Nicola Sturgeon pledges huge campaign to woo Scotland on economics of independence

Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP activists to help her turn the ‘dream’ of an independent Scotland into ‘reality’. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged her SNP will fight its biggest campaign ever on the economics of independence.

At the party's spring conference, the First Minister also declared a "climate emergency" and pledged Scotland would “live up to our responsibility” to tackle the problem of global warming.

She told party activists it “is time to get your jackets on”, as she announced plans to deliver a leaflet on the issue to all 2.4 million homes in Scotland.

In addition, she revealed the SNP would create a social justice and fairness commission, which she said would “set out how the proceeds of economic growth in an independent Scotland can be shared much more fairly”.

This was being done because “independence will mean little if it does not ensure a safe, warm home for everyone to live in”.

The Scottish First Minister also insisted leaving the UK would “bring an end to the shameful Westminster system which in 21st century Scotland leaves people without enough money to feed their families at the end of the week”.

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Her address – which included a £150 million scheme to provide loans to help first-time buyers with deposits – came just days after she set out her intention to push for a second Scottish independence referendum before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021.

Westminster has repeatedly refused to countenance such a vote but Ms Sturgeon said “surging” support for independence could help to bring about a change.

A fresh referendum would not be a rerun of the 2014 independence campaign, in which Scots voted by 55% to 45% to stay part of the UK, Ms Sturgeon insisted.

She told party activists they must always make their case “with the decency, respect and dignity that we want to be the hallmark of our independent country”.

But she insisted: “Make no mistake about this – if we can now show what is possible with the economic powers of independence, we will win a referendum.”

Nicola Sturgeon closed the SNP conference in Edinburgh. Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon went on to tell her party: “We will now launch the biggest campaign on the economics of independence in our party’s history.

“From this summer, we aim to get information on Scotland’s potential into the hands of every voter.

“Our plan is to distribute ‘An independent Scotland – a household guide’ to every home across the country – all 2.4 million of them.”

In the wake of environmental protests across the globe, Ms Sturgeon said: “As First Minister of Scotland I am declaring that there is a climate emergency.”

She pledged Scotland would “live up to our responsibility” to tackle the problem of global warming, pledging tougher targets would be set by her government if experts on the UK Committee on Climate Change advise that this is possible.

On housing she pledged action to help those struggling to buy their first home, saying that for many people “saving for a deposit takes so long it has become a distant dream”.

The First Minister said: “We will help young people with the deposits they need.

“I am announcing today a new £150 million scheme.

“If buyers can find just 5% of the value of their new house from their own funds, we will do the rest.

“Starting later this year and running until the end of this parliament, we will offer first-time buyers loans of up to £25,000 to fund or top up their deposit.”

With short-term accommodation providers such as Airbnb also impacting on the housing market in parts of Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said her government would be seeking views “on a new system of regulation to make short term lets are subject to the same controls as other accommodation”.

Such a move would “give councils the power to control the number of lets and ensure they make a contribution to the services they use,” she added.

The First Minister hailed this as evidence that the Scottish Government was acting on the “very issues the UK government is ignoring”.

Westminster has been “paralysed by Brexit and broken by infighting,” she said, with “no policies to tackle the big issues the UK faces”.

But Scottish Tories criticised the First Minister for looking to “push ahead with an unwanted referendum” and with “chaotic” proposals – endorsed by the SNP on Saturday – for an independent Scotland to have its own currency as “soon as practicable”

Conservative constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear this weekend that she is more interested in her party’s narrow priorities, not those of the majority in Scotland. ”

Similarly Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Nicola Sturgeon is more interested in uniting her party than uniting our country.

“There was no attempt to justify the SNP’s new policy to scrap the pound as soon as possible, a move which would ramp up austerity and force hundreds of thousands of families with mortgages to gamble their house, pensions and savings on an untested new currency.

“Instead of harnessing the powers of devolution to tackle poverty, she is intent on using her time in office to stir up support for a referendum that a majority of the country does not want.”

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, said: “It’s welcome to hear the First Minister declare a climate emergency, even though her MSPs all voted against our calls to tackle it and watered down our Green New Deal proposals in the past few weeks because they can’t bring themselves to stop backing the airlines and the oil and gas industry.”