A Conference for independence

The SNP and Alba party conferences were held over the weekend and it’s now possible to assert with confidence to the doubters that a second independence referendum is most definitely on its way and will be delivered by the only people capable of delivering it. That would be the SNP and Scottish Green MSPs who together give the Scottish Government an unassailable majority in Holyrood. The SNP conference ends on Monday with a keynote speech from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. On Sunday it was the turn of deputy First Minister John Swinney who said that the SNP-Green co-operation deal proved that the SNP is willing to collaborate and work constructively with other parties in order to deliver independence.

The deputy First Minister stressed that “by reaching agreement with the Greens, we are not closing the door to working with other parties.” However in what many will see as a veiled warning to the Alba party, several of whose main speakers used their conference speeches to attack the SNP and the First Minister, generating headlines which the anti-independence media gleefully seized on, he said that if other parties want to work with the Scottish Government they can, but if they want to “continue being negative naysayers” – they will be left behind.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times reported, and this is the exact text of their tweet so that you too can marvel at the mendacity of the British nationalist press in Scotland: “A new poll suggests just 17 per cent of voters who voice a preference want a referendum in the next year, while 36 per cent back it in the next two to five years and 47 per cent don’t want one at all in the next few years.” Which is very much a grudging attempt not to mention that a majority of voters in Scotland want an independence referendum within the term of this Parliament and a perfect example of how the British nationalist media frames any positive development for independence as a negative.

The figures in the poll break down as follows: 27% want the vote held in the next two years, 26% think it should be staged in 2023-24 and a further 9% say it should take place in 2025-26. That adds up to 62% who want another referendum before the next Holyrood elections, due in 2026. You can feel the Sunday Times’ pain,” 62% of voters in Scotland agree that there should be an independence referendum within the timescale proposed by the Scottish Government” is the kind of headline that’s going to get the Tory boys and girls of the Sunday Times spitting red white and blue feathers. 89% of SNP voters want the referendum to be held before 2026, as do 54% of Labour voters. Only Tory voters are (predictably) opposed, with just 19% wanting a referendum within the term of this Parliament. Was it not Alister Jack who suggested that the British Government would have to concede to another referendum if support for it was at 60%? The Sunday Times would rather we forgot about that.

Delegates to the SNP conference overwhelmingly approved a motion welcoming the draft referendum bill published before the Scottish Parliamentary election in May and the commitment to hold a referendum once the covid crisis has passed. In May’s Holyrood election voters had clearly and unambiguously issued instructions to elected representatives to hold a referendum by the end of this parliamentary term.

Chris Hanlon, SNP Policy Development Convener, who proposed the motion, said that the resolution wasn’t about *whether* to hold a referendum, but about setting a date, noting that it should be at a time when the average voter in Scotland would feel comfortable having one, as not everyone is ready to return to “normal”. He added: “That’s not kicking the can down the road, that’s sticking the ball in the penalty spot and waiting for the whistle to blow, and blow it will, all too soon.” According to the poll in the Sunday Times, carried out by a Conservative think tank, a clear and substantial majority of voters in Scotland agree with the Scottish Government’s timetable.

Both Alba and the SNP agree about the necessity of a second independence referendum, merely disagreeing on the timing of one. Likewise both parties agree that an independent Scotland must rid itself of the UK nuclear missiles and submarines on the Clyde, but disagree on the timescale for their removal. Alba delegates approved a motion calling for the removal of Trident on day one of independence. For their part the SNP delegates approved a motion calling for the removal of Trident within three years of independence.

SNP delegates also overwhelmingly backed a resolution offering Scottish citizenship in an independent Scotland to new Scots in a smooth and easy manner without any degrading “citizenship tests” or expensive preferential acccess. Citizenship will also be automatic for anyone born in Scotland, or who has at least one Scottish born parent. An independent Scotland categorically rejects the “hostile environment” for migrants so beloved of British Home Sectretaries.

In her closing speech to the SNP conference Nicola Sturgeon reminded the British Government: “By any standard of democracy” the SNP’s victory in the May Holyrood election “represents an unarguable mandate to implement the manifesto we put before the country. And that is what we intend to do. It is called democracy.” She told delegates that as long as the covid crisis is under control, there will be a second independence referendum before the end of 2023, a timetable which even an opinion poll carried out by a Conservative think tank showed is supported by a substantial majority of voters. She also announced that the Scottish Government will fund the COP Conference of Youth, after the UK Government failed to do so. In another major policy announcement, she used her speech to inform delegates that the Scottish Government will create a National Care Service.

Scotland is not only en route to another independence referendum, but the kinder, gentler, environmentally sustainable, more socially just and tolerant Scotland, which can only be fully realised with independence is hoving into view. It’s up to all of us to make it a reality.

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