea of how you can generate more wealth for this economy will win the election, so my view is: elections are won on arguments.
"If you've got the right arguments, you'll get the right result in the election."
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