THE white papers published by the Scottish Government represent the extent of the SNP’s plans for opening independence negotiations with the UK should they win a majority at the next General Election, John Swinney has suggested.

Swinney’s SNP are fighting the election on a pledge to open independence negotiations with Whitehall should they win the majority of seats north of the Border at the next election – at least 29 out of 57.

At an event launching his party’s campaign in Edinburgh on Thursday, the First Minister was asked what preparation was under way with regards to actually beginning those independence negotiations.

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He responded: “Well, obviously the Government's set out the Building a New Scotland series of papers and set out many of the arguments that have got to be taken forward and addressed.

“And we'll build on the foundations of that piece as we build the strength of our position in the aftermath of a successful election campaign.”

To date, the Scottish Government has published 13 white papers on independence. The most recent, on justice after a Yes vote, was released on the same day that Humza Yousaf ended the Bute House Agreement.

After Swinney took power in the wake of the fallout from Yousaf’s decision, his new Government confirmed it would continue to work on and publish the papers.

The National: The Scottish Government has launched the ninth independence white paper

Elsewhere at the campaign launch, Swinney pledged to lead a campaign of “unity”, with messaging that may be read as a tacit plea to independence supporters to back the SNP rather than other Yes parties.

In a speech, the First Minister said: “I’m now your First Minister because I've got a wider mission to unify. I'm in the unity business for a purpose.

“To unite around a better way of doing politics, to unite Scotland to protect our national health service, to unite Scotland to strengthen our economy, to unite Scotland to eradicate child poverty, to unite Scotland to ensure Scotland's voice is heard. To unite Scotland for independence.

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“Reaching out, listening, persuading. I'm relishing the opportunity to campaign across this modern, diverse and beautiful country.

“I can't, of course, make any promises about the outcome. That's for the voters to decide.

“I can promise you this. The SNP will be fighting an energetic, optimistic campaign full of enthusiasm. A campaign infused with hope for a better future.

“I’ll be leading that campaign from the front. I'll travel the length and breadth of Scotland, bringing that campaign of hope and unity. I can't wait to get started. Let's get out of there and put Scotland first.”

You can read John Swinney's entire speech at the launch event below:

The National: Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) John Swinney gives a speech at the launch of the SNP's

Welcome to this, the first SNP campaign event for this general election.

Elections are by definition competitive contests.

The cut and thrust of debate is the lifeblood of our democracy.

And make no mistake, I’m up for this.

But in Scotland this election can be different.

It can be a unifying moment too.

Unity can never be imposed.

It comes when people are listened to, when they feel involved and understood, so they can then get behind or respect the outcome.    

So in that spirit let me speak very directly today to the people of Scotland.

I’m listening to you.

Most of you want to see the back of this disastrous Tory government.

Of course you do – they’re ever more extreme and shambolic.

They’re so chaotic they don’t even know when it’s raining outside.

Never has a government deserved to lose more than Rishi Sunak’s.

You want higher living standards and a fairer country where everyone can lead secure, happy, healthy lives.

You want a National Health Service you can rely on.

Most of you think Brexit was a terrible mistake.

You don’t think Westminster works for Scotland.

You want Scotland to have a strong voice.

And you want a different way of doing politics, with a lot more reaching out, accepting no one party has all the answers, and looking for agreement wherever possible.

All of those things sum up what I am about.

I hold moderate left of centre values in the mainstream of Scottish public opinion and they define my leadership of my party and our country.  

They are why I believe so passionately in independence – because when decisions are taken in Scotland for Scotland, we can bring about a better country.

They are also why I’m asking you to vote SNP at this election.

To unite to bring about that better country that we all want to see.

That starts by seeing the back of Rishi Sunak.

The challenger for every Tory seat in Scotland is the SNP.

So by voting SNP you can get rid of this Tory government.

On the NHS I don’t know about you but I am alarmed at the language that is coming not just from the Tories but from Labour at Westminster.

Very alarmed indeed.

Whether that is talking about the NHS looking for “excuses” to ask for more money, picking fights with doctors or questioning the very survival of the National Health Service.

So I’m asking you to vote SNP to send a very clear message.

Let’s unite Scotland to protect our NHS.

On the economy and the cost of living, I know many of you feel the economic system is broken.

You’re right.

It’s failed far too many people.

This goes to the very core of why I believe in independence.

At present it is Westminster that holds most economic power over Scotland.

And that power has been used disastrously.

The Tories have imposed austerity.

The catastrophic Liz Truss budget.

And Brexit – which, compared with EU membership, has wiped billions of pounds from the Scottish economy - pushed up prices and hit hard our ability to fund vital public services such as the NHS.

Labour knows all that – but Keir Starmer now supports Brexit, whatever the cost to Scotland.

I don’t think Scotland should put up with that anymore.

So let’s unite to get Scotland back into the EU and stop the Brexit damage.

With limited economic powers in Scotland we’ve made a difference where we can.

Economic growth, per head has been higher here than in the UK as a whole.

Productivity – the key driver of living standards – has also grown faster in Scotland since the SNP came to office at Holyrood.

We’ve helped with the cost of living through measures such as free prescriptions, free bus travel for the under-22s and all day off-peak rail fares.

That’s what we can do when decisions are made in Scotland for Scotland.

And looking across Europe when we look at independent countries that are similar to Scotland we find this:

Compared to the UK they have higher living standards, lower poverty and they are more equal. 

So why not Scotland?

We have the people, the talent and the resources.

So let’s unite to win the powers of independence to strengthen our economy, tackle the cost of living and bring about a fairer country.

Independence of course is also fundamentally about democracy – about getting the governments you vote for.

Sadly we know the only guaranteed outcome of a Labour government is the Tory government that will follow it - and it usually lasts a lot longer.

In an independent Scotland never again will people here be subjected to an unelected Tory government. 

For those who are not persuaded of independence I look forward over the next six weeks to listening to your concerns, making the case, hopefully persuading but if not then engaging in respectful dialogue.

For those who are already persuaded, I can’t stress enough how important it is to vote on July the 4th.

We will win our country’s independence – and win the powers to bring about a better Scotland  - through democratic pressure.

So on July the 4th – Independence Day - make sure your voice is heard.

And on that issue of making Scotland’s voice heard, the SNP will always fight to further Scotland’s interests under any constitutional circumstances.

Quite simply, we put Scotland first. 

I expect over the next six weeks we will see the Tories and Labour really going at it.

They’ll be going hammer and tongs to discredit each other.

I’ll also be going hammer and tongs – but not against anyone.

I’ll be going hammer and tongs to put Scotland first.

That’s what SNP MPs always do at Westminster; putting Scotland first.

We can’t do anything else.

It’s in our DNA.

We see Stephen Flynn and his SNP colleagues do that job every week with real  passion and commitment.

So let’s unite to make Scotland’s voice heard.

That task is more important than ever.

In recent years it has become clear that the gains of devolution can never be taken for granted.

These are challenging times – not least because of financial circumstances -  but I believe the Scottish Parliament has made a real difference to people’s lives.

Scotland has had the best-performing A&E core units in the UK for nine years

We’ve more than doubled NHS funding and we have the highest number of GPs per head in the UK.

On housing, since the SNP came to office Scotland has seen over 40% more affordable homes delivered per head of population than in England, and over 70% more than in Wales.

When we took office, renewable technologies generated the equivalent of 20.2% of Scotland's gross electricity consumption.

Since then, this has soared to 113%.

The number of schools in ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ condition has increased, from just over 60% to more than 90%, and we are seeing record levels of literacy and numeracy at primary school level.

Recorded crime has fallen by around 40% to one of its lowest levels in half a century. 

And this year – using our limited social security powers – measures like the Scottish Child Payment are helping to keep an estimated 100,000 children in Scotland out of relative poverty.

So this shows what we can do together when decisions about Scotland are made in Scottland. 

 But ever since Brexit the Tories have chipped away at the powers of your Scottish Parliament.

They’ve made it harder for the Parliament to take decisions to protect the environment and they’re threating our hard won gains.

I have no idea where Labour stand on this and whether they will reverse the Tory power-grab.

So let’s unite to protect our Scottish Parliament.

I’ve directed all my remarks so far to the people of Scotland.

But I also want to say a word specifically to SNP activists, members and supporters.

If ever there was a time to get involved and make a difference then this is it.

Every election is an opportunity to move Scotland forward to a better future.

In a UK election the SNP faces particular challenges.

So we – I – need all of you to do whatever you can to advance our cause.

I will never take anything for granted 

But I have no doubt the SNP can win this election.

That’s what I intend to do – lead the SNP to victory.

I have only been back in frontline politics for a month.

I couldn’t have imagined even two months ago standing here launching the SNP campaign for the 2024 general election.

But I’m here because I knew I could unify my party.

I am two weeks in and have done that already..

But more than that, I’m now your First Minister because I have a wider mission to unify.

I’m in the unity business for a purpose.

To unite around a better way of doing politics. 

To unite Scotland to protect our NHS.

To unite Scotland to strengthen our economy.

To unite Scotland to eradicate child poverty.

To unite Scotland to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard.

To unite Scotland for independence.

Reaching out, listening, persuading.

I’m relishing the opportunity to campaign across this modern, diverse, beautiful country. 

I can’t of course make any promises about the outcome.

That’s for the voters to decide.

But I can promise you this.

The SNP will be fighting an energetic, optimistic campaign full of enthusiasm.

A campaign infused with hope for a better future.

I’ll be leading that campaign from the front.

I’ll travel the length and breadth of Scotland  bringing that campaign of hope and unity.

I can’t wait to get started.

Let’s get out there and put Scotland First.

Thank you.