10/03/2012 02:55 GMT | Updated 09/05/2012 06:12 BST

Alex Salmond To Announce Youth Unemployment Jobs Boost At SNP Conference

Scotland's First Minister will describe independence as a "message of hope" as he announces a new initiative to help jobless young people.

Alex Salmond will reveal details of the £5 million project to the Scottish National Party's spring conference in Glasgow today.

But with his party to launch its campaign for a yes vote in the independence referendum, his speech will also focus on building support for ending the Union.

Mr Salmond's Scottish Government wants to hold the vote on the country's constitutional future in autumn 2014.

And the Nationalists plan to launch their yes campaign in May - shortly after council elections are held north of the border and after the Scottish Government's referendum consultation closes.

Mr Salmond will tell the conference that "home rule with independence beats Tory rule from Westminster".

The First Minister will add: "With the people of Scotland in charge, speaking with our own voice, reflecting our own values and priorities - we will make our country better.

"This is our message of hope."

The First Minister will also announce new action to help out of work young people.

The latest statistics showed more than 100,000 16 to 24-year-olds north of the border were unemployed, and last December the Scottish Government appointed a dedicated Youth Employment Minister.

The SNP administration at Holyrood has already pledged to create 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year, with all 16 to 19-year-olds also offered a learning or training place if they are not in work, education or an apprenticeship.

Despite that Mr Salmond will insist: "More can and more must be done.

"I can announce a £5 million package which will ensure a further 2,500 young people are given the right support to help them towards the world of work. This will engage young people in volunteering opportunities in the international and national events Scotland have the privilege to host over the next three years."

He will say this demonstrates his Government's "unwavering" commitment to young men and women, adding:

"Today is about progress, about Scotland moving up a gear."

The two day long conference takes place in the run up to the Scottish council elections on May 3, with Glasgow set to be a key battleground between the SNP and Labour.

It is also less than a year since the Nationalists secured an unprecedented overall majority at Holyrood.

SNP bosses said this year's event was their biggest spring conference ever, with more than 2,000 people expected to attend

Business convener Derek Mackay MSP said membership of the party was also on the rise.

He said: "We go into this year's conference in upbeat mood as party members from across Scotland gather in Glasgow - making it our biggest ever spring conference - estimated to bring an economic boost to the city economy of over £1 million.

"We also gather as our party membership continues to rise - with nearly 2,400 new members since the New Year - a 12% increase."