NICOLA Sturgeon kicked off the SNP’s campaign for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, claiming that despite cuts from Westminster, the Scottish Government had “delivered better services”.

In a wide-ranging speech at a joint meeting of the SNP’s MSPs and MPs in Edinburgh yesterday morning, the First Minister also made it clear that the party still had to build support for self-determination.

“Our school leavers do better than ever before,” Sturgeon said. “We have rebuilt or refurbished one fifth of all school buildings. Crime is at a 41-year low. We have higher employment than the rest of the UK. Youth employment is at its highest level in a decade. And NHS waiting times are among the lowest ever recorded.”

She continued: “We have abolished prescription charges, maintained free personal care for the elderly and restored free tuition for our students. We have made necessary, and radical, long-term reforms to police, to colleges, to health and social care services, and to our school curriculum.”

Next May, Sturgeon said, the SNP’s task “is to convince the people of this country that I will be the best First Minister, that we are the best team and that we have the best policies and the best vision to lead Scotland into the next decade.

“If we do that, we will not just win, we will win another majority. And let me be clear today: another majority government is our aim.’’

Sturgeon also warned supporters that there were “no shortcuts” to independence.

“If we are to win independence, we must convince a majority of Scots that it represents the best future for Scotland.” she told the parliamentarians.

“That was true last year, it is true now and it will be true at all times in the future. There are no shortcuts. Independence won’t happen just because its supporters become more impatient for change. An even more committed, enthusiastic and impatient 45 per cent is still just 45 per cent.”

The key to winning independence, she said, would be understanding why “the people we failed to persuade last year” voted No. Sturgeon also announced that Mhairi Black, the 21-year-old MP for Paisley will be in charge of the party’s strategy to get 16 and 17-year-olds out to vote. Next year marks the first time the over-16s can vote in a parliamentary election.

Alongside Black, Deputy First Minister John Swinney will be the party’s campaign director, and SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie will “oversee the development of the party’s manifesto”.

The SNP will have plenty of help on the doorstep in 2016; the First Minister announced that the party’s membership has grown from 25,000 to 112,000 in the space of the last year.

Next year’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections is expected to set out the “material change” in circumstances that could trigger a second independence referendum.

The First Minister repeated her warning that Scotland facing an unwanted exit from the EU could be that change. There is speculation the vote to renew Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapon’s system, could also be considered a “material change” by the party.

Sturgeon also used the speech to warn the Prime Minister that he is living on borrowed time.

“My message to David Cameron today is the same as it was when I met him just after the General Election,” the SNP leader said.

“What happens to support for independence in the months and years to come will depend as much on what you do as it will on what we do. And, right now, you are living on borrowed time.”

She continued: “If you continue to ignore Scotland’s voice, if you continue to disrespect the choice that people across this country made in May, more and more people will conclude that Westminster simply can’t deliver for Scotland.

“So it is your choice, Prime Minister – but know that Scotland is watching.”

Cameron said: “Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and I signed the Edinburgh Agreement which pledged we would all respect the outcome of last year’s momentous vote.

“We all agreed – as do the Scottish public – that the independence referendum should be a ‘once-in-a-generation’ or a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event. So now it is time to move on.”

Recent polls predict that the SNP are on course to win a decisive victory at Holyrood.

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