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Scotland needs independence “more than ever before”, SNP depute leader Keith Brown declared as he hit out at Boris Johnson and his “nasty party”.
Mr Brown launched a fierce attack on the Conservative Prime Minister as he insisted the Tories would fail in attempts to deny Scots a second referendum.
He condemned the Westminster Government over issues such as the damage caused by Brexit and plans to cut Universal Credit.
And following the SNP’s fourth consecutive victory in the Holyrood elections, he told supporters that “independence day” was now “drawing ever closer”.
KB: "The months ahead will be some of the most important in Scotland’s history.
It’s time to come together as a party and a movement; to prepare for the referendum on independence – and to win it.
Thank you." #SNP21
— The SNP (@theSNP) September 10, 2021
Speaking at the start of the SNP’s national conference, Mr Brown told activists: “The months ahead will be some of the most important in Scotland’s history.
“It’s time to come together as a party and a movement, to prepare for the referendum on independence.”
His comments come just days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government had restarted work on preparing a detailed prospectus for independence.
However, Mr Brown stressed that making the case for leaving the UK could not just be left to the Scottish Government, as he urged everyone in the party to “reach out for indy”.
He challenged activists to redouble their efforts, telling the party’s 120,000 members that if they could all persuade one undecided voter to back them in a referendum “our collective dream of independence will not take just a giant leap forward, it will be guaranteed”.
He told the conference – which is taking place virtually – that the result of May’s Scottish Parliament elections had “delivered a cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum”.
The SNP increased the number of MSPs it has at Holyrood to 64 in that vote, while a record result for the Scottish Green Party means the majority of elected representatives there support independence.
Mr Brown insisted that the Conservatives could not “deny the expressed democratic will of the people of Scotland”.
He insisted: “An independence referendum is exactly what we will have.”
While he stressed that leading Scotland safely through the coronavirus pandemic remained the top priority of both the First Minister and her government, Mr Brown said the SNP was now “stepping up the pace” on work to win independence.
This comes as the Covid-19 vaccination programme and “hard work of those delivering the vaccines” means that “Scotland is returning to some kind of normality”.
But he claimed that while the SNP was working to lead Scotland through the pandemic, under Mr Johnson the “nasty party is well and truly back at Westminster”.
Hitting out at the Tories, Mr Brown said: “Boris Johnson’s Tory Government are dragging their heels on a refugee resettlement scheme while families in Afghanistan are left abandoned.
“They made a U-turn on free school meals only because this callous Tory Government was shamed into a rethink by Marcus Rashford.
“And almost unbelievably, they are still intent on cutting the lifeline £20-per-week increase to Universal Credit that thousands of working families in Scotland rely upon.
“I say almost unbelievably because we have all learned to our cost that there is nothing that Johnson’s sleaze-ridden, shambles of a Government isn’t prepared to do.”
And he added: “Scotland needs independence from Westminster now more than ever before.”