IAN Blackford assured the SNP conference yesterday that independence is coming, insisting that no prime minister or UK government will be able to force Scotland to stay in the Union.

In a rousing speech to the virtual conference from his home constituency in Skye, the SNP Westminster leader said attempts to “deny democracy” will fail – as has been shown by the US presidential election.

He warned the Tories are “trying to provoke us” but said their tactics will fail and urged the independence movement to remain united in pursuit of its goal.

The SNP Westminster leader was unequivocal as he opened the second day of his party’s conference via video link. In a wide-ranging address, he lambasted the UK Government for cutting its foreign aid spending, which Rishi Sunak said was “difficult to justify” during the pandemic.

Blackford also made a commitment on removing nuclear weapons. He said: “This is a government that continues to waste billions on Trident but takes weeks to find the money for free school meals.”

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He compared that to the Scottish Government giving £2 million to support Unicef in its efforts to vaccinate children in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda – as well as a manifesto commitment to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil in Scotland.

Blackford compared the record of Westminster in the past 20 years, citing the Iraq War, Brexit and the bedroom tax, with the history of the Scottish Parliament, with free prescriptions, tuition fees and the upcoming Scottish Child Payment raised as examples of Scotland being a “fairer and more equal place to live”.

“That’s the kind of support we should give to our youngest citizens,” he said.

In recent months, polls shifted to show support for independence, with survey results rising as high as 58% when undecided voters are removed, according to an Ipsos Mori poll for STV in October.

Blackford said: “A diverging tale of two parliaments has led to an inevitable conclusion – poll after poll shows that a settled majority now believes that all decisions and all powers should now be trusted to the people of Scotland.

“That is why the Tories are in a panic, they are unwilling to accept the truth that a majority of Scotland’s people now want an independent future. Instead of listening to the will of the Scottish people, the Tories are attempting to deny democracy and destroy devolution.”

Blackford insisted that no prime minister or UK government will be able to force Scotland to stay in the Union “against our will”.

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He added: “Denying democracy is a political position that can’t and won’t hold. It’s a position that will crumble under the weight of votes in next year’s Scottish election.”

Earlier this month, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the UK Government would not agree to new vote for another generation – which he said could be 25 to 40 years – but Blackford insisted Unionists are bound to fail in their bids to prevent independence.

“The Tories are trying to provoke us– and their tactics are becoming more desperate by the day,” he said.

“But it won’t work. We will remain calm, clear-headed and confident. Because we are wise enough to know what ultimately happens to those who rage against democracy. We only need to look across the Atlantic to see. Democracy deniers are destined for only one thing – defeat.”

The SNP Westminster leader said the party’s priority was securing an independence majority at Holyrood next May. “If we succeed that independence supporting parliament will decide the right time for the Scottish people to choose our constitutional future,” he added.

“We have all come a long way – and we are now within touching distance of independence. But just as we have travelled all this way together, we can only complete this journey together.

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“My message to all of us is this: keep heart, keep the heid and keep the faith. A new Scotland – fairer, greener and European – is now ours to win.”

On Trident, Blackford said: “Let me be very clear – in an independent Scotland every single weapon of mass destruction will be removed from the Clyde.”

However, the terms used by Blackford were much stronger than those officially adopted by the party. A motion included in the policy resolution on an independent future for Scotland states the country “will be able to remove Trident nuclear weapons from our shores, which are an affront to basic decency with inhumane destructive power”.

Despite concerns raised during the debate, that resolution was passed overwhelmingly by members shortly after Blackford’s speech.