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Nicola Sturgeon declares SNP ‘winning the case for independence’

The First Minister closed the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she will seek the power to hold a legally binding independence referendum before the the end of the year. (Jane Barlow/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she will seek the power to hold a legally binding independence referendum before the the end of the year. (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

Nicola Sturgeon has declared that the SNP is “winning the case for independence” as she revealed more detail about plans for Scotland to have a second vote on leaving the UK.

The First Minister said work was being done to update the “independence prospectus”.

And she confirmed that before the end of this year she would formally request the power for Holyrood to stage a referendum from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A section 30 order – which the UK Government has so far refused to consider – would mean a legally binding ballot could be held.

The SNP leader used the speech to her party’s conference to announce new policies, pledging more childcare for youngsters from poorer areas, as well as further help for victims of domestic abuse and the scrapping of social care charges for those who receive assistance to live in their own homes.

That policy, which would be introduced if the SNP wins the 2021 Scottish elections, could cost £240 million a year.

Meanwhile, providing childcare in the school holidays for primary school pupils from the poorest families – another proposal that would be implemented if Ms Sturgeon is re-elected – could cost some £60 million to £70 million a year.

But with UK politics going through “turbulent times” the bulk of the First Minister’s 45-minute long address to the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen focused on independence.

She told activists at the conference: “I don’t know about you but I’m utterly sick of Westminster. I’m sick of Brexit.

“And I’ve had more than enough of people like Jacob Rees-Mogg lording it over us while lounging across the benches of the House of Commons as if he owns the place.”

Be in no doubt about this. We are winning the case for independence. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Instead of that, she declared it was “time to place Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would have completed its legislative preparations for a future independence vote by the new year.

She added: “We are already working to update the independence prospectus.

“And I can confirm today that before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt.”

An independent Scotland could be “a new country founded on hope and a vision of shared humanity and compassion” and a “light in a world that seems dark”, Ms Sturgeon said.

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Ms Sturgeon said she was ‘sick of Westminster’ and ‘sick of Brexit’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

She condemned the politics of both Mr Johnson and US president Donald Trump  – branding them both “strongman leaders with inflated egos and an overbearing sense of entitlement”.

And while she said “these can seem like dark times”, Ms Sturgeon said that “there is always hope”.

She added: “For Scotland, the hope lies in becoming an independent nation.”

Ms Sturgeon stated: “Be in no doubt about this. We are winning the case for independence.”

Potentially up to 140,000 youngsters in Scotland could benefit from the commitment to bring in holiday care for primary school children from the poorest families.

The First Minister announced: “If the SNP is returned to government after the next Holyrood election, we will expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

“Full days of high quality childcare, freeing parents to work, to help them lift their families out of poverty.”

She spoke about how having charges for non-residential social care services could be a “barrier” to people getting the help they need – and that this could result in them ending up in hospital.

Ms Sturgeon pledged: “If I am re-elected as First Minister at the Holyrood elections, then over the next parliament, the SNP will scrap non-residential social care charges for all.”

Meanwhile, further help for victims of domestic abuse will be brought in during the current term of the Scottish Parliament, with a new law to establish emergency protective orders.

“It should not be the victims of abuse who lose their homes, it should be the perpetrators,” she said.

“And these orders will help to ensure that is the case.”

Tories attacked the First Minister, saying she had failed to mention her “priorities” of health and education in her keynote conference speech.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Both the NHS and Scotland’s education system are in a dreadful state – a state that has significantly worsened over the 12 years the SNP has been in power.

“You’d think the First Minister would make some kind of effort to explain that, to apologise, or at least set out how she planned to turn things around.

“But she preferred to play to the gallery and say things she knew would go down well in the hall.”

He insisted that when Ms Sturgeon does demand the power to “hold a second unwanted and divisive referendum”, the answer from the UK Government should be “an unequivocal no”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the First Minister should focus on stopping Brexit, rather than taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

“Independence will be bad for Scotland just like Brexit because breaking up long-term economic partnerships is very hard to do,” he said.

“Instead of cutting and running for independence, Nicola Sturgeon should come back on board the campaign to stop Brexit across the UK.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The last thing our communities need is more division and uncertainty, but that is exactly what Nicola Sturgeon is proposing.

“The SNP’s plans for independence could result in a hard border between Scotland and England which would cost jobs, hurt our public services and divide families.”

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