Five highlights of the SNP party conference

Over 3,000 members joined the party’s first-ever online conference to hear speeches on tackling poverty, a green pandemic recovery and sharp criticism of Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon

As the SNP’s three-day party conference wraps up today, the emphasis was very much on building a better Scotland — through a renewed push for independence. Over 3,000 members joined the party’s first-ever online conference to hear speeches on tackling poverty, a green pandemic recovery and sharp criticism of Westminster. Here’s the highlights:

  1. Winter income pledge for low income families

Addressing the conference today, Nicola Sturgeon will announce a £100 million winter fund to support low income households, including a £100 direct payment for families of children in receipt of free school meals. Funds will also go to help pay fuel bills, support for the homeless and to prevening loneliness amongst the old in winter.

The First Minister will say that the pandemic has shown that problems such as deep-seated poverty inequality should no longer be accepted as ‘inevitable or insoluble’. But she will remind attendees that the Scottish parliament is working with ‘one hand behind its back’ as Boris Johnson and Westminster control most of the Scottish security system.

Sturgeon will stress that they can’t wait for Scotland to become independent to start ‘doing the right things now,’ and it expected to add: “Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.

2. Year-round free school meals for all of Scotland’s primary school children

Deputy First John Swinney announced at the conference that all primary pupils will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch throughout the year if the SNP wins re-election in May. The program, which will be implemented from August 2022, is in stark contrast with Westminster’s bitter fight (and eventual capitulation) against Macus Rashford’s campaign to feed poor children.

‘Hunger doesn’t take a holiday, so neither can we,’ said Swinney.

3. Time to ‘reset’ society through independence

Shona Robinson MSP told the conference that the Social Justice Fairness Commission has set out to ‘build a case for independence’ showing that ‘with full powers’, Scotland can ‘tackle poverty and create

Neil Gray MP said that Scots faced the choice of two futures, ‘Brexit Britain with austerity on stilts’ or ‘building a good, fairer, wellbeing society with independence’.

Several speakers went on to condemn the Tories’ decision to cut foreign aid during a crisis that hit some of the worlds ‘most vulnerable’ communities.

A motion was passed which affirmed Scotland’s right to hold an independence referendum, arguing that things were ‘materially different’ since 2014, including Scotland’s place in Europe and Westminster’s ‘contempt’ for the Scottish Parliament.

4. Tories have no regard for have no regard for will of Scottish people or devolution

In a blistering speech, Ian Blackford said that the clear majority of Scottish people now supporting independence had the Tories ‘in a panic’.

“Instead of listening to the will of the Scottish people, the Tories are attempting to deny democracy and destroy devolution,” added the SNP House of Commons leader.

“Because we are wise enough to know what ultimately happens to those who rage against democracy. We only need to look across the Atlantic to see.”

The MP condemned Rishi Sunak’s spending review, which he said exposed the government’s ‘twisted priorities’ and laid the ground for more austerity and unemployment.

“The plan is set, the path is before us. The chance to choose an independent future for Scotland is coming. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European. It is now ours to win,” he added.

Blackford further pledged that in the event of indepence, ‘every single’ weapon of the Trident nuclear programme would be removed from Scotland.

5. A green covid recovery plan

Members backed a motion committing the party to delivering a green recovery from the pandemic and continuing its progress towards achieving Scotland’s net zero targets. Passed by conference delegates, the resolution calls on the Scottish government to prioritise the global climate crisis while continuing to fight the coronavirus.

It emphasized decarbonising homes, bringing forward a ban on fossil fueled cars and vans to 2030, prioritising walking and cycling routes and making public transport more accessible.

SNP delegates further backed calls for a drive to tackle health inequalities, including expansion of emergency mental health support in Scotland. Also backed Scottish government’s intention to establish a National Care Service.

All speakers praised Sturgeon’s leadership throughout the pandemic and condemned the Tory government’s both overall response and treatment of devolved nations. The theme seemed to be a clear choice between the current state of play and a possible fairer, greener more hopeful future as an independent country.

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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