Posts Tagged #sp4

Inverness outpost (5): “Our country pays its way”

John Swinney MSP brought the 77th SNP Annual Conference to a close with a heartfelt and impassioned speech, declaring that “this is the time to put the wealth of Scotland to work for the people of Scotland.”

He used his conference address to dispel some of the economic myths about Scotland.

First, Scotland might have a deficit but the UK has a higher one.  And while Scotland ran a budget surplus in four out of the last five years, the UK was in deficit.  Scotland, he suggested, contributes more to the UK in tax revenue than “we get back in UK public spending”.  Which means that Scotland is subsidising the rest of the UK.

The conclusion?  “Our country pays its way”.

And he revealed that GDP figures show that with an appropriate geographical share of its offshore resources, Scotland would be the sixth wealthiest country in the world.  That’s ten places ahead of the UK which sits in sixteenth position.

In the main, his speech concentrated on the day job.  He pledged that “our Government will use every one of our limited existing powers to deliver economic growth for Scotland” but warned “our actions are being thwarted by the Con-Dem coalition’s failed policies”.

He called on the UK Government to recognise that its cuts agenda is harming Scotland, demanding they get their “heads out of the sand” and invest in economic recovery.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth contrasted this with the way in which the “SNP Government is delivering real action for Scotland”, working to create the best conditions for employment, to tackle youth unemployment and investing in communities across Scotland to support jobs and promote growth.

He also focused on the Scottish Government’s ambitious investment in preventative spending – “this Government won’t short change Scotland on its future” – and defended the decision to increase the business rates of large retailers who sell tobacco and alcohol.  He argued that the increase would amount to just 0.1% of retail turnover in Scotland:  “I don’t think it’s too much to ask highly profitable retailers to make a contribution to creating a better future for our people”.

And while most of his colleagues had studiously ignored Labour in their speeches, John Swinney noted that Alistair Darling promised cuts that were toughter and deeper than those of Margaret Thatcher, promising to remind Labour MSPs of this every time they demanded more spending during the budget process.

He also suggested that next May’s local authority elections were “an opportunity to rid Scotland of Labour municipalism”.

Swinney concluded his speech in a highly personal note, recalling that he first came to SNP conference as a teenager, and in the intervening 30 years, he had seen the party grow – and grow.  He acknowledged that at times he wondered and doubted whether the “idea that it is best that the people who choose to live in this country should shape her future” would succeed.

But now, he noted, this “is our chance to fulfil the promise we made to our people.”  He suggested that the party’s task was simple:  “we must go out and persuade and inspire the people of our country that Independence will be right for them” and called on fellow party members to “commit to fulfil our promise to the people of Scotland”.

It was a rousing and fitting end to four days of a conference which kick-started the yes campaign for independence.



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EXCLUSIVE: Humza Yousaf – Let’s make History!

This afternoon, Angus Robertson MP, SNP Campaign Director, set out the road map to independence and detailed the four steps that the party is taking to win the referendum.  One of those steps is to “engage with different sectors of society to raise confidence, optimism and understanding of the independence case” and Humza Yousaf, recently elected MSP for Glasgow, was asked to say a little about his work as one of these Independence Ambassadors.

His speech had people in tears and earned a rousing, spontaneous standing ovation.  He has kindly agreed to share it with Better Nation – exclusively.

Conference, it is a delight to be standing her before you as the elected representative of that SNP stronghold of Glasgow!  I truly feel privileged to be in this position at all.

I say that, delegates, because it was merely 70 years ago, while our party was in its infancy, that my grandfather was working in the family run business in a small village in India.

He was a master tailor and so in the morning and afternoon, he would sew clothes for the locals and in the evening he would shut up shop.  However, instead of going home to have his dinner he would take to the streets and peacefully protest against British rule in his homeland.

Of course, his fight for freedom and self-determination was successful in 1947 with the creation of an independent, sovereign India and Pakistan.

Conference, he could not have imagined that merely seven decades later, his grandson would be carrying on this proud family tradition of fighting for independence in a country called Scotland.

Delegates, I tell you this story to highlight that Scotland truly is a land of opportunity for all regardless of your race, religion or ethnicity.

Having a multicultural society is at the very ethos of what we believe in as civic naitonalists.  We’ve accepted people can be Polish-Scots, Pakistani-Scots, Chinese-Scots and Italian Scots.

So fellow Nationalists, as a party we have been making links with all these communities over the last twenty years and that relationship, built on the foundations of mutual trust and respect, has served us well.

Scots of all diverse communities have thrown their weight behind the nationalist cause.  At a recent dinner in Glasgow, over 500 people from every strand of our diverse tartan pledged to give their all for the cause of independence.

Just as so many have done for their own homelands, they promised to pound every pavement, to knock every door, to speak to every person, in every language, for this, the most noble of all noble causes – self-determination and Independence for the people of Scotland.

Conference, we will continue to work with every community in Scotland, because our party is all about communities and societies.

We have some amazing individuals in the SNP but let us never forget that we are not about individuals, nor a party brand.  We are truly a global movement.

We are the wind that blows in our city’s streets.  We are the water that flows in our gallant glens.  We are the ink that dries on the pages of history, as we go forth to write another chapter in our nation’s story.

If we reach out to all Scots, new and old, and work harder than ever before, then I have no doubt that the next chapter will start with the words:

“And so Scotland fulfilled her promise and rose once more, to become a nation again.”

Conference, let’s make history!


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Inverness outpost (4): “It’s starting”

This is it my friends.  This is our moment…. Let us commit to fulfil our promise to the people of Scotland”

John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth

The Goal:

“…The more tools we have at our disposal, the more we can do to protect all that is important here in Scotland, and the more we can do to build a better future.  With independence the social union with the rest of the UK will continue.  However, we will speak with our own voice to the world, and make decisions based on our own values and priorities.

Independence will only happen when the people of Scotland decide.  together, it is our choice as a nation…”

The Grievance:

“And, most importantly, decisions will no longer be imposed on Scotland.  Devolution meant we could no longer have something as unpopular as the poll tax foisted on Scotland.  Independence will mean we no longer face having our troops sent to fight in an illegal war like Iraq.

And the days when we have to implement policies forced on us by Tory governments in London we didn’t choose will be over for good.”

The Gain:

“Independence will allow us to create an exciting new Scotland – a Scotland fit for the 21st century.  We will have the power and the responsibility to find our own solutions to the challenges we face, and to engineer fairness, confidence, innovation, opportunity and prosperity.

At the same time, it will mean a partnership of equals with other nations, protecting vital Scottish interests like our fishing industry by having a seat at the top table while playing our part in the global community through organisations such as the European Union and United Nations.”

“Our independence campaign starts now.  It’s starting.  The starting gun is being fired now.  We will leave nothing to chance.”

Angus Robertson MP, Independence Campaign Director



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Conference blether and blellum

Last day, the end is in sight, and still they come.  Good party activists that they are, the delegates were back at Eden Court this morning bright and early to vote on internal elections and organisational matters.

You would be wrong to think today is a damp squib – three Cabinet Secretaries making flagship speeches and that all-important Roadmap to Independence to be sketched by Angus Robertson MP, the party’s campaign manager extraordinaire.

One highlight for me has been catching up with old friends and making new ones, one such being the ever smiley and cheery Humza Yousaf MSP.   His conference highlight?  “Arriving on the first day, my first time as an MSP at a party conference, wondering how it was going to be.  And walking into a packed hall.  First session, packed to the rafters, taking my breath away.  I knew from that point that it was going to be a great conference.”

Here are some snippets which are exclusive – in that, you won’t read them anywhere else and this is probably the first and only time you’ll read them.  But to avoid trampling on sensibilities, I hesitate to call them an exclusive.  Some of them can be filed under “no I am not making this up”  and some of course you might wish to take with a pinch of salt, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.

I was delighted to meet Jim Torrance, who since he joined the party in 1974, has converted 42 of his family members into becoming SNP supporters and/or members.  In some families, gifts of rattles and soft toys are bestowed upon new babies.  One wonders if in Jim’s family, each wean gets a party membership and a Saltire.

So far, the record for latest to bed is 7 am Saturday morning.  One of them even managed to work a full shift – all day and into the evening.  It’s not just the Irn Bru that’s made from girders…

Only in the SNP – a resolution was debated on Saturday simultaneously praising the Scottish Independence Convention while calling for a “broad based pro-independence coalition, taking within its scope people of all parties and none”.  It gets better.  Someone then decided this should be remitted back.  So, there was a short debate on the need for a broad based pro-independence coalition that some felt the party needed to go away and think about, not least because of the existence of the Convention which could fufil this role.  Like I said.  Only in the SNP.  (The motion was carried, in case you care).

Apparently, the SNP is now too big for conference.  The party’s requirements are now so large, that there is not a venue in Scotland can accommodate them.  An insider told me (in strictest confidence you understand) that the party was now thinking of commissioning a cruise liner for next year’s conference.  Docking at Peterhead to allow delegates aboard, the ship would then sail northwards, stopping off to share fraternal conviviality with Nordic cousins, before heading for Spitzbergen to see the polar bears.  Why?  Why not, my confidante said.  Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase booze cruise….

Up in the Gods with the SNP?  One veteran of the party conference circuit was astonished to discover that Eden Court theatre has, in fact, three floors.  Arriving on Friday for the afternoon session, they were told to keep climbing at every floor, as that part of the hall was full.  On being sent ever upwards, our intrepid veteran became suspicious, if also a little breathless.  “I’ve been at every Labour conference in Inverness, and never knew there was a third floor up in the Gods. Was never needed nor used by them.”  Which says it all.

No conference is complete without its stushies.  Aside from the very obvious one on same-sex marriage which performed the useful task of keeping the media pack busy filing copy about something and nothing, the big issue has been access to the main hall for the First Minister’s speech.   Despite having three rows – yes, three rows, that’s how many elected politicians the SNP has these days – reserved for them at the front, many MSPs found themselves crammed in in the cheap seats.  Indeed, many – including Government Ministers – ended up watching the speech from one of the overflow areas.  Some of them are still muttering about the indignity of it all…. wee lambs.

The SNP might be a big tent, but actually it’s a great big family.  Last night’s karaoke fundraiser?  Think the worst family wedding imaginable, with all your most embarrassing aunties and uncles.  All of them, in one place.  Then give them a microphone and an open stage…..

Yep, for your delight and delectation, for one night only (thank god) please welcome the men and women who run Scotland, murdering their way through power ballads and classic cheesy numbers.  Chic Brodie, in full Elvis garb, was an undoubted highlight.  He was fantastic.  We were not worthy frankly.

Sandra White and Christine Grahame made a very passable attempt at the Proclaimers’ 500 miles.  George Adam would appear to be Paisley’s very own, passable Sinatra impersonator.

But the undoubted “star turn” was an excrutiating and risible version of Should I stay or should I go by Bill Kidd MSP.  Stick to whipping Bill, stick to whipping….


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The First Minister declares: “the respect agenda lies dead in their throats”

He came, he spoke, he conquered.  Despite having to clear his throat continually, fending off a cold.

He had MSPs dabbing their eyes, delegates cheering to the rafters, including the hundreds denied access to a full hall, watching it in the Eden Court cinema and huddled round screens in FIVE overflow areas.

This was the First Minister, master of all he surveyed and equal to the task.

One reckoned his speech had effectively fired the starting gun on the campaign to win the referendum.  And unequivocally, he set out, towards the end of his speech, that while full fiscal responsibility “could allow us to control our own resources, introduce competitive business tax, and fair personal taxation” it was not enough.

For “even with economic powers, Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde, we could still be forced to spill blood in illegal wars like Iraq, and Scotland would still be excluded from the Councils of Europe and the world”.

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, announced to sustained applause and cheers that “this party will campaign full square for independence in the coming referendum”.

This was the most lyrical section of his speech.  It generated huge energy in the hall, had some in tears, reminded, as Fiona McLeod MSP was, “of the enormity of what we achieved in May.  We didn’t break the system in May, the Scottish people did, and it is good to be reminded of how momentous that was”.  The First Minister’s speech made her want to “come out of the hall, head straight for the train, and get out there campaigning”.

Jamie Hepburn MSP, meanwhile, reckoned the First Minister had laid to rest “all the murmurings about what independence means.  Which I think have been a deliberate distraction by some.  The First Minister set out clearly what it means and what the SNP will campaign on.  And that’s full blown sovereigny for the Scottish nation.”

It was a speech made less for the audience in the hall, and more for the audience out there in the country.  But it had some great lines and phrasing.  the First Minister acknowledged that “we have to take sides within Scotland, as well as taking Scotland’s side.  Particularly when times are tough we have to ask the rich to help the poor, the strong to help the weak, the powerful to help the powerless.”

Putting Scotland’s energy resources and potential firmly at the heart of the independence agenda, he highlighted BP’s announcement this week and made several of his own:  a new £18 million fund to support marine energy commercialisation, part of a £35 million investment over the next three years to support testing, technology, infrastructure and deployment of the first commercial marine arrays.  “The message is clear:  in marine energy, it’s Scotland who rules the waves”.

He framed the investment in and development of Scotland’s renewable energy potential as the “green re-industrialisation of the coastline of Scotland”  and termed it “central to our vision of the future”.

Within this context, he was scathing about the level of fuel poverty in Scotland “amid energy plenty” and promised a further 200,000 Scottish families access to energy efficiency measures by April 2012.  And he returned to a comfortable Nationalist narrative:  “London has had its turn of Scottish oil and gas.  Let the next 40 years be for the people of Scotland”, he boomed to loud cheers.

As Maureen Watt MSP commented afterwards, the First Minister “reminded us of the ambitions we had and still have for our country.  The SNP Government has been in power for four years – people have seen we can do things differently.  It has given Scotland a sense of control but also confidence in that we’re nae too poor, too stupid to run our country” – this last comment, of course, uttered in the Doric.

But the First Minister reserved his scorn, in passages which the conference audience lapped up, for the UK Conservative Liberal Democrat government, in a clear signal that he sees the fight over the independence campaign as increasingly personal for Scotland, pitting him against David Cameron.

First, he condemned the UK Government for forming a Cabinet sub-committee to attack Scottish independence, “working out how to do down Scotland” ignoring their responsibilities for economic recovery.  He targeted “Mr Cameron” several times:  “how little you understand Scotland”.

But he was at his most passionate when setting out his and the SNP’s agenda for the independence referendum.  It’s us against them, with Labour airbrushed out of existence.  It’s Scotland versus Westminster and warned “the days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do or what to think are over.  The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future”.

And he finished by effectively firing the starting gun on the independence campaign, as one delegate styled it.  Rubbishing the UK Government’s approach to its own Scotland bill – “unloved, uninspiring, not even understood by its own proponents” – he attacked Westminster’s agenda of disrespect:

“… not disrespect to the SNP but a fundamental disrespect for Scotland.  The respect agenda lies dead in their throats.”

The First Minister concluded his speech by paying tribute to his party, its members and its activists:  “we stand where we do today because of generations before us, because of party workers and campaigners who never saw this day”.  And set out his and the SNP’s vision for Scotland:

“And we shall prevail – because we share a vision, A vision of a land without boundaries, Of a people unshackled from low ambition and poor chances, Of a society unlimited in its efforts to be fair and free, Of a Scotland unbound.”

The delegates are still bouncing with energy and dabbing their eyes now.

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