John Swinney has repeated the SNP leadership’s firmly anti-“Plan B” message in his conference speech today, after a rebel call to push ahead with independence negotiations without a referendum was firmly rejected in a floor vote yesterday.
In a clear nod to yesterday’s quashed rebellion, the SNP deputy leader and education secretary in Holyrood told conference today that the party “must learn the lessons of the victories of Trump and Johnson. They chose – and still choose – the gutter and it will be their downfall.
“Winning on their terms is never worth it. Their road does not lead to a better nation. Their road leads to ruin and we will never walk that road.”
Endorsing the gradualist approach favoured by the party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, he said: “Instead we will walk the road of tolerance, persuasion, debate and dialogue.”
Speaking across a range of policy issues, Swinney reassured delegates that independence was on the horizon, arguing that the governing party already “acts as if we are in the early days of a new nation.”
“Today, we stand on the threshold of our country’s independence,” he declared.
It is another example of Sturgeon’s firm grip on the party and her easy ability to see off challenges to her authority: the delegate who proposed yesterday’s vote, Chris McEleny, a member of the party’s ruling national executive committee and its leader on Inverclyde Council, is regarded as something of an ally of former leader Alex Salmond, with whom Sturgeon is known to have a bitter rivalry.
Swinney also used his speech to take a swipe at Gordon Brown’s recent intervention calling for a delegation to go to London and ask the Treasury for more money for Scotland, or, “to get some scraps from the Tory table”, as Swinney put it.
He emphasised the party’s allegiance with the Catalan separatist leaders who have been sentenced to at least nine years in prison for sedition by Spain’s Supreme Court.
“I am proud that our party will not stand by in silence as the Spanish system condemns Catalan leaders to jail for years. They stood up for democracy. They stood up for their basic right of self-determination. That should not be a crime. I stand with Catalonia.”
Despite suggestions that Spain would veto an independent Scotland’s bid to join the EU due to its position on Catalonia, Swinney later asserted that “Europe is ready to welcome Scotland as an equal member in our own right”.