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17 October 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 11:31am

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech evoked Labour’s divisions in a renewed call for independence

The SNP leader’s speech to her party’s conference was a highly political call for Scottish independence by emphasising the SNP’s unity, and Labour’s inability to define itself.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Nicola Sturgeon launched a renewed call for Scottish independence in her speech to the SNP annual conference.

Introduced as “the leader of the most united political party in the United Kingdom”, she focused on the confusion and lack of definition the Labour party is suffering in Westminster to underline the need for Scotland to be independent – framing it as the country’s only chance to escape Tory rule.

She reasserted the status of the SNP as a left-wing, social democratic party – a “credible” one, in contrast with Labour, which she claimed was going “deeper and deeper into the political wilderness”.

She said:

“Labour’s failure to meet even the basic requirements of effective oppositions – to be united and credible as an alternative government – should make them deeply ashamed of themselves.

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“Their disunity threatens to consign the UK to another decade of Tory government.

“That’s a tragedy for people all across the UK.

“But for more and more people in Scotland, Labour’s inability to mount a credible challenge for government will bring into sharp focus this fundamental truth.

“The only real and lasting alternative to Tory governments that we don’t vote for is independence for our country.”

The speech seemed designed to tell Scottish voters that Labour is now a spent force – and therefore independence is their only chance to avoid being ruled by future Conservative governments.

This marks a change in tone from the party’s general election campaign, during which it underplayed its desire for a second independence referendum and focused instead on gaining a mandate to hold the government to account in Westminster.

Sturgeon also concentrated on subjects that could trip Labour up in future Commons votes. For example, she reiterated the SNP’s staunch opposition to renewing Trident and announced that her party would vote against military intervention in Syria – both subjects that divide the shadow cabinet and exacerbate the tensions of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Indeed, throughout her speech, Sturgeon appeared to target her criticism at the Tory government and Labour opposition in Westminster. She did not attack her Scottish rivals Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson, but saved her fire for Corbyn and David Cameron.

And there was positivity too. In an upbeat recitation of her party’s triumphs, Sturgeon said that the SNP had “won the general election”. She also joked that she was delighted when the Daily Mail branded her “the most dangerous woman in Britain”, adding, “that does remain, by far, the nicest thing the Daily Mail has ever said about me”.

The Mail will surely be trembling further after this revitalised and highly political encouragement for the independence cause.

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