Conference speech

Conference. The over-riding goal of independence must dominate our discussions and policy debates from now on. We do our cause a disservice if we indulge in minority interests at this point in our journey. And we have much to debate and decide.

The resolution declares and I quote “in an independent Scotland we can decide for ourselves how to rebuild our economy and society with the use of all the economic levers available to independent nations.” That is true. But because it is true it does not make it easy. We have much work to do, and the party has not been doing enough of it of late.

The world we are in is facing huge uncertainty and change. We are not merely being affected by a pandemic, nor just by the added burden of a Brexit we didn’t vote for; we also face a climate emergency, a huge demographic challenge with a shrinking working age population and massive and accelerating technological changes affecting all aspects of our economy and society. All of these conspire to create a world of greater uncertainty and change than any generation has ever faced before. It calls for new economic and social strategies where uncertainty is understood and accommodated. None of this can be tackled by simplistic solutions however temporarily fashionable, let alone by the approaches of the past. There is not a single nation on the planet that has fully come to terms with the extent of change that humanity now faces. But it is nations that can be flexible and fleet of foot that will do best. Small nations like Scotland.

And amidst all this we need to plan not just policy responses, but we need a transition strategy. In some respects this is the biggest missing link in our armoury. For example, we need to repurpose every public sector organisation and scope out a complete institutional architecture for independence; we need plans for an independence focused Scottish civil service, and establish a diplomatic presence at the United Nations; we need to encourage much more innovation across all sectors of society.

These are huge challenges. But they are the challenges I have been campaigning to face for over 50 years. They are the challenges of building a new Scotland. So let us mobilise all the talents in our party, not ignore them. Let us focus relentlessly from now on on independence. And above all, let us do the work and be prepared for our victory.

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