Scottish independence movement 'must engage with open mind', says minister
The Scottish independence movement "must engage with a fresh perspective and an open mind", a government minister has told a major meeting of campaigners.
Around 800 people gathered in Glasgow for the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) bringing together a range of pro-Yes groups for the first time since the referendum vote in 2014.
Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ruled out holding a second referendum on independence in 2017 but the preparations are continuing for campaigners.
Scottish Government Equalities Secretary Angela Constance was among the speakers at the SIC and praised the diversity of the independence campaign.
She said: "It's always timely at the start of a new year to take a deep breath and look to the future and today is our opportunity to consider a new debate for a new Scotland.
"We must not assume that people's views - whether they were Yes or whether they were No - are the same as they were two years ago. Instead the independence movement, our movement, must engage with a fresh perspective and an open mind."
Ms Sturgeon has said another independence referendum is ''highly likely'' after a majority of Scots voted to stay in the European Union while the UK as a whole opted for Brexit.
But speaking on Monday, she said: ''There is not going to be an independence referendum in 2017, I don't think there is anybody who thinks that is the case."
The Scottish Government has already drafted legislation for a vote, which it says will be used if it concludes independence is the only way to protect Scotland's place in Europe.
Ms Constance told the SIC she wants to see human rights put at the heart of any future independence campaign.
She said: "I see Scotland as a country which locates itself not where geography has placed us - on the periphery of a continent - but at the heart of a progressive vision of nations in Europe and beyond.
"If it's a choice between an inward, insular Tory Britain or a progressive, internationalist Scotland I know where I stand.
"If the seismic events of 2016 have communicated any message it is surely that the ideals which unite progressive nations must always be greater than the issues that divide us.
"So let us empower our diverse movement to reach into every community to spread the message that human rights are the tools for the people to challenge and change our country.
"Human rights are the foundation stones of a fairer, independent Scotland; let's start building that new nation on them."
Actress and comedienne Elaine C Smith opened the convention and said it was not an event to show complacency.
"This is not us congratulating ourselves on how far we've come, it is about building and working towards the next stage of how we get independence for our country," Ms Smith said.
"It is a hugely important thing to thousands and thousands of people across Scotland and beyond."
The Scottish Greens believe campaigners should start work now ahead of a possible second vote on Scotland's future in the UK.
Party co-convener Maggie Chapman told the SIC: ''As the creaking British state lurches from crisis to crisis, the need for independence becomes clearer and clearer.
''It is time to start building the independence movement again so that when the next referendum comes we are in a place to convince thousands more Scots that another, and better, Scotland is possible.''
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "While nationalists gathered in Glasgow for a talking shop about independence, Scottish Labour supporters were out in force across the country this weekend to campaign for our valued local public services.
"This was our first national campaign day of 2017 and we had over 70 events across Scotland, with teams talking to voters about our plan to protect services.
"The SNP wants to cut £327million from services such as education and social care. Scottish Labour's priority is to invest in these services."