Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that “independence works”, as she reaffirmed her pledge to hold a referendum by the end of 2023.
The First Minister, speaking at the SNP’s national conference, pointed to countries including Denmark and Ireland as evidence of successful independent nations.
And the SNP leader reaffirmed her aim to give people in Scotland the choice of independence “when the Covid crisis has passed”.
“For countries of Scotland’s size, independence works. Our neighbours in north-west Europe are wealthier than the UK. All of them,” she told the conference, being held virtually.
“They are more equal than the UK, they have lower levels of poverty, they have higher productivity, which drives better living standards, and, of course, they all get the governments they vote for.
“In measure after measure the evidence is overwhelming and conclusive – independence works.
“It works for Denmark, for Ireland, for Austria, for Norway, for Finland – and for so many others beside.
“These are disparate countries with different resources and economies. But independence works for all of them. With all our resources and talent, it will work for Scotland, too.”
The SNP leader also took aim at Holyrood’s opposition parties, accusing them of failing to learn the lessons from their electoral defeats.
“Honest reflection is important for any party, even after election success. It is especially important in the wake of heavy defeat. The SNP understood that after of our loss in 2003,” she said.
“We thought hard about the message voters had sent us, and what we had to do better to earn their trust. That’s why we were able to win in 2007.
“It utterly astonishes me, baffles me completely in fact, given the number and scale of their defeats, that Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats show absolutely no inclination to do likewise.
“Instead of adapting positions that voters have rejected time and again, they are doubling down and expecting voters to adapt to them.
“These parties demonstrate no sign at all of learning the lessons or making the changes necessary to move from opposition to government.”
Sturgeon suggested that the approach taken opposition parties is “utterly counter-productive”.
“On virtually every issue, we have opposition simply for the sake of opposition,” she continued.
“It’s not about achieving or improving anything, or even holding power to account. It is just about blocking the SNP at any cost.
“It is crude, it lacks principle or consistency and it is utterly counter-productive. The country deserves so much better than that.”
“The times we are living through and the challenges we face demand a better way of doing politics.”
Responding to the speech made by Sturgeon, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said there were “no new ideas to help Scots”.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s spin does nothing to tackle the levels of child poverty on our streets, the numbers waiting for treatment in our hospitals, and the depth of the economic crisis facing Scotland,” said Sarwar.
“We are up against a global pandemic, a growing healthcare crisis, a jobs crisis and a climate emergency – there is no time to waste.
“There were no new ideas to help Scots, just the same old rhetoric, slogans, and platitudes.
“Scotland deserves so much better than that.”
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron said the SNP Government looks “more tired by the day”.
“This speech – another one headlined by independence – might work wonders with the extreme elements of the nationalist base. But it does nothing for Scotland,” he said.
“At some stage, Nicola Sturgeon is going to have to find something new to say.
“We are building Scotland’s real alternative to an SNP Government that looks more tired by the day.”