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24 Sep, 2014 16:20

‘Independence still a goal’: SNP deputy Sturgeon bids to succeed Salmond as leader

‘Independence still a goal’: SNP deputy Sturgeon bids to succeed Salmond as leader

Independence is still the long-term goal, says Scottish National Party (SNP) deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, despite last week’s failed referendum. The comments were made as she announced her bid for party leader.

If she secures SNP support to replace outgoing Alex Salmond, who announced his resignation on Friday, Sturgeon would almost certainly become the next first minister of Scotland.

Sturgeon told reporters she was not planning to call a second referendum, but vowed to keep independence squarely on the agenda should Westminster break their pledge of further devolution, or threaten to leave the European Union.

Proud to announce that I am a candidate to be next @theSNP leader and next First Minister of Scotland. Thanks for all messages of support

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 24, 2014

“I am more convinced than ever that we will one day become an independent country but that will happen only when the people of Scotland choose that course in the polling booth,” Sturgeon told a Glasgow press conference.

“The fact is that those who voted Yes, combined with those who voted No on the promise of substantial extra powers, form a powerful majority for real and meaningful change in this country.”

SNP members will vote for Salmond’s replacement at their November party conference. Sturgeon is a strong favourite to win, enjoying both great popularity with members and the backing of leading party figures.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond (R) and deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pose for a photograph as they campaign in Edinburgh, Scotland September 10, 2014 (Reuters / Paul Hackett)

In a phenomenal turn of fortunes after Thursday’s defeat, the party's ranks have more than doubled to around 60,000 in under a week, putting the party’s membership ahead of the UK-wide Liberal Democrats.

“With this influx of new members joining the SNP since the referendum – many of them from Labour’s heartlands – the Westminster establishment now face serious pressure to deliver on the substantial new powers for Scotland which the No camp promised during the campaign,” an SNP spokesperson said on Tuesday.

.@theSNP membership hits 60,000. Wow! Still room for more though. You can join up at https://t.co/xY6kbs4sim

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 24, 2014

Scots voted by 55 to 45 percent to reject splitting from the UK in last Thursday’s referendum. Just over a week before, the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats promised Scots more autonomy over tax and welfare spending if they chose to stay in the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that constitutional reforms, including in Scotland, would not be delivered until after the 2015 UK general election, and that changes would be linked with those made to the UK as a whole.

Pro-independence Scots are keen to keep up the pressure on the UK government to deliver on its pledges. Others are demanding a second independence referendum at the earliest opportunity.