THE difference between the SNP and other political parties could be seen clearly in the contest for depute leader.

During their leadership election Labour tore themselves apart, with the parliamentary Labour group trying everything they could think of to keep Corbyn out. They’ve opened up wounds that will never heal and could result in a split in Labour in the future. Even the conclusive result didn’t stop the bickering. Too many accusations of members being refused a vote and too many threats after Corbyn won shows that Labour will struggle to form a cohesive opposition. Labour is still a party at war with itself.

In contrast, the depute leadership contest within the SNP was based on ideas, visions and values. The four contenders came from different backgrounds within the party, each offering a different direction but all were focussed on one destination: independence. They toured the country with hustings and meetings held all over the place, giving members a good chance of personally quizzing them on their vision for the SNP. This was a good, honest, open contest with none of the backbiting that tends to happen in other parties when posts like this are up for grabs. Each and every candidate did themselves and the party proud.

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Congratulations should go to Angus Robertson for winning the job of depute leader but they should also be extended to all candidates for the way they conducted themselves during the contest.

It’s Time…

THERE is no surer way of starting an SNP conference off on a high note than to re-iterate our desire for independence and the announcement by the First Minister that the draft of a new Independence Referendum Bill will be published next week nearly lifted the roof off the conference centre.

It’s what delegates, activists and members have been waiting for. We can all understand that the timing in calling IndyRef2 is crucial but knowing that the legislation will be in place is a significant step in our progress to winning the next referendum. This will give everyone something to focus on.

It will also give those who oppose an independent Scotland a focus – so don’t be too surprised if the "SNP Bad" stories are ramped up another gear. I thought these would have been worse in the run-up to conference but maybe I’m starting to become immune to the desperation of the Unionist media. Hopefully this immunity will spread to the rest of Scotland, especially as we compare the scare stories that we were fed in the first IndyRef campaign with the hard reality that is facing us through Brexit.

It wasn’t so long ago we were told we would be a small, isolated country with no friends or support if we voted Yes. We would lose access to the EU markets (while simultaneously having to adopt the euro) and be out on our own in the wilderness.

Contrast that with what really happened. Some people were persuaded to vote No to remain in the EU – tough, say the unionists now; you would have been kicked out if you had voted Yes. So a promise to keep us in the EU with a No vote was another broken vow.

Another contrast between our referendum for independence and the EU referendum was the amount of detail that the media and unionists wanted regarding what an independent Scotland would be like. They were virtually demanding everything from spending commitments to weather reports for the next 50 years or so. In contrast, there was no scrutiny at all of the Brexiteer plans. It’s simply not good enough for the media to now complain that there was no plan for Brexit – they simply stood by and refused to ask any questions about how Brexit would work; the media was complicit in the lack of detail on Brexit.

Staying with the UK will see Scotland dragged out of the EU despite 62 per cent of Scots voting to remain, and it will potentially see 80,000 job cuts and annual wages cut by £2,000 in Scotland. Across the UK the economy is bracing itself for a £66 billion hit from Brexit, the value of the pound is plummeting and now even the price and availability of Marmite is affected.

Last week I raised my fears about the increase in xenophobia and racism that seems to have been sanctioned by the comments from the Tory conference and the press reports from there. We are in danger of finding ourselves in a country where those who were born in a different country or have a different coloured skin are made the scapegoats for the failures of politicians. Independence for Scotland isn’t just an economic aissue, it’s now a moral one. Can we still sit on the sidelines as the UK turns ever further to the right? I hope not.

With the draft independence bill coming out next week we still have to be cautious as to the timing of indyref2. We can’t afford not to win it this time. Already Scotland is being hammered by the onslaught of Tory austerity cuts and with the rise of xenophobia and racism we need to get out of the UK and protect all our citizens. In the new drive for independence we should, however, keep an open mind and open arms for those who voted No last time.

They may not have been ready in 2014 to make the move to supporting Scotland to become an independent nation but we’ll need their support to make the dream a reality. Let’s welcome as many new converts to the cause as possible, and make sure they feel part of the new Scotland we all want to build for the future.