Alex Salmond has claimed that the record fall in Scottish unemployment, announced today, is all thanks to the independence referendum, as he insisted another vote would take place in the future.
The claim, which came after official figures revealed unemployment in Scotland fell by 40,000 between June and August to stand at 151,000, has been met with a mixed reaction as Salmond continues to battle with Westminster for further Scottish powers.
Alex Salmond: I'm responsible for soaring growth / low unemployment. I need powers from Coalition to increase growth / cut unemployment.— Simon Johnson (@simon_telegraph) October 15, 2014
The UK government's Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, said the unemployment figures showed that Scotland was "moving in the right direction" - having voted 55% to 45% to stay in the Union.
But Salmond credited his party's bid for independence for the biggest quarterly fall in Scottish unemployment since records began, saying: "They said the referendum process would stop people hiring in Scotland.
"Actually, having the referendum saw the biggest fall in unemployment in Scottish history in the weeks leading up to the vote.
"That demonstrates that the process of political change makes the economy better."
He continued: "The voices of doom who greeted every bump in the night of the stock market as if it were a national emergency have a great deal of explaining to do.
"Since the No vote the stock market has collapsed by more than 6%. Over £100 billion has been wiped off the value of shares.
"Has this been linked to the No vote in the referendum? Probably not. But if there had been a Yes vote the same voices would have been telling us something absolutely different."
He added that Scotland will never be the same again after the referendum, saying "it will be better".
Speaking at an STUC conference on jobs in Glasgow, he attacked the "pathetic" debate about Scottish devolution at Westminster as he again raised the prospect of another independence referendum.
"Next time, and next time there shall be, it will get better yet," he said.
He accused Conservative backbenchers in the Commons of hijacking talks over more powers for Scotland by seeking to link them to English votes for English laws and head off the threat of Ukip.
And he accused David Cameron of deliberately shattering the pre-referendum cross-party consensus on more powers for Scotland.
In his first major speech since he announced he was stepping down as First Minister, Salmond said unionists "have some explaining to do" after the stock market fell by 6% in the wake of the No vote in the referendum.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who was confirmed today as Salmond's heir apparent as SNP leader and First Minister, has pledged to engage constructively with the cross-party Smith Commission on Scottish devolution, but said her ambition of Scottish independence remains undiminished by the No vote.
Salmond said: "The referendum process offers real hope in leading to a better society in Scotland.
"We need to keep that energy in the civic and political life of this country, but we also need to keep it in our economic life.
"Scotland will never be the same again, it will be better. Next time, and next time there shall be, it will get better yet."
He said all Scottish taxes should be raised and spent in Scotland, with a proportion going to Westminster for reserved functions such as foreign affairs, defence and the Bank of England.
But he accused Cameron of deliberately hampering the devolution process by saying "change in Scotland would be in tandem - at the same pace - as change elsewhere".
Salmond said: "In that sentence he shattered the joint unionist platform, and of course he did so deliberately.
"He wasn't being unstatesmanlike, as Gordon Brown suggested, he was acting as Tory prime ministers do. It is in the nature of the beast."
Salmond said: "I think 'pathetic' would be the single word for it.
"The first part of it was totally dominated not by 'What are we going to do about Scotland?', or how the leaders of the three Westminster parties - the three amigos - were going to keep the vow they made to Scotland for substantial further change when none of them even bothered to turn up.
"Instead it was about English Conservative backbenchers saying 'What's in it for England?'."
He added: "I'm actually sympathetic to the idea that England should elect its own MPs and decide its own domestic policy.
"But what I'm not sympathetic to is the charade of Westminster, where a debate about the future of Scotland and redeeming a vow to the Scottish people is hijacked by English Conservative backbenchers."Suggest a correction