Alex Neil: PM 'trying to dictate referendum'
Veteran Nationalist Alex Neil has accused the Prime Minister of trying to dictate the rules of an independence referendum to Scotland.
The Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary said David Cameron has "no democratic mandate in Scotland" and described his Liberal Democrat coalition partners as "Tory poodles". He also said every visit to Scotland by a coalition minister is worth 1,000 votes for independence.
Mr Neil said: "Last week we got some very good news that will help us in the independence referendum. The UK coalition Government said that every one of their cabinet ministers is going to come to Scotland regularly from now till the referendum.
"That means that every Tory minister is going to come to Scotland and every Liberal Democrat Tory poodle minister is going to come to Scotland. And every time they come to Scotland we will bag 1,000 more votes for the referendum."
Addressing delegates at the SNP conference in Inverness, Mr Neil also said the 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution was "rigged" by a rule which required 40% of the electorate to vote yes. He added that the unionist parties would not have the opportunity to do that again.
He said: "When David Cameron, a Tory Prime Minister with no democratic mandate in Scotland, comes, ask him: Why does he think he can come here and try to dictate to the First Minister and the directly elected and democratic Scottish Parliament when we should have a referendum, what the question should be, and what the rules governing the referendum are going to be?
"And send him a loud and clear message, not just from this hall but from the Scottish people, that the days when the unionist parties of Westminster can club together to rig a referendum on Scotland's constitutional future are well and truly over."
Mr Neil said the Scottish Government's ambition is to "copy Scandinavia" by taking control of Scotland's energy resources to make fuel poverty "an alien concept".
He said: "As Martin Luther King said over 50 years ago: he had a dream. And when Barack Obama became the president, that dream in many respects was realised. But we still have our dream. But it is no longer just a dream. We now have a plan.
"We are about to engage in campaign in the run-up to referendum, so that by the time we get to the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2016 we will have had the chance to realise the dream of generations of nationalists throughout the history of Scotland. It will soon be 700 years since Bannockburn but the next 700 years matter for the people of Scotland."