Leader's address

Sturgeon pledges £20bn fund to ‘build Scotland’

Nicola Sturgeon: spoke of the ‘prize of independence’

Nicola Sturgeon today announced that under independence the Scottish Government would invest £20 billion over a decade through a new investment fund.

Using remaining oil revenues and new borrowing powers it would support a massive programme to decarbonise housing, cut fuel bills, reduce fuel poverty and finance the building of thousands more affordable homes.

The Building a New Scotland Fund would also invest in local renewable energy projects, helping communities own assets and wield more influence over their use.

“Combining Scotland’s abundant resources with the powers of independence to benefit this
and future generations,” she said. “That is what independence is all about.”

Addressing delegates at the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen, the party leader recognised the impact that a transition to renewables would have on the local oil and gas economy.

“As we move now – in so many ways – into a new era, we have a duty to repay all those who work in that industry,” she said.

“A duty to support them into new jobs in green energy. An opportunity to usher in the new age of Scottish renewables.

“Aberdeen is the oil and gas capital of Europe. Let us resolve today to make it the net zero capital of the world.”

Oil and gas will be helped to transition to renewables

She said that this ambition led the Scottish Government to establish the £500 million Just Transition Fund for the region.

“Today I can announce the first 22 projects have just been awarded funding of more than £50 million. 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.

“Incredible Scottish ingenuity here in the North-East, supported by the Scottish Government, developing technologies to tackle the global climate emergency.

“It is exciting, inspiring stuff and it is a shining example of what a Scottish Government can do when the powers lie in our hands.”

The party leader rejected suggestions that she was seeking her exit, declaring that she would be around “for some to come” and said the next in her policy papers – addressing the economic case for independence – will be published on 17 October.

She made no reference to the recent round of new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea but confirmed that her government would not be issuing licences for fracking; will repeal Westminster’s anti trade union legislation, and end age discrimination for those on the minimum wage.

“We will show how businesses can benefit from independence. With EU membership they’ll be back inside the world’s biggest single market.

Liz Truss
Liz Truss was criticised for ‘disastrous’ policies

“With a fairer migration policy and freedom of movement restored, they will have access workers from Europe and across the world.”

They will have new opportunities to influence government policy through a social partnership approach.

“In short, we will show how we can break with the low productivity, high inequality Brexit
based UK economy.

“And use the full powers of independence to build an inclusive, fair, wellbeing economy that
works for everyone. That is the prize of independence.”

She said that if the past three weeks “have taught us anything it is that a country’s fiscal and monetary policy must be sustainable and command confidence. We will not shy away from that.”

Referring to the change of Conservative leader as the “Tory misery-go-round’, Ms Sturgeon said no SNP Government will ever inflict on Scotland the “immoral, self-defeating disaster of a policy,” that was unveiled in the UK Government’s mini-budget last month.

“Instead we will continue to use our powers and resources to help those most in need. Not as an act of charity – but in our collective interest,” she said.

Labour, she said, is now just as committed to Brexit – a hard Brexit – as the Tories.

“At least the Tories believe in it. Labour doesn’t.

“Yet, rather than make the principled argument – which they could now win in England – they cower away from it. They abandon all principle for fear of upsetting the apple cart.

“Bluntly – they are willing to chuck Scotland under Boris Johnson’s Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street.

“Letting down Scotland. Same old Labour.”

On the Supreme Court’s deliberations on whether the current law allows the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an advisory referendum, she said: “If Westminster had any respect at all for Scottish democracy, this court hearing wouldn’t be necessary.

“But Westminster has no such respect. That means this issue was always destined to end up in court, sooner or later.

“Better, in my view, that it is sooner.

“If the Court decides in the way we hope it does, on 19 October next year, there will be an independence referendum.

All Under One Banner Scottish independence
Independence is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court

“And if the court doesn’t decide that way?

“First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law.

“And as a party – and a movement – we will, of course, reflect. But fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice.

“Put our case for independence to the people in an election…or give up on Scottish democracy.

“I don’t know about you – actually I suspect I do… But I will never – ever – give up on Scottish democracy.

“For now, the question of process – the ‘how’ of securing independence – is in the hands of judges.

“It is for us to crack on with answering the question ‘why’.

“Polls last week show that support for independence is rising.

“But remember, polls are just momentary snapshots in time. They go up and down.”Much more significant are the findings of the latest British Social Attitudes survey.

“Ten years ago, support for independence was at 23% Five years ago, 45%. Now – in that gold standard measure of public opinion – support for independence stands at 52%.

“As we know, it is even higher amongst young people. So it is tempting, sometimes, to assume an inevitability about independence. That the arc of history is moving firmly in its direction.

“I hope and believe that will turn out to be true. But we would be wrong – utterly wrong – to take it for granted. Our job is to make the case and win the argument.

“That means not just talking to ourselves, but reaching out to others not yet persuaded.”

She added that independence is the “best way to protect the partnership on which the United  Kingdom was founded. A voluntary partnership of nations.

“Right now – and make no mistake about this – it is an aggressive unionism that is undermining that partnership. Westminster’s denial of Scottish democracy; full frontal attacks on devolution; a basic lack of respect;

“If there is tension, that is what is causing it.

“It is Scottish independence – a new partnership of the isles – that can renew the whole idea of our nations working together for the common good.

“England, Scotland, Wales, the island of Ireland. We will always be the closest of friends. We will always be family.

“But we can achieve a better relationship – a true partnership of equals – when we win Scotland’s independence.”

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