Nicola Sturgeon: Tories and Labour ‘will not deny Scotland’s right to choose’ on independence

Ben Wray

SNP leader says Westminster parties “will not deny Scotland’s right to choose”

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has told her party conference that the Conservatives and Labour party “will not deny Scotland’s right to choose” on independence.

Her comments come at the end of a party conference season which has seen both Scottish Tory and Scottish Labour leaders intervene at their UK conferences to promise opposition to any second referendum on Scottish independence in their next General Election manifesto.

Addressing a packed Glasgow SEC auditorium, she said: “And now we have Tory and Labour politicians queuing up to tell us that the decision about Scotland’s future belongs, not to the people, but to Westminster.”

“Well, let us send this message today. You can oppose independence – that is your democratic right. But you cannot – and you will not – deny Scotland’s right to choose.”

The First Minister called for “patience” in the independence movement, sticking to her position that she would outline her view on a future independence referendum once the UK-EU deal on Brexit is clear, in a speech which continued the conference theme of focusing on “hope” and “optimism” for the future – the ‘why’, rather than ‘when’, of independence.

“Our job is to take that passion and blend it with pragmatism, perseverance and patience to persuade those not yet persuaded,” she said.

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She also used her speech to welcome the pro-independence protest in Edinburgh on Saturday, stating: “The passion in our movement – demonstrated on the streets of Edinburgh at the weekend – is wonderful. It gladdens my heart.

“To those who say there is no demand for Scotland to have a choice over our future, I say – the polls and the people are telling a different story.”

Speaking to CommonSpace immediately after the speech, and asked what measures the Scottish Government or SNP might take in the event Westminster refused to co-operate with a second independence referendum, Chris Stephens MP said: “I think it’s too early to speak about all of that.

“What’s going to happen in the next few months could, in any order, be referendum, change of PM there’s all sorts of dynamics that could happen in the next couple of months.

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“I think we just have to take things day by day.”

“I think they would be very foolish if they were to deny a Scottish independence referendum”, he argued, as this could lead to greater support for Scottish independence.

Sturgeon also used her speech to accuse Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of stealing policies already delivered by the Scottish Government.

She said: “So, here’s an offer, Jeremy. You say you want to bring water into public ownership.

“Well, the next time you’re in Scotland, I’ll show you how to run a public water company.”

“And while you are here, I’ll show you how to abolish prescription charges.

“I’ll show you how to get rid of tuition fees. 

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“I’ll take you to Dalzell steelworks or the Fort William smelter to show you how to deliver an active industrial policy.”

Nicola Sturgeon fleshed out policy on moves towards a Scottish national infrastructure company , increased payment of student nurses up to £10,000 from 2020 and what she called a “fair work first” agenda, which would include stricter criteria for the payment of subsidies, loans, grants and procurements decisions to companies in a bid to make them adopt fairer employment practices. These would include an end to zero hour contracts, increased training, promotion of the living wage, and action on the gender pay gap. She said her government was “reindustrialing Scotland”.

However, there was nothing new on Education which Sturgeon once again said was her party’s priority in government.

Sturgeon briefly mentioned the party’s Growth Commission (GC) on the economics of independence, but did not give clear backing to its recommendations.

She said: “The Sustainable Growth Commission set out the opportunities that are there to be grasped in an independent Scotland.”

The GC has proved controversial within the SNP, with widespread opposition at party organised National Assemblies to its flagship policy of continued use of the UK pound after Scottish Independence. CommonSpace understands that the GC’s proposals, which also include strict controls on public spending in the first years of independence, are set to be debated at the SNP’s 2019 spring conference. 

Picture courtesy of BBC