SNP conference: party urged to focus on unifying Nation

Alex Salmond listens at the SNP conference. Picture: Jane Barlow

Alex Salmond listens at the SNP conference. Picture: Jane Barlow

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THE SNP must change from being a Scottish nationalist party to being a National party capable of uniting the country, one of its leading figures argued yesterday.

Former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson told conference that, after next year’s referendum, the party must “have the confidence to emphasise the ‘National’ in our name rather than the ‘Scottish’.

“We must consider what it means to be a ‘National’ party rather than a ‘nationalist’ party,” he added.

A political approach based on the need to assert Scottish identity was no longer required, he said.

“There is, in my view, no existential threat to Scotland and Scottish identity anymore,” he said.

The party therefore needed to prepare a “transformation”, he said so that it was ready next year, in the event of a Yes vote, to “assume the mantle of unifying leadership and continuous reform as the progressive National Party”.

Wilson’s comments came in the annual Donaldson lecture at conference. In the speech, he referred back to his controversial call in 1999 for the SNP to embrace Britishness, and accept that British institutions would survive post-independence.

He said this view had now been “embraced” by the party but, he added: “I am not sure we have yet articulated it well and often enough for it to have resonated.”

The SNP needed to “work very hard to ensure that the large number of people living in Scotland who could – if selected – play for England (I am one) feel as part of the future we seek as anyone else.”

Wilson added that the pro-independence campaign now had to fight harder to convince people of the need to change.

“Keeping things as they are is always easier because people are naturally conservative and find change difficult,” he said. “Even when they sit, like frogs in a pot, as the water simmers, feeling comfortable in the inevitability of their demise.”

He stressed the “referendum is not D-Day but day one, and in an era of transformation and reform around the world, this party has to be confident in leading reform in this country whatever the result next ­September”.

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