SCOTLAND’S remaining oil revenues should be used to create a £20 billion investment fund for the first decade after independenceNicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told delegates at the SNP conference that the Scottish Government would publish the latest in its series making the case for independence on October 17 – with the £20bn “Building a New Scotland Fund” being one key proposal from that paper.

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She told conference: “We propose to invest remaining oil revenues and use our borrowing powers, not to cut tax for the richest, but to set up an independence investment fund.

“The Building a New Scotland Fund will deliver up to £20 billion of investment in the first decade of independence.

“In practical terms, a fund like this could support a massive programme to decarbonise housing, cut fuel bills, and reduce fuel poverty. It could finance the building of thousands more affordable homes, invest in local renewable energy projects, helping communities own assets and wield more influence over their use.

“It will help the transition to Net Zero, build resilient communities, and kick-start the sustainable economic growth so important for our newly independent nation.

“Combining Scotland’s abundant resources with the powers of independence to benefit this and future generations. Conference, that is what independence is all about.”

Sturgeon also said of the economy: “Let’s remember these three basic facts. First, Scotland is not benefiting right now from the so-called ‘broad shoulders’ of the UK.

“Second – and let there be no doubt about this – we have got everything it takes to be a successful independent country: extraordinary resources, industries and talent in abundance.

“And third, independence is not an untested idea, independence is normal. For countries of Scotland’s size or even smaller, independence is an outstanding success.”

The First Minister added: “In short, we will show how we can break with the low productivity, high inequality, Brexit-based UK economy.”

Labour, the Tories, and Brexit

Labour are willing to throw Scotland under the “Brexit bus to get the keys to Downing Street”, Nicola Sturgeon said.

The First Minister accused Keir Starmer’s (below) party of “cowering away” from making a principled argument on Brexit, one she said they “could now win in England”.

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Sturgeon attacked both of the UK’s two largest parties during her keynote address to the SNP conference in Aberdeen, saying the “problem isn’t who is in power at Westminster, the problem is Westminster”.

Sturgeon drew parallels between the UK now and situations in the past, suggesting that Scotland was stuck.

“We last gathered together as a party in October 2019,” she told the in-person conference.

“Back then, the Tories had just elected a new leader, Westminster was in meltdown, a new prime minister was driving through a disastrous policy agenda, despite warnings of its dire economic impact.

“And here we are, all over again. Another spin on the Tory misery-go-round.”

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She further pointed to the independence referendum in 2014, saying that back then “the Westminster establishment told us it was the UK’s standing in the world, its economic strength, and its stability that made independence impossible”.

“Now they say it’s the UK’s isolation, its weakness and instability – the very conditions they created – that means change can’t happen,” she added.

Sturgeon went on: “In 2014, Labour joined forces with the Tories. They said then that Westminster Tory government was better for Scotland than self-government. And incredibly they’re doing it all over again.

“It wasn’t easy to understand back then. But given everything that has happened since, it is utterly inexplicable now.”

Supreme Court

Sturgeon said that the indyref2 case was “always destined” to end up in front of the UK’s Supreme Court (UKSC). She told delegates that since it would happen sooner or later, it was “better that it is sooner”.

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To another standing ovation, the SNP leader went on: “If the Court decides in the way we hope it does, on October 19 next year there will be an independence referendum.

“And if the court doesn’t decide that way? First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law, and as a party – and a movement – we will, of course, reflect.

“But fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice. Put our case for independence to the people in an election, or give up on Scottish democracy. I don’t know about you – actually I suspect I do – but I will never, ever give up on Scottish democracy.”

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Sturgeon further pointed to the British Social Attitudes survey – which she called the “gold-standard measure of public opinion” – and its report in September that independence support stood at 52%.

The First Minister said independence was “essential”. She went on: “It is essential to escape Westminster control and mismanagement, essential to get the governments we vote for, to properly protect our NHS, to build a new partnership of equals with the other nations on these islands.

“It is essential if we want to be back in the European Union, and it is essential if we want the people who live here to determine the future of this extraordinary country.”

The Rwanda ‘obsession’

The First Minister received a standing ovation after she attacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman over her stance on deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The policy, which has faced interventions from the UN, has been stalled by legal challenges. The Tories have spent more than £120 million on the scheme so far, without a single plane having flown to the central African nation.

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Referencing Braverman’s (above) statement at the Tory conference, Sturgeon told delegates: “Even as I quote her I struggle to comprehend that she actually said these words: ‘I would love to have a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession.’ “Conference, my dream is very different. I’m sure it is shared in this hall and by the vast majority across Scotland.

“My dream is that we live in a world where those fleeing violence and oppression are shown compassion and treated like human beings, not shown the door and bundled onto planes like unwanted cargo.”

The NHS and a Scottish constitution

Sturgeon told conference that “one of the ironies” of independence was that it would allow Scotland to protect British institutions which are currently under threat from the Tory government. She pointed to the NHS as a key example.

The First Minister said: “Management of the NHS is our responsibility, it is no-one else’s. But the fact is our ability to fund it properly depends on decisions taken at Westminster.

“When they cut our budget, or when they crash our economy, that makes it harder for us to protect the health service. And if – as some Tories are now openly arguing – they move away from the very basis on which it was founded and towards an insurance-based alternative, that will destroy our NHS.

“With independence that will never happen. We will protect its founding principles. With independence we could choose to embed a universal NHS in a written constitution.

A constitutional right to health care free at the point of need.”

‘The net zero capital of the world’

The National: Aberdeen Sheriff Court  Picture: GOOGLE

The First Minister said that Aberdeen was “the oil and gas capital of Europe”, but told delegates she would endeavour to make the city the “net zero capital of the world”.

The first 22 projects in the Scottish Government’s £500 million Just Transition Fund have been awarded funding of more than £50 million, Sturgeon said.

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“These projects will support the production of green hydrogen, the development of wave and tidal technology, and even pioneer the use of waste from whisky to recycle EV batteries.

“They will focus on the skills our existing workforce need to take advantage of the renewables revolution.

“Incredible Scottish ingenuity here in the North-East, supported by the Scottish Government, developing technologies to tackle the global climate emergency. It is exciting, inspiring stuff,” she said.

Doubling the ‘bridging payment’

The First Minister pointed to the Scottish Child Payment, which is due to rise to £25 in mid-November. She said this would deliver “vital financial help for more than 100,000 children in time for Christmas”.

Sturgeon went on: “On the same day we increase the Payment, we will also extend it to families with children up to age 16. I know I’m biased, but I think that’s the sign of a government with the right priorities.

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“But we need to do more because we know this winter is going to be really tough. Rather than looking forward to Christmas, too many families will be dreading it. Dreading it because they don’t know if they can afford to heat their homes or even pay for food.

“As part of our help to the poorest families over the last year, we have made quarterly ‘bridging payments’ of £130. These have gone to children and young people in receipt of free school meals, but who don’t qualify for the Child Payment. Today I can announce that the final installment – ahead of the extension of the Child Payment and due in the next few weeks – will not be £130. We will double it to £260.”