4 key takeaways from Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP conference speech

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Faced with a conference hall full of delegates thirsting for Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon was faced with a delicate balancing act.

On one side of the equation was the need to assure them that action on indyref2 is imminent. On the other side was the more pragmatic and less appealing (for her audience) task of telling them that more has to be done to persuade Scotland to vote for independence.

Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend negotiations with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend negotiations with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

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Independence is ‘in sight’

With the first side of the equation at in mind, it did not take long for the SNP leader to declare that the goal of independence is “clearly in sight” as she referenced great victories of the past in Motherwell, Hamilton and Govan.

FM Nicola Sturgeon gives key note speach at SNP conference in Glasgow''Sturgeon speech to SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

FM Nicola Sturgeon gives key note speach at SNP conference in Glasgow''Sturgeon speech to SNP conference. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

“It is now up to us to honour those who went before and win our country’s independence,” she said to applause.

The applause and cheers were to hit the Richter scale when she issued a stern warning to Tory and Labour politicians on the referendum question.

“You can oppose independence – that is your democratic right,” she said. “But you cannot – and you will not – deny Scotland’s right to chose.”


Indyref2 could be held without Westminster approval

It was a phrase that went down well and had echoes of Brexit Secretary Michael Russell’s suggestion earlier in conference that indyref2 could be held without Westminster approval.

But there was a less rapturous reception when the other side of the equation came into play. The applause was more muted for her appeal for “pragmatism, perseverance and patience” when it came to a second independence referendum.

Praising the passion demonstrated by independence marchers on the streets of Edinburgh at the weekend, she said: “Our job is to take that passion and blend it with pragmatism, perseverance and patience to persuade those not yet persuaded.

“If we do that, then believe me - the momentum for independence will be unstoppable.”

This was perhaps the most telling extract of the speech. Her use of the future tense was acknowledgement that independence momentum was not yet unstoppable.

And her plea for patience was an admission that more work has to be done before there is any guarantee that the SNP can win a second vote.

Very little said on the Growth Commission

There was little more than a passing reference to Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission, which was supposed to be at the heart of the fresh independence drive but has been criticised for embedding austerity.

Some passages were devoted to defending the SNP’s record in government at a time when its record – particularly in education and health – is under fire.

Brexit pivotal part of SNP’s independence argument

But the strongest rhetoric was reserved for the UK Government and its “shambolic” approach to Brexit and its record of treating Scotland with “contempt”.

Ms Sturgeon was at pains to contrast her open and outward looking vision of Scottish independence with Westminster’s insular approach to Brexit.

The UK, she said, was facing warnings of medicines shortages, grounded aeroplanes, gridlock at ports and a haemorrhaging of investment.

She pointed out that the first Minister for Food Supplies had been appointed since Winston Churchill was Prime Minister.

It was a sign that her argument that only independence can free Scotland from the chaos of Brexit is going to be put front and centre of political activity over the coming months.

Only time will tell whether this delivers a second referendum and her wish for a vote for independence.