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Scotland ‘a nation on the cusp of history’, Sturgeon to tell SNP conference

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
·3 min read

Nicola Sturgeon will declare Scotland is “now a nation on the cusp of making history” as she insists the SNP’s goal of independence is “in clear sight”.

Scotland’s First Minister will open her party’s annual conference by telling activists she has “never been so certain” the country will achieve independence.

Her comments will follow last December’s “landslide victory” in Scotland in the UK general election, in which the SNP won 48 of the 59 available seats.

Boris Johnson has so far refused calls for a second independence referendum to take place (Jamie Lorriman/Daily Telegraph/PA)
Boris Johnson has so far refused calls for a second independence referendum to take place (Jamie Lorriman/Daily Telegraph/PA)

Since then, several opinion polls have suggested a majority of Scots are in favour of leaving the UK.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he will not allow another referendum on Scottish independence to take place, Ms Sturgeon said a majority for her party in next year’s Holyrood election should enable such a vote to happen.

On Thursday, she said a referendum could be held “in the earlier part” of the next parliamentary session.

She added while the country is still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she is now “more hopeful” this will end soon.

Ms Sturgeon will tell the conference, which is taking place virtually because of coronavirus: “Scotland is now a nation on the cusp of making history.

“Independence is in clear sight – and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.

“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve.”

The SNP leader will say support for independence among Scots has now “risen to become the sustained and majority view in public opinion”.

She will tell delegates: “While our primary focus must remain on eliminating Covid-19 from our shores, for which we have renewed hope, Scotland must be ready for what comes next.

“And I know we will be.”

The First Minister will add: “Our country has so much talent and potential. We can build a resilient economy, with job creation and fairness at its heart.

“We can protect and invest in public services like our NHS. We can overcome poverty, inequality and we can make our contribution to tackling the climate emergency.

“The question for all of us as we look ahead to the election next May is this: Who should be taking the decisions that will shape our futures?

“We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources to the benefit of everyone.”

She will urge her party to “reach out to all of Scotland like never before” and say the SNP must “demonstrate with cool heads and with patient persuasion that Scotland is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations”.

Anas Sarwar said any focus on independence is ‘insulting’ in the context of the coronavirus pandemic (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Anas Sarwar said any focus on independence is ‘insulting’ in the context of the coronavirus pandemic (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Her opponents said Ms Sturgeon should focus on the fight against Covid-19.

Scottish Labour constitution spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “This proves that Nicola Sturgeon only has one priority – dividing the people of Scotland.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, when people are losing their jobs and saying goodbye to loved ones, it is insulting that she wants to focus on independence.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the pro-UK Scotland in Union group, said: “What people want is a unity of purpose, humility and hard work from the Scottish Government to get us through the coronavirus crisis.

“Issuing a rallying cry for independence when people across Scotland are struggling with the devastating impact of the pandemic is therefore deeply insulting.

“The next few years must be all about recovery from coronavirus, and that should be the entire focus for the Scottish Government.”