SNP members must ‘keep the faith’ over independence

Ian Blackford will issue a call for unity at the SNP conference on Sunday.

SNP members must ‘keep the faith’ over independence Getty Images

SNP members must “keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith” as they push for independence, the party’s Westminster leader will tell its conference.

Addressing the online event on Sunday, Ian Blackford will issue a call for unity, mirroring a similar message from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon the previous day.

The goal of the party, he will say, is to elect “an independence majority” at the 2021 Holyrood elections which will then hold a referendum on the country’s constitutional future.

Mr Blackford will look to rally the party faithful in his speech, the day after a rift between one of his MPs and the leadership grew wider.

In an interview with the Times on Saturday, Joanna Cherry called for an end to the “cult of leader” at the top of the party – whether it’s Alex (Salmond) or Nicola, or anyone else” – to be replaced with a more “collegiate” approach to internal debates including how best to accelerate Scottish independence.

The MP said that a working group should be formed to discuss routes to Scotland’s severing of ties with the UK, including a “plan B” if Westminster again blocks a vote on the matter.

“Our plan, our job and our focus is winning an independence majority at Holyrood next May. We have our candidates in place, we have momentum, and we have a leader our nation trusts,” Mr Blackford is expected to say.

“We have all come a long way – and we are now within touching distance of independence. But just as we have travelled all this way together – we can only complete this journey together.

“My message to all of us is this: Keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European – is now ours to win.”

Meanwhile, Mr Blackford is also expected to take aim at the UK Government’s handling of devolution, accusing Westminster of attempting to “bypass MSPs and ministers” with the Internal Market Bill.

The party’s Westminster leader will brand the legislation, which has been described as a “power grab” by parliamentarians in Scotland, as “the biggest threat to devolution since our parliament reconvened”.

According to UK ministers, the Bill will allow for free trade between the four nations after Brexit.

Mr Blackford will describe the UK Government “agenda” as “clear”.

“The Tories will seek to bypass democratically elected MSPs and ministers in Scotland.”

He added: “I suppose that’s what you get from a Prime Minister who was caught red handed calling Scottish devolution a ‘mistake’ and a ‘disaster’.

“As I told Boris Johnson in Westminster, it wasn’t a slip of the tongue – it was a slip of the Tory mask.”

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