Another Scottish independence referendum would allow people to “define and decide our recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.
Ian Blackford argued that Scotland was on a “different path” to that of the Westminster Government and that Conservative sleaze, benefit cuts and tax rises “that always, always punish the poor” made the case for independence.
Addressing the SNP conference, Mr Blackford said that the Scottish Government’s co-operation agreement with the Greens “means that, since devolution, almost every major party has been part of the Scottish Government” other than the Conservatives.
He said: “All this time, we have been on a different path.
“The Scottish people have put their trust in different parties, made different political choices and ensured that different values are at the heart of governments in Scotland.
“That’s not a new normal – it is now the calm constant of Scottish politics.
“We consistently make different democratic decisions – it is exactly why we are now faced with a choice of two futures.
“Westminster has already chosen its future.
“A job-destroying Brexit, the return of austerity cuts and more attacks on devolution – we can’t be forced to accept that future.”
Mr Blackford cited the National Insurance rise announced by Boris Johnson, describing it as “a new Tory poll tax that falls hardest on Scottish families, the young and the lowest paid.
He said: “It is one more reason why our future must be independent, giving us the powers to deliver progressive taxation – instead of being forced to pay the cost of regressive Tory tax hikes that always, always punish the poor.”
Referencing the impending end to the £20 Universal Credit uplift, Mr Blackford also urged Scottish Conservative MPs to join the opposition to the benefit cut.
He said: “If any Scottish Tories are in possession of a backbone – now would be a good time to find it.
“If they have any concern for their constituents who depend on this lifeline, they should join us in standing up to their Chancellor and vote down a Westminster policy that will inflict the biggest overnight benefit cut in history.”
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mr Blackford said there has been a “massive failure of foreign policy” in Afghanistan as he reiterated calls for a “far more generous and swift” scheme to help refugees fleeing the country.
Accusing Dominic Raab of failing to prepare an exit strategy for troops and citizens amid the prospect of Taliban takeover, Mr Blackford said the Foreign Secretary was “not just metaphorically asleep at the wheel, but literally asleep on a sun lounger when Kabul fell”.
He continued: “At any other time, in any other government, he would have resigned weeks ago.
“At any other time, in any other government, if he didn’t resign, he would have been sacked on the spot.
“But sadly it is no surprise that Cabinet ministers don’t feel accountable when they are led by a Prime Minister who has made a career out of avoiding responsibility.
“And, as we know, a fish rots from the head down.
“Whether it’s Covid contracts for cronies, donations for decorating or Tory texts for tax breaks – a trail of cronyism leads back to Downing Street and the Prime Minister.
“Even John Major’s government would blush at that scale of sleaze.
“Because at the very same time they’re abusing their power to enrich their friends, they are making the political choice to punish the powerless.”