Sturgeon told to ‘drop independence obsession’ in 2019
SNP depute leader Keith Brown addressed members at the party’s virtual conference and opened with an appeal for them to replicate the success of the Scottish elections in May in next year’s local council vote. Delegates attending the virtual event were urged to reach out to voters undecided on Scottish independence in preparation for a second referendum on the matter. Mr Brown said: “I know, once again, we can count on our army of activists to get out the SNP vote to deliver another thumping election result – and another big step on our journey to independence.
“Friends, I can tell you this: That independence campaign is well underway.
“And I promise you we will not let up until we win that referendum.”
The SNP depute leader also took a huge swipe at Prime Minister Mr Johnson and his Conservative Party Government, insisting they know they “can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland”.
He insisted combining the result of the Holyrood election earlier this May with a win at the upcoming local elections will enable the SNP to “pile the pressure on the UK Government over our legitimate demand for a referendum”.
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Mr Brown told delegates: “The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know they can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland. “And what we know is that Boris Johnson always bows to pressure – just look at the scandalous Owen Paterson affair.
“The Prime Minister’s actions speak far louder than words.
“When the Prime Minister had to choose between protecting the integrity of elected office or protecting his friend, he chose to change the rules to protect a colleague.
“And when the pressure came on, he caved in and U-turned again.”
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The SNP depute leader also claimed “the Tories don’t care about Scotland” while also insisting “Scotland needs to escape all this”.
He concluded: “Friends, the simple truth is that the Tories don’t care about Scotland.
“They don’t care about working class people. They don’t care about those whose Universal Credit they’ve cut by £20 a week.
“They don’t care about those who lost their jobs when they prematurely ended furlough.
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“They don’t care about those left battling an inhumane immigration system that prevents people taking jobs in businesses screaming out for workers because of the Tory Brexit obsession.
“Scotland needs to escape all this.”
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, launched a scathing attack against the renewed calls for Scottish independence, which come with a potentially devastating Covid variant being identified.
She said: “To boast that a fresh campaign to divide Scotland and break up the UK is under way on the day that warnings are issued about a new Covid variant is simply extraordinary.
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“Government ministers should be focused on the recovery and rebuilding our NHS and public services, not obsessing about the constitution.
“As part of the UK we are stronger together, protecting millions of jobs and livelihoods, investing more in schools and hospitals, and ensuring we can build a recovery that leaves no community behind.”
During an interview with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP “intend to take the steps” that enable an independence referendum to happen before the end of 2023.
She is hopeful Scotland will be out of the “acute” phase of the Covid pandemic early next year to allow Scotland to return its focus to its future.
Scotland’s First Minister said: “When Scotland is again contemplating the best future for the country, we are doing that not in the shadow of a pandemic that is taking and has taken too many lives, but as we are recovering from that and turning our minds to the positive optimistic task of how do we build a better country?
“That means for Scotland getting to choose who’s making these decisions, not having somebody like Boris Johnson imposed on us and deciding for ourselves.”
Ms Sturgeon also insisted her current focus is to rebuild Scotland from the damage inflicted by the pandemic.
She added: “We don’t want people to take a massive decision about the future of the country while we are still worrying about face coverings and testing ourselves every day before we go places.”