Fellow delegates, every time in recent years that I have stood here and looked out at Conference- and it is great to be doing so once again – I remember the first ever SNP Conference I attended.
It was in Rothesay in 1983, which means – amazingly – that it is almost 40 years ago. I don’t remember much about what was discussed.
But I do remember that the hall – that great wide hall in the wonderful Rothesay Pavilion that sits alas now only half restored and completely out of use – could be swallowed up in here several times over.
At that time, of course, there was no Scottish Parliament. And in the Westminster the General Election just three months before we had taken only 2 seats. Labour won 41 the Tories 21 , and even the Liberals got 8. We got 2 on 11 % of the vote .
Moreover support for Independence – when it was even measured in the polls, which was rarely if ever – was actually less than that.
Fellow delegates if ever I get a little disheartened by the constant negativity of our opponents .
If ever I get a bit frustrated by some people who claim to be travelling our road, but seem determined only to put obstacles on it.
I think of that conference in Rothesay and I reflect on how far we have come since then.
Once in a while that is the right thing to do.
Forty years on, in the fact of an ever increasing unionist onslaught, driven by fear not of us, but of the people of Scotland , we need sometimes to take stock.
Not to pat ourselves in the back but to give us the energy and the determination to finish the job that those who came before us were determined to see done.
To be a spur and an inspiration to us, helping us to finish the job. Because although this party has achieved much, it still has much to achieve. And if we don’t knuckle down that challenge, then nobody will.
Fellow delegates unlike in 1983, the tools for that job are to hand. Today. Here. Ready to be used.
Angus has already talked about the papers that the Scottish Government – an SNP Scottish Govern ment – is producing that give us the arguments we need about the key issues.
Admittedly our opponents are doing that too – proving to us and the wider world how morally, politically , intellectually and constitutional bankrupt they now are and how there is nothing “great” left in “great Britain”.
Our choice is stark and clear – decline with the UK, or prosper as a normal, small, independent country within the EU.
We know when the choice will made too. If the Supreme Court rules in our favour, it will be on the 19th of October next year.
And it the Supreme Court fails the people of Scotland then we will rise to that challenge too and put our case in the next general election, whenever that is.
The choice that has to be made if Scotland is to escape from the downward spiral of Tory and Labour government exploiting but ignoring Scotland.
And we know what will motivate the people of Scotland when they come to choose.
In August an Ipsos Mori poll identified the key issues for us. The argument that says that “People in Scotland want to take the country in a very different political direction to England” – our argument on the doorsteps day in and day out – was voted by almost 60% of people as being ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ convincing.
58% of our fellow voters thought that “Scotland should be independent because Westminster governments cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests” Our argument every day of the year, and every year I have been in this party.
And 53% agreed that “Scotland should be independent because the UK left the European Union even though Scotland voted to Remain”
An argument I make time and again, fuelled by the experience of fighting against Brexit in Whitehall for five long years.
And the poll even told us where we still had work to do – for example to convince our fellow Scots that our economy will be stronger outside the UK than within it and that jobs would be secure – though even in August opinions was almost tied on the economy and that was before Kwasi Kwarteng tanked the pound.
But best of all fellow delegates we have an unbeatable advantage.The advantage you can see if you just look around you now.
We have the people – a mass movement, not just of the SNP though we are almost 100,000 members stronger than we were eve in 2014.
There is across Scotland a strong YES movement which seeks, in the words of the first American Vice President John Adams to “begin government anew from the foundations and build it as we choose”
A movement of ordinary men and women, drawn from this country and across the globe who want a better country to live in, a fairer, more equitable, kinder and more generous society and who know that choosing independence is the only way to get it.
I will say a bit more this afternoon about how we should work with that movement, in mutual respect and with the highest standards of campaigning.
But let me say a word or two what we should do – we, the SNP, the vehicle for Scottish Independence
Each one of has a duty to inform ourselves – using the material that is coming from Government , the information that I circulate from HQ, and , yes, the material that others produce like Believe in Scotland.
We need to read, mark and digest that material and then we need to inform others – in the conversations we have amongst family and friends, in the workplace, or in the pub.
Don’t ask when the campaign is starting.
We are the campaign. And across Scotland we are well underway. We don’t need to ask for permission to campaign, that was given years ago, when you joined the party. Every member of this party is always permitted to campaign for our nation’s freedom.
In fact it is what we are here for.
Back in 1983 the people of Scotland showed little curiosity about independence.
Now our fellow citizens are keen to be informed and keen to be persuaded.
That is our job.
Person by person.
Street by street,
Village by village,
Town by town,
This party exists to change our country.
To deliver independence
And it actively doing that in every part of Scotland
Of course we can always learn and improve. So as we inform ourselves, and inform others, lets also work to ensure our branches and constituencies are organised and ready, equipped with the best techniques and using them week in and week out.
There are always new places to go. There are always new people waiting to hear.
Lets make sure we reach every single one of them with the message.
Fellow delegates, nobody who was in that hall in Rothesay almost forty years ago could have foreseen where we are today.
Nobody could have even glimpsed the difficulties we have made our way through, and are still making our way through.
After a pandemic, we are now in a world threatened by war. We have a government we did not elect which is the most right wing administration in our life times and in the developed world.
And the most incompetent.
It has to be better than this. It can be better than this. It must be better than this.
And Scotland knows that now. It is just waiting for you, and for all of us, to lead the way to that better place.
Despite everything our presence here today is a sign of hope
It shows that we are determined to finish the job that has been underway for the past 50 years or more.
And it shows how close we are to that goal.
We have what it takes.
We can secure the independence for Scotland which, back in Rothesay, at time seemed only an impossible dream.
We can make it a reality. We must make it a reality.
In fact we are the only people who can make it a reality.
So lets get out there and do it.