The Speaker
Saturday, 20 July 2024 – 08:18

”We are the independence generation” SNP Strikes Defiant Tone At Annual Conference

The Scottish National Party (SNP) held its annual conference in Aberdeen over the weekend (8th-10th October).

Of course, the conference was dominated by the question of Scottish independence. The stated purpose of the SNP is to gain independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, stated in a defiant closing speech that “we are the independence generation”. The question of Scottish independence has not gone away and its advocates are more confident than ever that they can win it, especially since the SNP is now the dominant political force in Scotland.

In fact, the Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, is hearing a case from the Scottish government (quite cinematically beginning the day after the conference) as to whether it can hold an independence referendum without the consent of the UK government which is expected to issue its ruling at the end of the year. Essentially, the power to hold an independence referendum lies in something called a ‘Section 30 order’. The Scottish government does not have control over ‘reserved matters’, under which secession from the UK is included. However, Westminster can ‘transfer’, either temporarily or permanently, these powers to the Scottish government. This is how it was possible to hold an independence referendum in 2014. The UK government is obstinate on its anti-referendum position, refusing to grant the Scottish government the power to declare an independence referendum.

Sturgeon has presented a two-pronged approach to her supporters in Aberdeen. If the court case is lost and the Scottish government cannot legally call a referendum, which experts believe is the likely outcome, then the SNP will treat the upcoming general election as a ‘de facto’ independence referendum running solely on the issue of Scottish independence. If the SNP receives a strong result and continues its dominance of Scottish politics then it will interpret this as a mandate for an independence referendum. However, this does not mean that the Scottish government would be granted one, as the current predominance of the SNP has made little difference to the position of the British government.

However constitutional issues were not the only hurdle to overcome. Sturgeon also sought to comfort those ambivalent on the economic feasibility of Scottish independence, presenting herself as having a ‘steady and compassionate hand on the tiller’, promising an economy that would be a break away from the ‘low productivity, high inequality’ economy of the UK. Amongst other things, she promised the reinvestment of Scotland’s remaining oil resources into an investment fund potentially worth up to £20 billion, a doubling of quarterly government ‘bridging payments’ to £260 for the poorest families and an economic plan setting out the viability of Scottish independence this coming Monday (17th October), likely using the renewable energy generation as a cornerstone.

The recent economic turmoil caused by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget will certainly play into the hands of the SNP. With the shaky position of the current Conservative government and the increasing electoral strength of Labour, the rhetoric at the conference became increasingly anti-Labour. Sturgeon declared in her closing speech that Labour was ‘willing to chuck Scotland under Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street’. It is worth noting that Labour, like the Conservatives, are unionist and do not support Scottish independence. However this does not mean that Sturgeon was light on the anti-Tory rhetoric either.

What dominated the coverage of the conference was Sturgeon saying that she ‘detests’ the Conservatives during an interview with Laura Kuenssberg on her programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. Members of the Conservative Party were quick to criticise, calling her words ‘divisive’ and ‘dangerous’. Sturgeon later clarified that she was referring to the policies and values of the Conservatives, not individual politicians or Conservative voters.

Buried under the ‘detestgate’ controversy was the policy announcements of the conference. Overall, the conference was fairly light on policy however some things were announced. For example, paid time off for women experiencing extreme period symptoms and raising the starting age of school to 6, with universal kindergarten services being provided before then, as well as millions of pounds in funding to build a ‘green’ renewable energy industry.

The SNP conference showed us a political party which is united behind its leader and its stated aim of Scottish independence. Defiant, confident and unified, the SNP is ready to take the fight to the UK government and win Scottish independence.

Skip to content