Can I thank the National Secretary for overseeing the ballot and our team at Headquarters for their efforts throughout this process.
It is hard to find the words to describe just how honoured I am to be entrusted by the membership of the SNP to be our Party’s next leader, and to be on the cusp of being our country’s next First Minister.
Can I begin by paying tribute to my colleagues, Kate and Ash.
During almost 20 hustings it probably felt like we saw more of each other than we did our respective partners. You both have put in an incredible shift, and I know you will continue to work hard as part of Team SNP.
I am not just humbled, of that I most certainly am, I also feel like the luckiest man in the world to be standing here as Leader of the SNP, a party I joined almost 20 years ago and that I love so dearly.
Friends, the late John Smith got it absolutely right when he said, “The opportunity to serve our country, is all we ask”.
To serve my country as First Minister will be the greatest privilege and honour of my life, should Parliament decide to elect me as Scotland’s next First Minister tomorrow.
And just as I will lead the SNP in the interests of all party members, not just those who voted for me, so I will lead Scotland in the interests of all our citizens whatever your political allegiance.
If elected as your First Minister after tomorrow’s vote in Parliament, know that I will be a First Minister for all of Scotland, that I will work every minute of every day to earn and re-earn your respect and your trust.
I will do that by treating you, the people of Scotland with respect.
There will be no empty promises, no easy soundbites when the issues in front of us are difficult and complex, because government is not easy and I won’t pretend it is.
My immediate priority will be to continue to protect every Scot as far as we can from the harm inflicted by the cost of living crisis, to recover and reform our NHS and other vital public services, to support our wellbeing economy and to improve the life chances of people across our country.
I will move quickly to develop plans to extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small business, and boost innovation.
I will bring forward reforms of the criminal justice system and work with local government to empower our local authorities.
And as First Minister I will not shy away from the tough challenges, those that require the difficult decisions, but where there is that challenge, I will use it to find opportunity.
My government will seize the economic and social opportunities of the journey to Net Zero, a country as energy rich as Scotland should not have people living in fuel poverty.
The Government I lead will renew and redouble our efforts to lift people out of poverty, to make work fair and make our economy work for people, and to ensure as we become a more prosperous country we also become a fairer country.
And while I have had my fair share of battles with the UK Government over the years, and there may well be some more to come. I will work with them, and with other devolved nations constructively where I can in the best interests of our nation.
I am a proud Scot, and equally a proud European too, and Scotland is a European nation.
We want to return to the European Union and play our part in building a continent based on human rights, peace, prosperity and social justice
To the people of Scotland, the SNP has earned your trust by governing well, by ensuring that our priorities are your priorities.
As a Party, and a Government, we are at our best when we are radical and bold and the challenges we face today require nothing less of us.
That is what I promise the people of Scotland if Parliament puts its trust in me tomorrow.
“We will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.”
Newly-elected SNP leader Humza Yousaf says "the people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before" – after winning the party's leadership contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon. pic.twitter.com/sqH94HSB9I
Joining the SNP, for me, was an act of hope and also statement of intent.
I was determined then, as I am now, as the 14th leader of this great party, that we will deliver independence for Scotland – together as a team.
Leadership elections by their nature can be bruising, however, in the SNP we are a family.
Over the last five weeks we may have been competitors or supporters of different candidates, but from today – we are no longer team Humza, Ash or Kate, we are one team, and we will be the team, we will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.
Where there are divisions to heal we must do so and do so quickly because we have a job to do and as a Party we are at our strongest when we are united, and what unites is our shared goal of delivering independence for our nation.
BREAKING: Humza Yousaf has won the SNP leadership contest and is set to be named as Scotland's new first minister, replacing Nicola Sturgeon.
To those in Scotland who don’t yet share the passion I do for independence, I will aim to earn your trust by continuing to govern well, and earn your respect as First Minister by focussing on the priorities that matter to us all, and in doing so using our devolved powers to absolute maximum effect to tackle the challenges of the day.
For those of us who do believe in independence, we will only win by making the case on the doorsteps.
My solemn commitment to you is that I will kickstart our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in 5th gear.
The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers it.
Before concluding, I want to take this opportunity to thank some very special people. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for the support, encouragement and hard work of a number of people.
First of all, there is my amazing wife Nadia.
She is not just my rock, she is my compass who helps guide me through the most difficult of times. There is no way I would be here if it was not for your love, your support and the advice you give me, thank you for believing in me and always being there for me. I love you more than I can ever find words.
To my girls, you are my everything, and while this job at times will be all-consuming, know that the most important job in my life is being your dad. To Maya and Amal, you will always come first.
To my mum, dad and sisters, thank you for your unwavering support throughout my life, for picking me up when I have been down, and for telling me to keep going when at times I had my doubts.
I would also like to thank my phenomenal campaign team, who have worked day and night over the last few weeks to support me, you have all sacrificed time with your families and friends because, like me, you believe in our vision of a progressive, socially just Scotland. I will not let you down.
A special mention to Neil Gray. He is quite simply the best corner man I could have asked for. During the rollercoaster of emotion that is any leadership contest, you have been by my side every step of the way and I would not have made it over the finish line without your support.
And to Shona Robison, your wise counsel has been indispensable during this contest.
To our now former Leader Nicola Sturgeon and her Deputy in government John Swinney.
Thank you for your dedicated service to this party, this country and all its people. You have left me strong foundations to build on.
And thanks, too, to my colleagues in both parliaments, across local government and activists around the country who have been so supportive and encouraging. I will ensure I harness the talent across the Party and the country as I build the team that will take Scotland forward and deliver our nation’s independence.
From our brilliant MPs, ably led by Stephen Flynn and Mhairi Black in Westminster to our leaders in Local Government, as well as he exceptional group of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, our Party has enormous talent right throughout its ranks.
Our parliamentarians, our councillors, our activists and our members all have a vital part to play on our journey to independence, as do our friends across the independence movement.
To have your confidence as I take on the role of SNP Leader means so much.
My final thanks is to my grandparents, who unfortunately are no longer alive to see this day. I am forever thankful that my grandparents made the trip from the Punjab to Scotland over 60 years ago.
As immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next First Minister of Scotland.
As Muhammad Yousaf worked in the Singer Sewing Machine Factory in Clydebank, and as Rehmat Ali Bhutta stamped tickets on the Glasgow Corporation Buses, they couldn’t have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that two generations later their grandson would one day be Scotland’s First Minister.
We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message, that your colour of skin, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home.
From the Punjab to our Parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us that we should celebrate migrants who contribute so much to our country.
It is what drives my commitment to equality that will underpin my actions as First Minister.
Thank you for the honour of choosing me to be your nominee to become Scotland’s 6th First Minister. I will dedicate every waking moment to serving you, the people of Scotland.
‘Scotland has got what it takes to be a successful independent country.’
It is so good to be speaking at Conference in person again, rather than virtually.
Getting to hug friends and colleagues is so much better.
Our political family – Scotland’s biggest party by far – is together again.
And that feels great.
The only downside of not being on zoom is having to trade my slippers for these heels.
But I suppose I can’t have everything.
Of course, it is always good to be here in Aberdeen.
Especially now that the SNP is once again leading this great city.
Aberdeen and the North East is at the heart of our just transition to a net zero future.
Since our late Queen – whose extraordinary life of service we have honoured in recent weeks – switched on the Forties pipeline in 1975, oil and gas has powered the Scottish economy.
Her late Majesty, back then, inaugurated the oil and gas age.
As we move now – in so many ways – into a new era, we have a duty to repay all those who work in that industry.
A duty to support them into new jobs in green energy.
An opportunity to usher in the new age of Scottish renewables.
Aberdeen is the oil and gas capital of Europe.
Let us resolve today to make it the net zero capital of the world.
That ambition led us to establish the £500 million Just Transition Fund for this region.
Today I can announce the first 22 projects have just been awarded funding of more than £50 million.
These projects will support the production of green hydrogen;
The development of wave and tidal technology.
And even pioneer the use of waste from whisky to recycle EV batteries;
They will focus on the skills our existing workforce need to take advantage of the renewables revolution.
Incredible Scottish ingenuity here in the North-East, supported by the Scottish Government, developing technologies to tackle the global climate emergency.
It is exciting, inspiring stuff.
And it is a shining example of what a Scottish Government can do when the powers lie in our hands.
When we last gathered together – just weeks from the start of a global pandemic – we could not have imagined what lay ahead.
Thankfully, Covid no longer dominates the news, or our thoughts, quite as much as it did.
But the virus still poses a risk – especially as we approach winter.
So, before I go any further today, a plea:
If you are eligible, get your booster jag.
Vaccination is just as important now as it was last winter.
If you don’t do it for yourself – though you should – do it for those more vulnerable than you.
And, please, do it for the National Health Service.
We owe the NHS – and all who work in it – a massive debt of gratitude.
All of us hoped that when the worst of the pandemic was over, better times would lie ahead.
Thanks to the brilliance of vaccine scientists, and the sheer strength of the human spirit, I am certain those better days will come.
But in the midst of a cost of living crisis, it won’t surprise you to hear me talk today about the challenges we face:
And about the massive responsibility of me, and my government, to help you through it.
As we navigate these stormy waters, Scotland needs a steady and compassionate hand on the tiller.
That is what our Scottish Government provides.
But today I will also make the case for optimism.
For not just accepting the world as it is.
But turning our minds and our hearts instead to building a stronger Scotland and playing our part in building a better, fairer world.
The optimism that a better world is possible is inspired, for me, by the bravery of those who endure the toughest of times.
And at home by the knowledge that this beautiful, magnificent country of ours is bursting with talent, creativity and ingenuity…
We also have a sense of solidarity and common purpose that our political debate can sometimes obscure.
Scotland has got what it takes to be a successful independent country.
It has it in abundance.
Never let anyone tell us otherwise.
At this moment, across the world that better future can be hard to see – eclipsed, as it is, by significant and profound challenges.
A war of unprovoked aggression on our continent.
An energy price crisis and soaring inflation.
Democratic norms eroded and human rights attacked in too many countries.
In the face of that, we have a duty to champion progressive values and universal rights.
That is a duty our party will always discharge.
But in the UK we have a Westminster Government intent on taking us down a different path.
The current Home Secretary, speaking at the Conservative Party conference, said this about asylum seekers –
And even as I quote her, I struggle to comprehend that she actually said these words. But here they are:
“I would love to be having a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.”
My dream is very different.
I am sure it is shared in this hall and by the vast majority across Scotland.
My dream is that we live in a world where those fleeing violence and oppression are shown compassion and treated like human beings…
Not shown the door and bundled on to planes like unwanted cargo.
Our case for hope and optimism rests – above all – on our common humanity.
Compassion. Solidarity. Love.
These values sustained us in the darkest days of the pandemic.
They must drive us forward now.
Those fighting across the globe for democracy, equality and human dignity must hear that they are not alone.
So let the message go out from us to everyone across the world standing up against tyranny and oppression.
We stand with you.
To women in Iran fighting for basic human rights. We stand with you.
To girls in Afghanistan demanding the right to go to school. We stand with you.
To men and women risking their lives in opposition to Putin in Russia, or his sidekick in Belarus.
We stand with you.
And to the people of Ukraine – fighting for your very existence.
We stand with you.
Today we live on a continent where a so-called strong man – though one who has never looked weaker or more insecure – has launched a brutal invasion of his neighbour.
That should be unimaginable in 21st century Europe.
But for the people of Ukraine it is all too real.
Every day there are atrocities and killings.
Today, the capital, Kyiv, and cities across the country are under renewed bombardment.
Despicable war crimes have been committed.
Let us be clear – these are war crimes for which Vladimir Putin must be held to account.
The contrast between Putin and the people of Ukraine could not be starker.
From President Zelensky to the sacrifice of ordinary citizens – personified here on Saturday by our guest Lesia Vasylenko – we have seen incredible bravery and extraordinary determination.
Ukraine – you are an inspiration to the world.
And we will always stand with you.
We are not on the front line of this war.
But Ukraine’s victory in the battle between democracy and tyranny is vital for all of us.
The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can to help.
We are helping enforce sanctions and isolate Russia.
We have provided funds for vital military equipment.
And we have opened Scotland’s doors to those displaced.
Initially, we committed to welcoming 3,000 people seeking refuge from the war.
I am pleased to say that we are now providing safety for more than 20,000.
To each and every one: our hearts go out to you.
We know you yearn to go home but for as long as you need a place of sanctuary, be in no doubt –
You have a home here in Scotland.
There are moments in history – as now, with Ukraine – when all of us must be prepared to make sacrifices to help defend fundamental freedoms.
But when global turbulence strikes, national governments have a duty to act in ways that mitigate, rather than exacerbate, the impacts on their own populations.
When it comes to the cost of living crisis – and so much else besides – this UK government is utterly failing in that duty.
Each and every day, its actions are making matters worse.
We last gathered together as a party in October 2019.
Back then, the Tories had just elected a new leader.
Westminster was in meltdown.
A new Prime Minister was driving through a disastrous policy agenda, despite warnings of its dire economic impact.
And here we are, all over again.
Another spin on the Tory misery-go-round.
This time the carousel is speeding up.
It took the Tories 3 years to realise Boris Johnson was a disaster.
With Liz Truss, it took them just three weeks.
She caused mayhem in the markets with her decision to borrow billions of pounds to fund tax cuts for the richest.
Borrowing to be repaid by eye watering austerity cuts and a raid on the incomes of the poorest.
It is unconscionable.
The Prime Minister’s justification is that she is going for growth.
Let me tell you what kind of growth that will be.
Growth in the gap between rich and poor.
Growth in the rates of poverty.
Growth in the pressure on our NHS and other public services.
And, without any doubt –
Growth in the deep disgust the public feel for all of it.
The truth is massive hand-outs for the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else do nothing for the economy.
All they do is turbo-charge inequality.
No SNP Government will ever inflict on Scotland such an immoral, self-defeating disaster of a policy.
Instead we will continue to use our powers and resources to help those most in need.
Not as an act of charity – but in our collective interest.
Here is what I stand for. What we stand for.
Not hoping, against all evidence to the contrary, that wealth will suddenly and magically start trickling down.
But instead lifting people up so they can contribute their full potential.
That is the SNP’s founding principle for a stronger economy.
I am proud of the work the Scottish Government is doing to tackle child poverty.
The Scottish Child Payment is unique in the United Kingdom.
It is paid to eligible families with children up to age six.
It started at 10 pounds per week.
At Conference last year, I announced we would double it to twenty.
Five weeks from today we will increase it again, to 25 pounds a week.
Vital financial help for more than 100,000 children, delivered in time for Christmas.
On the same day we increase the Payment, we will also extend it to families with children up to age 16.
I know I’m biased, but I think that’s the sign of a government with the right priorities.
But we need to do more because we know this winter is going to be really tough.
Rather than looking forward to Christmas, too many families will be dreading it.
Dreading it because they don’t know if they can afford to heat their homes or even pay for food.
As part of our help to the poorest families over the last year, we have made quarterly “bridging payments” of £130.
These have gone to children and young people in receipt of free school meals, but who don’t qualify for the Child Payment.
Today I can announce that the final instalment – ahead of the extension of the Child Payment and due in the next few weeks – will not be £130.
We will double it to £260.
That will help put food on the Christmas table for families of 145,000 children and young people.
I don’t pretend it will make all of their worries go away – no government with our limited powers can ever do that.
But I hope this investment of almost £20 million will bring a bit of Christmas cheer to those who need it most.
We have used the powers of our Parliament to deliver the unique child payment
Last Thursday, we took further action to help combat the cost of living crisis.
The Scottish Government’s emergency Bill to protect tenants was passed by Parliament.
The result: a rent freeze in operation in Scotland over the winter until at least the end of
March next year.
But as we have acted to help those in need, what about the UK Government?
It is difficult to overstate the calamity of their actions.
Back in 2014, the Westminster establishment told us it was the UK’s standing in the world;
its economic strength; and its stability that made independence impossible.
Now they say it’s the UK’s isolation, its weakness and instability – the very conditions they created – that means change can’t happen.
As far as Westminster is concerned, it’s heads they win, tails we lose.
And what that is delivering for Scotland is –
Homeowners facing real hardship.
And hundreds of thousands in poverty.
That is not strength and stability.
It is chaos and catastrophe.
All of that is on the Tories.
But we should remember that their ability to do it is has too often been aided and abetted by Labour.
In 2014, Labour joined forces with the Tories.
They said then that Westminster Tory government was better for Scotland than self- government.
And incredibly they’re doing it all over again.
It wasn’t easy to understand back then.
But given everything that has happened since, it is utterly inexplicable now.
Imposed on Scotland against our will – and doing real, lasting damage to our interests, our economy and our young people.
Labour is now just as committed to Brexit – a hard Brexit – as the Tories.
At least the Tories believe in it.
Yet, rather than make the principled argument – which they could now win in England – they cower away from it.
They abandon all principle for fear of upsetting the apple cart.
Bluntly – they are willing to chuck Scotland under Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street.
Letting down Scotland.
Same old Labour.
For Scotland, there is a fundamental democratic issue here.
And it has real-life consequences.
Whether it’s Tory or Labour; Labour or Tory.
It’s not us who gets to decide.
Our votes don’t determine who gets to occupy number 10.
For Scotland, the problem is not just which party is in power at Westminster.
The problem is Westminster.
And to fix that…
To make sure we get the governments that the largest number of us vote for –
Always, not just occasionally;
For that, my friends, we need Scotland’s independence.
Independence is not a panacea – for any nation – but it is about hope for a better future.
We all want Scotland to be a country in which no child goes to bed hungry.
A place where everyone can afford to heat their home;
Where our vast energy resources benefit all who live here, and help save the planet.
None of that should be radical.
But it must be the foundation of everything we aspire to.
For as long as I am First Minister, my job – our job – is not done.
For as long as I am First Minister, I will do everything in my power to build the better Scotland we all want to see.
I know some people ask – and it is not an illegitimate question – why propose a referendum in the midst of a cost of living crisis?
The answer is in the question – the answer is the cost of living crisis.
It is the Tory response to it.
It is the financial chaos.
And it is the damage of Brexit.
All of that is laying bare, each and every day, the harm being done to people in Scotland because we are not independent.
Over the next two days the Supreme Court will consider whether the current law allows the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an advisory referendum.
If Westminster had any respect at all for Scottish democracy, this court hearing wouldn’t be necessary.
But Westminster has no such respect.
That means this issue was always destined to end up in court, sooner or later.
Better, in my view, that it is sooner.
If the Court decides in the way we hope it does, on 19 October next year, there will be an independence referendum.
And if the court doesn’t decide that way?
First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law.
And as a party – and a movement – we will, of course, reflect.
But fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice.
Put our case for independence to the people in an election…
Or give up on Scottish democracy.
I don’t know about you – actually I suspect I do…
But I will never – ever – give up on Scottish democracy.
For now, the question of process – the ‘how’ of securing independence – is in the hands of judges.
It is for us to crack on with answering the question ‘why’.
Polls last week show that support for independence is rising.
But remember, polls are just momentary snapshots in time. They go up and down.
Much more significant are the findings of the latest British Social Attitudes survey.
Ten years ago, support for independence was at 23 per cent.
Five years ago, 45 per cent.
Now – in that gold standard measure of public opinion – support for independence stands at 52 pc.
As we know, it is even higher amongst young people.
So it is tempting, sometimes, to assume an inevitability about independence.
That the arc of history is moving firmly in its direction.
I hope and believe that will turn out to be true.
But we would be wrong – utterly wrong – to take it for granted.
Our job is to make the case and win the argument.
That means not just talking to ourselves, but reaching out to others not yet persuaded.
I remember in the 2014 campaign speaking at a public meeting in Leith.
It was jam-packed…
So busy, in fact, that the organisers asked those who had already decided to vote Yes to leave, so that those still undecided could hear the arguments.
That is the approach I want us to take now.
Though, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not asking you to get up and leave.
But I do want us to resolve today that, from here on, we will speak less to each other, and more to those outside our ranks.
I know that some watching at home will never be persuaded to vote Yes.
You oppose independence as strongly – and from as much principle – as we support it.
I respect that. That is democracy.
And please remember – whatever happens in future, Scotland belongs to you as much as it does to us.
Scotland belongs to all of us.
And for those who want to be convinced but still have questions and doubts…
It is our job to persuade, reassure and inspire.
One of the ironies of the independence debate, is that so many of the institutions that people associate with Britishness;
Institutions that have shaped our shared history;
Like the NHS, a fair social security system, public service broadcasting.
The threat to these institutions comes not from an independent Scotland.
But from UK Governments that are dismantling or undermining them.
With independence, we can do more to protect them.
Let’s take one of those institutions – our most precious public service.
The NHS is under enormous pressure right now.
It delivers outstanding care, within waiting time targets, for the vast majority of those who need it.
Today, I want us to pay tribute to each and every individual who works within it.
But the pressures on the NHS mean that – despite their dedication – too many people are waiting too long.
That is why we are delivering record investment.
And it is why we are doing everything we can to give our NHS workers a fair pay rise –
Because – conference – few in our society deserve it more.
Fast diagnosis and reliable, quality healthcare matters whatever your condition.
But it is especially important for those with cancer.
The best chance of surviving cancer remains early detection and treatment.
Over the past year, we have established three new fast-track cancer diagnostic centres – in
Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway and Fife.
They have already supported hundreds of patients.
More than one in seven were found to have cancer.
Around half of them were from the poorest parts of our country – so these centres are
helping tackle health inequality too.
Fast Track Cancer Diagnosis Centres work.
That’s why I’m delighted to confirm today that 2 more centres will open next year – one in the
Borders and one in Lanarkshire.
And by the end of this Parliament there will be a Fast Track Cancer Diagnosis Centre in
every heath board in Scotland.
That is just one example of how we are supporting our NHS.
That job is the most important our government has right now.
Management of the NHS is our responsibility.
It is no-one else’s.
But the fact is our ability to fund it properly depends on decisions taken at Westminster.
When they cut our budget, or when they crash our economy, that makes it harder for us to
protect the health service.
And if – as some Tories are now openly arguing – they move away from the very basis on
which it was founded and towards an insurance based alternative, that will destroy our NHS.
With independence that will never happen.
We will protect its founding principles.
With independence we could choose to embed a universal NHS in a written constitution.
A constitutional right to health care free at the point of need.
If the SNP is in government, that is exactly what we will do.
I know some see independence as turning our back on the rest of the UK.
It is not.
It is about recasting our relationship as one of equals.
Across these islands we share history, family connections and friendships.
These things matter just as much to supporters of independence as to anyone else.
In fact I’m willing to bet that the nations of these islands will work together even better with independence than we do now.
Scotland will still be a member of the British-Irish Council.
The difference is that – like the Republic of Ireland now – we will be there as an independent country.
You know, there is a point here that at first glance might seem curious.
But, in my view, it is becoming increasingly true.
Independence is actually the best way to protect the partnership on which the United Kingdom was founded.
A voluntary partnership of nations.
Right now – and make no mistake about this –
It is an aggressive unionism that is undermining that partnership.
Westminster’s denial of Scottish democracy;
Full frontal attacks on devolution;
A basic lack of respect;
If there is tension, that is what is causing it.
It is Scottish independence – a new partnership of the isles –
That can renew the whole idea of our nations working together for the common good.
England, Scotland, Wales, the island of Ireland.
We will always be the closest of friends. We will always be family.
But we can achieve a better relationship – a true partnership of equals – when we win Scotland’s independence.
I know that what gives many people most pause for thought on independence is the
People can see all too clearly now that the UK does not offer economic strength or financial security.
And yet still – and rightly – they want to know that independence will make Scotland’s
economy stronger not weaker.
That is fair – and especially now, entirely understandable.
Of course, it is equally fair to point out that so much of the uncertainty and crisis we face is not because of independence.
It is the opposite.
Once again it is because we are not independent.
Independence is not a miracle economic cure.
But let this message ring out today.
We can do better than this.
We can do so much better than this.
And let’s remember these three basic facts.
First, Scotland is not benefiting right now from the so-called ‘broad shoulders’ of the UK.
Second – and let there be no doubt about this –
We have got everything it takes to be a successful independent country.
Extraordinary resources, industries and talent in abundance.
And third, independence is not an untested idea.
Independence is normal.
For countries of Scotland’s size or even smaller, independence is an outstanding success.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government published evidence illustrating that point.
Listen now to these facts and then think of the untapped potential Scotland has.
Compared to the UK, these other countries with so many similarities to Scotland are –
They have higher productivity.
Lower poverty rates.
Lower child poverty…
And lower pensioner poverty.
They have higher social mobility.
They spend more on Research and Development.
They have higher business investment.
In short, these countries combine economic dynamism with social solidarity.
They are among the most successful societies the world has ever known.
And it is their success – not a failing UK economy – that Scotland should aim to match.
With independence, we won’t emulate that success overnight.
But the big, burning question is this:
If all of these countries can achieve all of that – why not Scotland?
I can confirm that one week today we will publish the next in our Building a New Scotland
series of papers.
It will make the economic case for independence.
It will set out how we can build a new, sustainable economy based on our massive
renewable energy resources.
It will show how in an energy rich, independent Scotland, we can deliver lower prices and
stronger security of supply.
And on energy, let me give this commitment.
Unlike our UK counterparts, the Scottish Government will not be issuing licences for
In the economic prospectus we will set out how in an independent Scotland we can secure
We will repeal Westminster’s anti trade union legislation.
We will end age discrimination for those on the minimum wage.
We will show how businesses can benefit from independence.
With EU membership they’ll be back inside the world’s biggest single market.
With a fairer migration policy and freedom of movement restored, they will have access to
workers from Europe and across the world.
They will have new opportunities to influence government policy through a social partnership approach.
In short, we will show how we can break with the low productivity, high inequality Brexit
based UK economy.
And use the full powers of independence to build an inclusive, fair, wellbeing economy that works for everyone.
An economy that works for everyone.
That is the prize of independence.
Moving to independence and making it work will, of course, take time, hard work and good
There will be many challenges along the way.
Our economic prospectus will be clear on these too.
If the past three weeks have taught us anything it is that a country’s fiscal and monetary
policy must be sustainable and command confidence.
We will not shy away from that.
Our approach to borrowing with the new powers of independence will be responsible and for
Let me give one example of that – a central proposal in the paper we will publish next week.
We propose to invest remaining oil revenues and use our borrowing powers, not to cut tax
for the richest, but to set up an independence investment fund.
The Building a New Scotland Fund will deliver up to £20 billion of investment in the first decade of independence.
In practical terms:
A fund like this could support a massive programme to decarbonise housing, cut fuel bills
and reduce fuel poverty.
It could finance the building of thousands more affordable homes.
Invest in local renewable energy projects, helping communities own assets and wield more
influence over their use.
It will help the transition to Net Zero.
Build resilient communities.
And kick-start the sustainable economic growth so important for our newly independent
Combining Scotland’s abundant resources with the powers of independence to benefit this
and future generations.
That is what independence is all about.
A week ago one of the most famous men in the history of the independence movement -–
Ian Hamilton – died at the ripe old age of 97.
As a young man in 1950, Ian – together with Kay Matheson, Gavin Vernon and Alan Stuart –
repatriated the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey.
He called it an “absolutely splendid adventure”.
I’m sure it was that.
But it was so much more besides.
In 1950 and, to be frank for years afterwards, independence must have seemed like an impossible dream.
All of us here today still have a big job still to do to win independence.
But we no longer face such impossible odds.
We are the independence generation. We are the inheritors of the cause kept alive by Ian Hamilton and his generation.
And I believe – firmly – that we will be the first, in the modern world, to live in an independent Scotland.
Let me tell you why I say that.
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a woman that summed up a question I think a lot of people have.
She said that she would like Scotland to be independent. She thought it would be good. But she also worried that getting there would be hard.
So her question was this – is it essential?
And that got me thinking.
For many people, like Ian, like all of us in this hall, we just believe it is right –
That Scotland could and should be an independent nation.
But is it essential?
Today, probably more than at any time in my life…
The answer to that question is yes.
Independence is essential.
It is essential to escape Westminster control and mismanagement.
Essential to get the governments we vote for.
To properly protect our NHS.
To build a new partnership of equals with the other nations on these islands.
It is essential if we want to be back in the European Union.
And it is essential if we want the people who live here to determine the future of this
The country that always tugs at our heartstrings.
The country that we all care so much about.
There are two things that we – the independence generation – must never, ever lose faith in.
They have sustained us in good times and bad, throughout all the years and decades.
First, is the fundamental right of the nation of Scotland to self-determination.
And the second is what history teaches us –
The overwhelming power of democracy to triumph.
The period ahead will see some of the greatest challenges our country has faced in many years.
But a great opportunity is also in sight. To win and build the better future we know is possible.
‘Scotland has got what it takes to be a successful independent country.’
A better future as an independent nation.
Welcoming, diverse, full of love and compassion.
In tough times, let us inspire with hope in our hearts.
Let us lift our eyes.
Put our shoulders to the wheel and build a better future for this and generations to come.
Today, we publish the first in a series of papers – “Building a New Scotland” – that will make afresh the case for Scotland becoming an independent country.
An independent country better able to chart our own course here at home and – as the outward looking nation we have always been – play our part in building a stronger, safer, better world.
Today, Scotland – like countries across the world – faces significant challenges.
But we also have huge advantages and immense potential.
The refreshed case for independence is about how we equip ourselves to navigate the challenges and fulfil that potential, now and in future.
In their day to day lives, people across Scotland are suffering the impacts of the soaring cost of living, low growth and increasing inequality, constrained public finances and the many implications of a Brexit we did not vote for.
These problems have all been made worse or, most obviously in the case of Brexit, directly caused by the fact we are not independent.
So at this critical juncture we face a fundamental question.
Do we stay tied to a UK economic model that consigns us to relatively poor economic and social outcomes which are likely to get worse, not better, outside the EU?
Or do we lift our eyes, with hope and optimism, and take inspiration from comparable countries across Europe?
Comparable neighbouring countries with different characteristics. Countries that, in many cases, lack the abundance of resources that Scotland is blessed with.
But all of them independent and, as we show today, wealthier and fairer than the UK
🔷️🏴🔷️ Watch live: 'Building a new Scotland.'
This is a UK government that has no respect for democracy.
And, as we saw again yesterday, it has no regard for the rule of law either.
That means – if we are to uphold democracy here in Scotland – we must forge a way forward, if necessary, without a section 30 order.
For the reasons I have set out, however, we must do so in a lawful manner.
We know that in these circumstances the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate is contested.
That is the situation we must navigate to give people the choice of independence.
That work is underway and while I do not intend to go further into the detail today, I can say that I hope to give a significant update to Parliament very soon.
The principles of democracy and the rule of law are fundamental.
They should unite all of us, regardless of our politics.
Indeed, democracy within the rule of law is how differences of political or constitutional opinion should always be resolved.
The fact that these principles are now so deeply disrespected and disregarded, day and daily in the UK, is itself an indication of how broken Westminster governance is.
It has become part of the argument for independence – and it is to that substantive case that I now return.
The choice people arrive at on independence must be an informed one.
The case we make must speak, not just to those who already support independence, but also – indeed even more so – to those not yet persuaded.
It is an obvious point but one that always bears repetition – Scotland will only become independent when a majority of those who live here vote for it.
It is in that spirit that we publish this first in the ‘Building a New Scotland’ series of papers.
Today we set the scene.
I can confirm that papers to come later in the series – and which are already in preparation – will include the issues of:
Currency, Scotland’s fiscal position and how with independence we can build a more sustainable economy and therefore stronger public finances, pensions and social security, EU membership and trade, and defence and security.
In these papers we will set out how Scotland can benefit from the opportunities that independence will present.
We will also confront the challenges. We will not shy away from tough questions.
We will address key issues relating to the transition from a yes vote to independence and the infrastructure that will be required for the governance of an independent country.
Of course, on that latter point, Scotland has already come a long way since 2014.
A great deal of nation building has been done.
Scotland now has our own tax and social security agencies, an independent fiscal commission and a national investment bank.
In other words, substantial parts of the infrastructure that an independent country would need, and which did not exist in 2014, are now in place.
Scotland now is even more prepared for independence than we were in 2014.
Of course, any case for change starts with an analysis of the status quo – and that is the purpose of the paper we are publishing today.
It is not difficult to list the many ways in which Westminster governance is currently failing Scotland and holding us back.
We have a Prime Minister with no democratic authority in Scotland, and no moral authority anywhere in the UK.
Brexit has ripped us out of the EU and the single market against our will, with massive damage to trade, living standards and public services.
Thanks to Brexit, the cost of living crisis is worse here than in any other G7 country – inflation in the UK is double that of France.
UK growth is now projected by the OECD to be the second lowest in the G20 next year – only sanctioned Russia will be worse.
The end of freedom of movement has left our businesses and public services struggling for workers.
It has also robbed young people of opportunity.
And, to compound all of that, we face the real risk of an EU trade war due to the UK government’s threat to breach international law over the Northern Ireland protocol.
That this is the same UK government that negotiated and signed the protocol – which is actually delivering significant economic benefit to Northern Ireland – only adds to the absurdity.
In short, the case for Scotland charting our own course – a better course – is strong and compelling.
But the evidence we set out today shows that this case does not just rest on recent or temporary developments.
In today’s paper we look in detail at 10 comparator countries – Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Finland.
The evidence is overwhelming that these countries – now and over time – perform better than the UK.
Compared to these countries, many of them smaller or similarly sized to us, Scotland – under Westminster control – is being held back.
With independence, we too would have the levers and the autonomy that these countries take for granted to help fulfil their potential.
Let’s look at the evidence presented today.
Every single one of these comparator countries is wealthier than the UK – and that wealth gap has been maintained over the long term.
All of these countries have greater income equality than the UK.
Poverty rates are lower in all of them – with fewer children living in poverty.
Most of them have a smaller gender pay gap.
All of them have higher social mobility.
And they have more productive and innovative economies too.
All of them have higher productivity.
Most of them spend more on research and development. Business investment is higher too.
The evidence set out in this paper is clear and unambiguous – all of these countries are wealthier, fairer and more productive than the UK.
And all of these countries are independent.
So as we look to the future the great question before us is this: if all these countries can use the powers of independence to create wealthier and fairer societies – why not Scotland?
With our vast energy resources, why not Scotland?
With our globally recognised record of innovation, invention and learning, why not Scotland?
With our exceptional food and drink industry, extraordinary natural heritage and strengths in advanced engineering and cutting edge industries of the future, why not Scotland?
Above all with the talent and potential of all the people who live here, why not Scotland?
Independence doesn’t guarantee success for any country – we should never pretend that it does.
But for Scotland, independence will put the levers that determine success into our own hands.
It will mean we can work in partnership with our friends in the rest of the UK – but not be subject to decisions of Westminster governments we don’t vote for and which are taking us in the wrong direction.
It will give us the ability – just like these other countries – to fulfil the vast potential we have and build the wealthier, fairer, happier country we know is possible.
That is the prize. Building a better nation – now and for the future.
That is the whole purpose of independence.
Grasping that prize will not be without challenge. Nothing worth doing ever is.
So in the months ahead we will set out in detail how we can make the transition to independence.
How we can navigate and overcome these challenges so that this precious prize – the opportunity of a better country – can be won.
Scotland – now and for the generations that come after us – deserves the very best.
This is the results page for the Scottish Parliament Elections held on the 6th of May 2021.
The SNP will form the next Scottish Government – a historic fourth consecutive win for the party.
Pro Independence parties also carried a majority of seats with the SNP and Greens winning 72 of the 129 seats in the parliament. Continue reading →
In the latest Scottish Elections Poll (released via The Scotsman and Savanta ComRes) predictions for the Scottish Parliament results in May show Independence supporting parties achieving a 19 seat majority at Holyrood. Continue reading →