Saturday, 15 November 2014

Say hello, wave goodbye

Day 1 of the SNP conference, and the two major topics being reported are Alex Salmond's farewell speech as leader and whether Nicola Sturgeon will call for another referendum on independence.

Mr Salmond's speech was something of a barnstormer,   He reviewed his time as leader of the SNP, citing successes such as free education, the council tax freeze, the introduction of the living wage and the efforts to protect Scots from the bedroom tax.  He reviewed the referendum, and excoriated the Labour party and its role in it.  He praised Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney, citing the latter as 'the only finance minister in Europe to balance the budget'.  He also gave a clear warning to Westminster that the issue of Scottish independence has not gone away, and that any attempt to renege on their promises made in the Vow would result in 'Scotland taking matters into its own hands'.  (Anyone else detect a hint of a potential UDI in that?)  At the end of the speech he received a seven minute standing ovation.

In her first speech as leader Nicola Sturgeon laid out her priorities as leader.  First and foremost she wants to see the promised powers delivered to Scotland.  To ensure this, the SNP needs a strong showing at the Westminster elections in May 2015, something which looks very likely according to the latest polls.  She also said the gaining independence for Scotland was one of the top three priorities for the SNP, but that Yes activists should not look for another referendum in the near future, and that independence could only be won by persuasion such that the next referendum would be successful in gaining a majority for independence.  However, she does see the scenario where England votes to leave the EU while Scotland does not as a possible trigger for another referendum.

Looking through some of the comment threads on this, it's quite amazing how hostile a substantial number of people are to the thought of another referendum and of Scottish independence.  One would have to wonder what it is they fear, given that those same people are generally the ones trotting out the 'subsidy junkie' jibes and loudly proclaiming how Scotland could never manage alone.

Both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon declared that they are in favour of Yes activists standing under the SNP banner at the general election, which would suggest that a formal Yes Alliance is not on the cards.

Party conferences are very much about preaching to the converted, and both speakers were greeted with rapturous applause.  However, the overall impression from the party conference is one of a party in buoyant, confident mood, quite the opposite of what many of their opponents expected following the referendum defeat.  We definitely live in interesting times.

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