Nicola Sturgeon: I intend to be first minister for quite some time
Nicola Sturgeon has told the SNP conference in Aberdeen she intends to be first minister “for quite some time yet”.
The SNP leader has previously suggested that she might not lead her party into the next Scottish Parliament election.
She told delegates that “aggressive unionism” was undermining Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK.
And she said a new fund would deliver £20bn of investment over the first decade of independence.
With detail to be announced in a Scottish Government paper to be published next week, Sturgeon said the Building a New Scotland Fund was part of proposals 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”.
This week the Supreme Court will consider a referral from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain on whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for a second independence referendum.
Sturgeon has said that if the legal route fails, her party will go into the next general election using it as a de facto referendum on independence.
She told the conference that the “arc of history” was moving in the direction of an independent Scotland.
But she urged her party to “speak less to each other and more to those outside our ranks”.
She said leaving the UK was about “recasting our relationship as one of equals”.
She said: “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.”
She said following independence, there would be a new “partnership of the isles”.
The SNP leader has said she will “never, ever give up on Scottish democracy” ahead of two days of Supreme Court hearings on her government's indyref2 bid.
The first minister has announced 19 October 2023 as her preferred date for an advisory vote on the constitution, after including a commitment to a fresh referendum in the SNP's Holyrood elections manifesto. Judges will now determine whether or not the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for this.
Sturgeon said the hearing “wouldn't be necessary” if Westminster had “any respect at all for Scottish democracy”.
The SNP will respect the rule of law if the court finds against the argument, she said, adding: “I will never, ever give up on Scottish democracy”.
Encouraging members to “speak more to those outside our ranks”, she said: “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.”
Sturgeon announced that two further fast track cancer diagnosis centres will open next year in the Borders and Lanarkshire.
Addressing delegates in Aberdeen, Sturgeon said that city should become “the net zero capital of the world”.
And she announced that the Scottish Government will “help put food on the Christmas table for families of 145,000 children and young people” by doubling the final “bridging payment” made to those not yet receiving the Child Payment.
Originally set at £130, the higher £260 sum will be paid in the next few weeks to households with children in receipt of free school meals, ahead of the extension of the Scottish Government benefit.
And she said: “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 £500m Just Transition Fund for this region. Today I can announce the first 22 projects have just been awarded funding of more than £50m.
“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.”
Sturgeon accused Labour of "cowering" and being "willing to chuck Scotland under the wheels of Boris Johnson's Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street".
The SNP leader said Scottish voters "don't determine who gets to occupy number 10" and "the problem is not just which party is in power at Westminster, the problem is Westminster".
Responding to Sturgeon's speech, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: "She had the chance to set out a vision to use the power already in her hands to deal with the problems facing Scotland, instead she doubled down on the politics of division.
"But it isn't another divisive referendum that will get Scotland back on track, it’s politicians focused on dealing with what actually matters.
"No amount of spin can hide the SNP’s disastrous governance of this country – or its dangerous stewardship of the NHS."
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, which campaigns for the status quo, said: "Nicola Sturgeon said she won’t give up on Scottish democracy, but she did exactly that in 2014 and has been doing so ever since.
"Had the SNP respected the result of the decisive referendum vote, Scotland could have moved on and focused on the things that really matter.
"Instead, the First Minister has spent a huge chunk of her keynote conference speech agitating again for the break-up of the United Kingdom, dragging us back into a toxic and divisive debate.
"It’s time for the SNP to listen to Scotland. Scotland is the UK, and our positive future is very much together."
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