Nicola Sturgeon says independence isn’t a “miracle cure” for Scotland’s economy, but claimed the country “can do so much better than this”.
Closing the SNP’s annual party conference in Aberdeen, Scotland’s first minister said the economic case for independence will be published next Monday as she doubled down on her push for another referendum on 19 October 2023.
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The Supreme Court will consider this week whether the law allows for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for the advisory referendum, as the SNP wants.
But Ms Sturgeon promised to use the next election instead if the courts rule against the ballot taking place, saying: “Fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice – put our case for independence to the people in an election or give up on Scottish democracy.
“I will never ever give up on Scottish democracy.”
“Independence is not a miracle economic cure,” she added. “But let this message ring out today – we can do better than this, we can do so much better than this.”
Ms Sturgeon launched scathing attacks on Liz Truss and the Conservative government, saying it was taking the UK on “another spin on the Tory misery-go-round”.
She said they were “utterly failing” in their duty to tackle the cost of living crisis, and “each and every day, its actions are making matters worse”.
Referencing the prime minister’s pledges for growth, the first minister said: “Let me tell you what kind of growth that will be – growth in the gap between rich and poor, growth in the rates of poverty, growth in the pressure on our NHS and other public services.
“And, without any doubt, growth in the deep disgust the public feel for all of it.”
Her remarks comes after she was criticised on Sunday for telling the BBC: “I detest the Tories and everything they stand for” – which Tory cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi described as “dangerous language”.
But the first minister, who also said she would “like to be a friend” of Ms Truss when it came to areas they could “work together constructively”, stood by her comments, saying she was “referring to Tory policies and values that do a lot of damage” rather than individuals.
In the speech, Ms Sturgeon announced a number of policies from the SNP, including:
- Increasing the Scottish Child payment from £20 a week to £25 from next month
- Extending the payment to families with children aged up to 16 – currently it is to the age of six
- Doubling “bridging payments” of £130 made to the poorest families to £260
- Opening two new fast-track cancer diagnostic centres in Scotland next year
- Making Aberdeen “the net zero capital of the world”, announcing 22 projects worth £50m – including one using the waste from whisky to recycle batteries
But the main theme was her party’s desire for independence, with her accusing the UK government in Westminster of a “denial of Scottish democracy” by blocking a further referendum.
She told the conference: “Full frontal attacks on devolution. A basic lack of respect. It is these which are causing tension and fraying the bonds between us.”
The first minister also insisted becoming an independent country would “reset and renew the whole notion of nations working together for the common good”.
She added: “England, Scotland, Wales, the island of Ireland. We will always be the closest of friends. We will always be family.
“But we can achieve a better relationship, a true partnership of equals, when we win Scotland’s independence.”
‘Same old Labour’
It was not just the Tories who were criticised by Ms Sturgeon, with her also launching an attack on Labour – saying it is “utterly inexplicable” for them to continue to back the union, using Brexit as an example.
“Labour is now just as committed to Brexit, a hard Brexit, as much as the Tories,” said the first minister. “At least the Tories believe in it. Labour doesn’t.
“Yet, rather than make the principled argument – which they could now win in England – they cower away from it. They abandon all principle for fear of upsetting the apple cart.
“Bluntly – they are willing to chuck Scotland under Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street. Letting down Scotland – same old Labour.”
During her keynote, Ms Sturgeon offered her continued support to Ukraine, calling the country’s people “an inspiration to the world” and saying Russian President Vladimir Putin “must be held to account [for] war crimes”.
She also revealed Scotland had now taken in 20,000 people from Ukraine, compared to the 3,000 they initially promised.
“We know you yearn to go home but for as long as you need a place of sanctuary, be in no doubt – you have a home here in Scotland,” she added.