Keith Brown’s address to #SNP20 conference

We come together at a time of huge turmoil for our country.

Coronavirus has brought normal life to a shuddering halt, and many of our fellow citizens have lost their lives, or their loved ones to this dreadful disease.

I’d like to pay testimony to the NHS staff, care workers, emergency services, all the key workers and our fantastic colleagues working in vital council services across Scotland.

Their commitment and selflessness has helped us all during this pandemic.

And while we are not yet through this crisis, we can all have faith that those on whom we have relied during these difficult past months will continue to give their all to protect us and our loved ones.

But if the darkest hour is before dawn, it is also true we can now see light emerging.

We can look forward with renewed hope that the development of vaccines will herald a return to what we all so dearly yearn for – a normal way of life.

And that return to normality also heralds the prospect of renewed hope for the future of Scotland.

Friends, I believe we are about to witness a Scottish Parliament election that will be of genuinely historic significance.

An election that will determine how we rebuild and renew our country and who takes those decisions.

The challenge for us all is to work as never before, to convince our fellow Scots to put their trust not just in us, but in each other, and deliver an unprecedented, an undeniable, an unstoppable demand for a new independence referendum.

Having literally zoomed around the country for the last eight months, talking to members, branches, constituencies and many Yes Groups, I can tell you this: We are ready.

People have put their trust in us as a government through this pandemic and they have demonstrated that trust at local level, with great successes in local government by-elections

While the pandemic has correctly dictated that we could not campaign in the way we excel – with thousands of feet on the ground, we have found new ways and we have won – increasing our vote share in every by-election contested since March.

So, while I can’t ask the conference hall to give you a big congratulations, let’s have a big virtual round of applause for all our candidates, for those who campaigned and to all our hard-working Councillors.

Since last we met, we have also had an outstanding campaign and result at the Westminster election last December.

It may seem a lifetime ago but we should remember the effort and success we delivered in a difficult winter election.

We won an outstanding 47 out of 59 seats in another SNP landslide.

Now we turn to the campaign for 2021. And, as you would expect, work is well underway.

Covid may mean it’s a different type of election campaign – but our manifesto will be no less inspiring.

At the coming election we will set out our plans to renew Scotland now and with the powers of independence.

How we build our economy and our communities up after the pandemic.

What we can do, together as a country, to support our public services and all those who work in them.

And how we will make Scotland that fairer, more equal country, that we all want it to be.

But to deliver on all that, and to ensure we can also win the powers we need to truly transform Scotland – we need to win May’s election.

So today I can reveal some new and exciting campaign developments.

First we will launch new ways to deliver covid safe campaigning.

We will shortly launch snp.scot – our virtual doorstep that will help you canvass voters, without putting anyone at risk.

SNP.Scot will include all the support you need on covid-safe campaigning and it will allow you to input survey data in real time.  Making it quicker and easier for you to reach more people.

We are also launching a campaign early in the new year to help more people across Scotland sign up for a postal vote. No matter what happens in the months ahead, people must have the option to cast their vote for the SNP from the safety of home.

And if you want to know why that matters, just think back to those US elections earlier this month where we all watched postal votes determine the path of a country.

So our message to the people of Scotland is do likewise, turn your post box into a ballot box. Vote SNP early and safely, and let’s shape our nation’s future together.

And thirdly, we also be bringing out a new way of sharing information with people about what we stand for, what a vote for the SNP will deliver, and why we believe becoming independent is the right step for our country.

We know people want more information than can be contained in a two-sided leaflet.

So, we will be launching a series of magazines, which will be published right up to referendum day.

Our plans had to be put on hold when lockdown came, but with a brighter future ahead and more people asking for information on what independence means for them, the first in the series will include part one of a ‘household guide to independence’ which you can use to convince those still looking to be convinced of the merits of independence.

Our campaign might have only begun but, my friends, I promise that it will not let up until we win that referendum!

As well as an explicit, iron-clad commitment to a referendum that will regain Scotland’s sovereignty, we will lay out our vision of how we will use our recovery from this crisis to create a better, fairer, sustainable Scotland.

We will set out what we can do now, and we will make the case, a case so many people have come to see for themselves in recent months, that we can do so much more with the powers of independence.

In January, I will convene a National Assembly, to ensure you, our Members, have the opportunity to debate and direct our vision for an independent Scotland.

The pandemic has shown everyone what really matters in a country and that is what we must deliver.

Good health and social services.

A society where no-one needs worry about not having a guarantee of a warm, safe place to live;

Where no one need worry about being able to feed themselves and their families;

No one need worry about having affordable access to the digital resources which have become crucial to modern life

Where employment and education are there for all.

And where we know that if their loved ones fall ill our NHS will be there to care for them and the key workers who care for us are not given the bare minimum wage but rewarded and recognised for their contribution to our society.

We need a society that looks after its older people. We need decent pensions.

And an independent Scotland will, must, offer better than the poverty pensions of the UK.

We need a cleaner environment, that makes a crucial contribution to combatting global Climate Change.

And conference, isn’t it a huge bonus that our American friends will be back round the table when the world comes to Glasgow for the climate talks Summit next year.

We need cleaner, more affordable and more connected transport systems.

And friends to do all that, and do it properly, we need so much more than the constraints of the Union.

We need our independence.

Of course, I don’t need to convince you of that.

But, working together, we must continue to win over our fellow Scots who are not convinced – yet.

And we CAN convince them with the persuasive power of our argument.

We can convince them that, in an independent Scotland, everyone’s basic needs are met as a right, and are no more at the mercy of the Westminster elite …

An elite who have run the economy into the ground and trashed the UK’s global reputation.

Increasing inequality, and an utterly unbalanced economy that prioritises London and the south east of England over all other parts of the UK is not what Scotland needs.

Cutting crucial international aid, international educational and employment opportunities. Proroguing Parliament, betraying international treaties by breaking international law is not what Scotland needs.

Delegates, we can do better than this. Scotland deserves better than this.

I said when first elected as Depute Leader, that our task was to drive support for independence up to more than 50%.

Well, delegates, the last dozen or more opinion polls have all shown majority support for independence, with at least one registering a tantalising 58%.

Never before in our history have so many people in Scotland joined us, in our belief that independence is the right path for our country.

And to all those who have recently joined our cause, or even just dipped a toe, into independence waters – on behalf of all of us in the SNP let me say welcome and thank you.

Now, as we all know, polls are only polls.

But that level of sustained, majority support for independence, is already piling pressure on the UK Government to agree to our legitimate demand for a referendum.

And that is the crucial route to achieving our internationally-recognised independence.

I know some delegates are genuinely concerned about the cynicism and intransigence of the UK Government.

And let’s face it, they have form.

Many of us will remember the late introduction into the 1979 referendum of the notorious 40% rule!

And in 2014 we had The Vow.

Remember … please stay Scotland, we really do love you.

Don’t Leave, Lead!”.

We’ll give you the ‘strongest devolved Parliament in the world! They said.

Then, as soon as those hollow promises had served their purpose, they were ditched.

Yes, delegates, the Tories are not to be trusted

So, what if they decide to corrupt the rules again, or simply refuse a referendum regardless of an unanswerable mandate?

To this argument I say: We are NOT relying on Boris Johnson to do the right thing.

We are relying on the clear, consistent and increasing pressure of the democratic will of the people of Scotland, to MAKE him do the right thing.

The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know that they cannot stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland.

They know a referendum cannot be refused in 2021 if there is that majority for independence we will all work tirelessly to deliver.

And delegates, this is not wishful thinking. Look at the evidence.

Would Gove be flying a kite about changing the franchise if he didn’t think there was a referendum coming? No.

Would Gove have established his “Union Unit” in the UK Government? No.

Would Boris Johnson have risked facing the fearsome Scottish midge during his summer holiday before retreating in defeat if he didn’t think the referendum was coming? No.

Of course not.

And remember this, Boris Johnson has been responsible for more about turns than a parade ground drill sergeant!

If you don’t believe that Boris Johnson will change his position, ask the 27 leaders of the EU who thought he was acting in good faith when he signed the Withdrawal Agreement.

Or you could always ask Marcus Rashford!

What we know is that Boris Johnson bows to pressure. And the more votes we can win in May, the more that pressure will become impossible to resist.

So, conference, no, I am NOT putting my faith in Boris Johnson to do the right thing.

I’m putting my faith in the people of Scotland to MAKE him do the right thing.

To elect an SNP government that will continue to protect the people of Scotland, to elect an SNP government that will deliver a referendum, and to give that government the support we need to force Westminster to agree.

Scotland – NOT Boris Johnson – will decide Scotland’s future.

Of course, we must be wary of the box of tricks Westminster will use to try to frustrate us.

But there is no better preparation and no better argument, than to win over the ones whose voices will always trump Boris Johnson’s – the people of Scotland.

And to do that we all need to be the best we can be.

We need to be tolerant, to be kind, to be inclusive and engaged.

We need to be open, to be honest, and to be frank.

And we need to keep doing, what our leader, Nicola Sturgeon has been doing so brilliantly.

But we must demonstrate – day in, day out – HOW we can be better.

I know there are pressures and provocations.

But let me remind you: it has always been this way.

Canvassing on the doorsteps in the 1980s was no picnic.

Neither was it any less tough for those who campaigned before that.

Remember our history, our movement and always maintain our dignity.

Let’s not be dragged down to fighting on our opponents’ level.

Remember, every person who supports independence is an ally.

And everyone who does not, is an ally waiting to be won over.

I believe that showing tolerance – kindness even – while still holding fast to our beliefs, will help us realise our goal.

In recent weeks we’ve lost one of the great champions of our movement, in Sir Sean Connery.  Many others have not lived to see the successes and the opportunities that are now before us.

We cannot let this moment pass. We must seize the prize within our grasp.

But we must engage with those who do not yet agree with us, not as enemies but as fellow Scots.

And if we conduct that debate with dignity and respect, there will be no divisions to heal. That will be crucial when we come together to build an independent Scotland.

So, friends, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

It falls to us to build on the legacy of those who campaigned before us, whose efforts in building support for independence we inherit.

It is our responsibility to take full advantage of the new levels of trust and support earned by the Scottish Government, and the exemplary leadership shown by the foremost politician anywhere in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon.

And we must ask people to support our Party and our cause in May next year

We need to convert those who are not yet SNP voters, to stand alongside us, and we must engage with the No voters of today to deliver the Yes votes of tomorrow.

We would also do well to remember the words of a pop song, from more than a generation ago – and I don’t mean ‘Yes Sir, I can Boogie”!

I mean the one that goes: “We want the same thing … we dream the same dream.”

Together, friends, we are closer than ever to realising that dream – an Independent Scotland.