Keith Brown’s full #SNP21 opening speech
Delegates, members, friends,
Welcome to the 87th SNP Annual National Conference.
I dearly wish I was welcoming you all in person, to shake hands with fellow members and activists, to warmly embrace old friends and long-time comrades in our pursuit of independence…
To share old stories, remember absent friends and, when the day’s work is done, to raise a glass in their memory.
But while this dreadful pandemic has loosened some of its grip on the nation, we are far from out of the woods yet.
And that means the opportunity to meet once again in person is simply not entirely safe while we wrestle to control this dreadful disease.
As we move into the challenging winter period, 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 have helped us all during this pandemic.
And we can all have faith that those on whom we have relied during these difficult months will continue to give their all to protect us and our loved ones.
So friends, we meet again in the virtual world.
And I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all the staff across the party who have worked so hard to put this conference together.
Once again, we are using the Hopin platform and I hope you will hop in for the full conference – all the way to the First Minister’s keynote address on Monday.
We have great speeches from Deputy First Minister John Swinney and our Westminster Leader Ian Blackford – who faces Boris Johnson down every week.
And Conference comes to a close with the much-anticipated address from our party leader, Nicola Sturgeon.
As well as speeches, our agenda is packed full of Resolutions for debate, and I’ll be looking forward to much lively discussion across these next four days.
Regular attendees of virtual Conference will be happy to know that, by popular demand, the much-loved Blether function returns, where you can virtually catch up with the friends you can’t see in real life.
So please, hop in and say hello.
Friends, the SNP gathers this weekend in great shape – but also with great resolve.
The last couple of years have been challenging for all of us, and they have made us all think about what really matters in our lives.
As a responsible government, the SNP’s first priority has been – and remains – steering Scotland safely through the pandemic.
While the whole Westminster system is quite clearly broken beyond repair, we are focussed on delivering for the people in every corner of Scotland.
And as we look to the future, we will urge the people of Scotland to think about what kind of country they want to live in when the pandemic is over.
Who is best placed to make decisions affecting their lives?
Who is most committed to making Scotland a fairer, more prosperous nation and tackling key issues like the climate emergency?
We will not allow Scotland’s future to be limited by the relentless negativity, the can’t-do attitude and the complete lack of vision from the unionist parties.
Our case for Scotland’s future is one based on optimism and ambition.
A belief that our nation has what it takes to be a successful independent nation.
And a belief that the people who live here can take better decisions about their lives rather than leaving Westminster in control.
That is the case we will make in the months ahead – and that is the case which will lead us to independence.
Friends, earlier this year we witnessed a Scottish Parliament election of genuinely historic significance.
And you all played a crucial role. While I can’t ask the conference hall to show its appreciation for your hard work and commitment, let’s at least give ourselves a big virtual round of applause.
The result of your endeavours delivered a result which was simply stunning.
No party has ever received more votes. No party has received a larger share of the vote for a Holyrood election.
And, despite the combined efforts of the pro-union forces ranged against us, you returned 64 MSPs to parliament – despite the system being set up specifically to prevent such a result.
But because of the incredible dedication of every branch, every member and every activist, you helped deliver a historic fourth term for the SNP – and once again secured Nicola Sturgeon as our First Minister.
And more than that, you delivered an undeniable mandate for a new independence referendum.
People have put their trust in us as a government through this pandemic and they have demonstrated that trust at local level.
Now we must aim to replicate our Holyrood triumph with equal success in next year’s local government elections.
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 last time I addressed Conference, I urged everyone to ‘Reach Out for Indy’.
We know that to win a referendum on independence we must reach out to undecided voters.
And we are strengthening relationships with others in the Yes movement to unite behind our campaign.
That is why this month we embarked on the first of a series of bold initiatives to deliver our message to those yet to be convinced.
The SNP teamed up with our Green Party allies in government, the organisation Believe in Scotland and The National – unbelievably still the only newspaper in Scotland to support independence.
Together we produced, printed and distributed our own newspaper to help build the case for independence.
By St Andrew’s Day this coming Tuesday, that newspaper will have been delivered to one million homes across Scotland.
Our ambition is only surpassed by the commitment of you, our members and activists, whose hard-work pounding the streets is making our ambition a reality – letterbox by letterbox by letterbox.
Friends, just two months ago, back in September, our First Minister made a hugely significant announcement – the Scottish Government is resuming its crucial work on an updated and detailed prospectus for independence.
That new government work will be essential to help voters make their fully informed choice and we await the delivery of that new prospectus with eager anticipation.
Meanwhile, our combined task is clear. We must bring to life our vision of a better, fairer, more sustainable Scotland.
The pandemic has shown everyone what really matters and what kind of country we want Scotland to be.
We must strive to deliver a society where no-one needs worry about having a safe place to live.
Where no one need worry about feeding themselves and their families.
Where, as prices continue to rise and rise, no one worries about paying their heating bills during the coming cold winter.
Where employment and education are there for all. Where we know that, if a loved one falls ill, our NHS will be there to care for them.
And where the key workers are not given the bare minimum, but are rewarded and recognised for their contribution to our society.
We need a society that looks after its older people. An independent Scotland must and will offer better than the poverty pensions of the UK.
To match our world-leading ambitions to combat global Climate Change we need a just transition to a cleaner environment.
We need independence to invest in our bountiful renewable energy resources, which are the envy of Europe.
The future of our planet depends on it – and it’s too important to be left to the Tories.
Conference, never forget what Westminster control means for Scotland.
Westminster control means the North east of Scotland is overlooked for investment in crucial carbon capture projects.
Westminster control means pork barrel politics, where cash that should come to Scotland is diverted to shore up Tory votes in England.
And only by becoming an independent country can Scotland rid itself of Westminster control.
Conference, earlier this month the world’s eyes were on Scotland as Glasgow hosted COP26.
And the world was not slow in telling us they loved what they saw.
Through the exemplary leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, we were given a tantalising preview of how the world will welcome Scotland to the top table of nations of this world.
But to do 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 power of our positive vision.
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 trashed the UK’s global reputation. An elite which has presided over increasing inequality, and an utterly unbalanced economy that prioritises London and the south east of England over all other parts of the UK.
Delegates, we can do better than this. Scotland deserves better than this.
Never before in our history have so many people in Scotland joined our common cause, who now share our belief that independence is the correct future for our country.
And to all those who have recently joined the party, on behalf of all in the SNP, let me say welcome – and thank you.
You have joined us on the march to independence and there is much to do. Our combined goal is to continue to build sustained majority support for independence.
Coupled with the cast-iron mandate delivered in May – and another thumping triumph in the council elections this coming May – we will continue to pile the pressure on the UK Government over our legitimate demand for a referendum.
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.
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross claims our party is out of touch with working class communities in Scotland.
Then we learn he ‘forgot’ to declare £30,000 in earnings – a sum far greater than the average Scot earns in an entire year.
So tell us again Mr Ross, who is out of touch?
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.
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.
Scotland – not Boris Johnson – must decide Scotland’s future.
Of course, Westminster will employ every underhand trick in the book to try to frustrate us.
But there is no better argument than winning over the people of Scotland, whose voices will always trump Boris Johnson’s.
To do that, we must be the best we can be.
We need to be tolerant, kind, inclusive, open, honest and engaged.
And we need to keep doing what our leader Nicola Sturgeon has been doing so brilliantly.
Demonstrating day in and day out that we are and will be better governed if our destiny is in our own hands.
I believe we can realise our ambitions by showing tolerance – even kindness – while holding fast to our belief that independent Scotland will flourish through the rewards of our combined endeavours.
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 has already taken us this far.
We must engage with the No voters of today to deliver the Yes votes of tomorrow.
Believe me friends, there is an undeniable renewal of national pride blowing through Scotland.
The prize is there for the winning – it is up to us to reach out and grasp it.