SNP opponents predict our demise – let’s prove them wrong again

The SNP and I both share April 7 as our respective birthdays.

At the end of last week, I turned 38, while the party is a sprightly 89 years old – and I have been reflecting on what the founders of the SNP, and those involved in the early days would be thinking in terms of just how far we have come as a political party, and a movement.

While there’s no doubting that the past few weeks have not been easy for the SNP, we must not lose sight of the strength we have as a party.

That strength ultimately comes from the trust the Scottish people continue to put in us – because we are united in delivering on what matters to them.

A demonstration of that trust is the fact we are the largest political party in Scotland by quite some distance.

Other political parties don’t regularly publish their membership figures, but I would be fairly confident in saying we are bigger than all the others combined.

Our party is of course currently going through a period of change and transition, and such periods can be difficult. I recognise that, but we should take heart in just how far we have come as a movement, and not lose faith that together, we can take the final steps towards independence.

This is a critical time for our party, our movement and country. The SNP are the largest political party in Scotland, and we retain popular support whilst having been in government for almost 16 years.

Support for independence remains steady at around 50%. When I first joined the party, support for independence was at 30% on a good day.

Despite the difficulties of the past weeks, there is not a party in the land that doesn’t look at our support in the polls, or our membership numbers, with envy – the levels of support we enjoy would have scarcely been believable when my father joined the SNP almost 50 years ago.

That support, and electoral success, is built on the SNP’s membership and the progressive principles we have demonstrated in government. It is because we deliver on the priorities of the Scottish people that they continue to put their trust in us.

Policies such as the Scottish Child Payment, wraparound childcare, free prescriptions, free tuition, and free school meals have ensured that we have gained and retained the trust of the people of Scotland.

But that support is not, and will never be, taken for granted. I know that people across our country are worried about the continuing cost of living crisis and inflationary pressures on their incomes.

Businesses are feeling the effects of a hard Brexit, high energy costs, and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

And of course, we know the vital steps we must take to tackle the climate emergency and recover our public services – such as the NHS – from the impact of the Covid pandemic.

That’s why in my first full week as First Minister, I have been fully focused on the priorities of the Scottish people.

I provided £15 million funding to help low-income households with childcare, tripled our fuel insecurity fund to help those struggling with energy costs to £30m, announced further investment in the North East and Moray to ensure a just transition towards net-zero, and delivered ongoing funding support for our NHS to deliver on tackle health inequalities.

Those priorities – tackling the cost crisis, reducing child poverty, defending the powers of our Parliament, protecting and advancing the rights of the most marginalised in our society, and ensuring our economy works for the people of Scotland – would be far easier without Westminster not only holding our progress back, but causing many of the problems that face us.

Independence is the key to Scotland realising its full potential. It will give us the means to transform our country and take forward bold and ambitious changes to our economy and society, without being held back by Westminster attacks on our democratically elected Parliament, and severe cuts to our budget.

And crucially, achieving our independence will rid Scotland of Tory governments for good.

We achieve that goal of independence with hard work and determination – taking our progressive vision for the future of our nation to the doorsteps, and persuading those who are not yet persuaded of the benefits of being an independent country.

I’ll be there alongside our SNP members and activists every step of the way as we continue to build support for independence. To win our independence will require us to be united. Now is not the time for us to lose sight of our shared goal, nor our considerable strengths as a party, and as a movement.

Scotland has brilliant entrepreneurs, and a tech sector which attracts international attention. We have some of the most significant energy resources on the continent. We have world-class universities and colleges – and, on some measures, we have the most highly educated workforce in Europe.

Since we came to power in 2007, not a week has gone by where our political opponents haven’t announced the imminent demise of the SNP. In election after election, we have proven them wrong.

By harnessing the talents of our party – our activists, our councillors and our parliamentarians – we will continue to prove them wrong as we take the decisive steps on our journey to independence and realising Scotland’s full potential.

The elected Scottish Parliament has a clear majority in favour of offering the people of Scotland a choice over their future, and I am more convinced than ever that we will choose independence.

It’s time to embrace the challenge, roll up our sleeves and get on with it.