Stephen Flynn has opened the SNP conference in Aberdeen with a message that his party is the only one offering “real change” in Scotland.
The SNP Westminster leader issued a plea for Scots to “put trust in themselves” and their future.
He admitted it had not been “an easy few weeks or few months” for the SNP.
Highlighting the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, he said there was “no point denying the defeat was humbling”.
But he said it was how his party responded now that mattered.
He added that it was when the SNP “listens and acts” that “Scotland always wins”.
The speech comes ahead of a key motion on independence strategy – signed by Flynn and Humza Yousaf – which will be voted on by SNP members on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking to an audience in Aberdeen, Flynn said the cost of living crisis was the price of staying in the union.
He said: “Skint, scunnered and Scottish? Blame the Tories. After 13 years of failure – through Brexit, through Boris, through 49 days of Liz Truss – we’re now left with the Tory billionaire of last resort – Rishi Sunak.”
He added: “I don’t know about you, but I for one am tired of this false debate that says we either focus on independence or on the cost of living crisis,” he said.
“The cost of living crisis is a direct consequence of the constitutional status quo.
“Unfair, unequal – broken, backwards, Brexit Britain is the very reason why people can’t afford to pay their bills.
“It is the cost of living with Westminster.”
Flynn said his party had to put it to Scots that “constitutional change is the only way you get real change”.
He told the conference: “We need to put it to people that if you believe that every drop of Scotland’s energy should be used for the benefit of the Scottish people – if you believe in energy independence – then we are the party of real change.
“If you believe in economic growth – that our energy-rich country is perfectly positioned to reap the rewards of revenues and jobs from the green energy gold rush – then we are the party of real change.
“If you believe in a Scottish Parliament that doesn’t just mitigate against poverty – but believe in an independent parliament that can eradicate poverty for good – then we are the party of real change.
“If you believe employment law, the power to protect working rights and trade unions, should be shaped in the Scottish Parliament – then we are the party of real change.
“If you believe that our economy, our society, our future would be better back home in the European Union – then we are the party of real change.
“And if you believe that independence is normal and needed now more than ever – then we are the party of real change.
“This is our vision. Its greatest strength is that it will always, always, always be bigger, bolder and beyond anything those parties backing Brexit Britain can ever offer.
“It is the unfinished business of the independence movement.
“It is the real change that the Scottish people are crying out for.
“Let’s regroup, renew and give Scotland’s people the chance to vote for what they believe in. An independent Scotland.”
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