THE following discarded draft of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP’s 84th annual conference tomorrow was found in a dustbin at the SEC in Glasgow. I cannot vouch for its veracity, but I wish it was real.

“Fellow nationalists. We meet at a moment when the cause of Scottish independence is on the rise once again.

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“This weekend saw the biggest mass demonstration in support of independence there has ever been, with over 100,000 happy people marching through our capital with flags flying – including Catalan and Palestinian banners as a mark of our internationalism. The amazing thing about Saturday’s extraordinary demonstration was that it was organised – and organised brilliantly – by the grassroots of our movement and not by the SNP leadership.

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“Can you please rise to your feet to applaud the work of All Under One Banner and their tireless efforts in taking the independence message to towns and cities across the land. [WAIT FOR APPLAUSE.]

“Can I say this to AUOB: you have filled the aching political void created when the SNP leadership abruptly cancelled plans for a second independence referendum. While the boxes filled with the results of the 2016 National Conversation – results collected by SNP activists on cold rainy nights – were left discarded and uncollated, AUOB got back out there building support for our cause.

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“I also want to applaud the many other new, grassroots organisations that have sprung up in the absence of a lead from the top. I salute the Scottish Independence Foundation [SIF] and its selfless fundraising to support independence campaign projects big and small, including Lesley Riddoch’s wonderful series of films on small nations.

“I know some of you think the party should be supporting the causes funded by SIF, rather than spending members’ cash on hiring consultants to produce the Sustainable Growth Commission report. I hear what you’re saying.

“Speaking of the Sustainable Growth Commission, can I remind everyone inside and outside of this hall that its findings are not party policy and merely advisory. The commission aimed to show that even under the most pessimistic economic assumptions, an independent Scotland would fair better than under Tory austerity. But we don’t do pessimism in the SNP. [PAUSE FOR APPLAUSE.]

“The core weakness of the Growth Report is that it lacks a radical vision to attract the 800,000 mainly working-class voters who abstained in the 2014 independence referendum because they think politicians never deliver. Or to win back the 500,000 SNP voters who deserted us between the 2015 and 2017 General Elections because they lost faith in our ability to oppose Tory austerity and deliver a better life in concrete terms. We won’t capture those votes for independence by sacrificing our core social democratic values, as the Growth Report seems to imply.

“I’m proud that for 11 hard years in government we have protected Scotland from the worst evils of Tory and Labour Governments at Westminster. That is why we are still at 40% in the polls, far ahead of both the Ruth Davidson Party and the bar-room brawl that is Scottish Labour. But the world moves on. Today we face a revitalised UK Labour leadership under Jeremy Corbyn which is winning popularity – particularly among the young – with radical new policies, including worker share ownership.

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“I know, and you know, that Corbyn has adopted many SNP policies by stealth, including abolishing university tuition fees. But the publication of the Growth Commission report is being used against us, as evidence that the SNP has become too establishment. We won’t counter this accusation unless we reassert the core social democratic values that are ours and are supported by most of the Scottish people.

“So today I am announcing that an independent Scottish Government will abandon the insane austerity policies that have kept UK growth rates low and incomes flat for a decade. We will be guided by prudent fiscal rules – not to placate City bankers, because we will bring banking and credit into public and community ownership – but because good Scots are thrifty with their money. So we will not borrow to finance revenue spending outside of an economic crisis. However, we will insist that business pays its fair share of taxation, including a tourist tax which we will introduce immediately.

“I can also announce that an independent Scotland will introduce a Scottish currency as a matter of policy, the better to control our own interest and mortgage rates, our banking system and our own foreign exchange level. The Baltic states took three years to set up their currencies, so it cannot be achieved instantaneously. In the interim we will continue to use sterling. But today I am removing uncertainty by setting the policy goal of achieving a Scottish currency as soon as is feasible.

“Delegates, I have a big apology to make. This year’s conference agenda – while very worthy as far as it goes – is, frankly, as dull as ditch water. We aren’t discussing the Growth Commission. We aren’t discussing the timing of a second independence referendum. We aren’t discussing the pros and cons of a second EU referendum. We aren’t discussing the SNP Government’s education policy reforms. We aren’t discussing anything of strategic political significance.

“This limited conference agenda is the result of deliberate editing by the conference standing orders and agenda committee. Their reason: public division is used against us by a hostile London press. But one can have enough of a good thing. There comes a point when the urge to protect the party from negative media becomes an excuse for denying democratic debate.

“So from now on I promise my SNP is going to let a thousand flowers bloom when it comes to party discussion. That we are going to recover our tradition as a party that is not afraid to debate, to argue and to agree not to agree, yet still be friends. Because we are all united in a single cause – to win back Scotland’s political freedom.

“Delegates, the Growth Commission talked economics and numbers. Today I want to reassert the importance of communitarian values as our movement’s guiding star. Our values are not those of the big buck, the market place, the public relations consultant, or the City trader.

“An independent Scotland will be a family that looks after its young, its old, its infirm, and its lost sheep.

“We won’t seek growth for growth’s sake but instead protect Scotland’s natural heritage. We won’t surrender our democratic, child-centred education tradition to the imperatives of capitalist industry or the screaming headlines of a media whose editors send their children to public schools. As Scots we value individual creativity – but a diversity that works for a common good rather than the dog-eat-dog individualism promoted by neo-liberalism. We applaud public service and will pay public workers what they deserve, even if it means higher taxes.

“Above all, we desire the return of our Scottish statehood, not because we want to build walls but because we want to escape the confines of an increasingly narrow British nationalism bent on cutting itself off from the world. Delegates, our movement represents the Scottish nation. It is time to get off our knees. I am today calling our next independence referendum for ... ”