The National:

FRIENDS, what a conference we’ve had. 

In these challenging and difficult times, SNP delegates from across the country joined together to put forward our party’s vision for a better Scotland. A progressive vision built on hope.

We all know that for Scotland to reach its full potential - as an outward looking, socially-just, European nation – we must first secure independence

But as a party of government, we are already working hard to improve the lives of working families the length and breadth of Scotland. 

Nowhere is this determination clearer than the deputy first minister’s free school meals announcement on Saturday. 

The SNP’s announcement that, if we’re re-elected in May, primary pupils will receive free breakfast and lunch from August 2022 has been applauded across the globe. 

READ MORE: SNP pledge to publish magazines on independence for undecided voters

All primary pupils, all classes, all year round. 

While Boris Johnson and his supporters are humiliated into providing meals over the school holidays for kids in England, the SNP stands up for Scotland. 

An unapologetic message of intent in our continuing fight against Tory-inflicted poverty. 

But, with the most important election of our lifetimes now just six months away, we need to work as never before to convince our fellow Scots to put their trust in us and not Boris Johnson. 

Addressing delegates from my home in Clackmannanshire, I was delighted to launch SNP.Scot over the weekend. 

Our party’s virtual doorstep will help us kickstart our election campaign without putting anyone at risk – making it quicker and easier than ever before for our hard-working activists to reach more people. 

Let’s take the SNP’s message of an explicit, cast iron commitment to a referendum on Scotland’s future to each and every voter in the country. 

Of course, while conference provides us with the platform to fine-tune our direction as party, it is also an opportunity for friends - old and new - to come together. 

Despite a handful of expected minor technical glitches, I know members were all very impressed with this year’s virtual conference system. 

The Blether function especially proved immensely popular and connected delegates in an innovative and engaging way. 

For this, I want to outline my sincere thanks to our hardworking staff at SNP Headquarters who have laboured and persevered to ensure, in the current circumstances, we could still unite to celebrate what’s great about our party. 

The SNP’s ability and willingness to look beyond our own circumstances and join hands with likeminded movements across the globe has always been one of our greatest strengths. 

And I for one relished the opportunity to hear from my friend, and leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price. His straight-talking approach is always well received by SNP members and I wholeheartedly echo calls for a Celtic Summit next year to cement our existing ties with Wales. 

We also heard from our colleagues on the Social Justice and Fairness Commission who have shown us how we can create a fairer society with the full powers of independence. Calls from Shona Robison MSP for a windfall tax on those businesses who have seen excess profits soar during this pandemic would help us raise much needed revenues and ensure a fairer recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our drive as the SNP to tackle deep-seated poverty and inequality in our communities was the defining theme of this year’s conference. 

READ MORE: Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price plans ‘Celtic Summit’ for Scotland and Wales

We all know that in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon our party and our country have a brilliant leader of courage and compassion.

I have been to many conferences in my many years as an SNP member, but this year’s closing address from our First Minister was surely the most inspirational conference speech I have heard. 

We cannot, and will not, let things simply slide back to the way they were. We can no longer accept as inevitable the issues that blight our communities. This pandemic has turned our world upside down and, as a party, we will build back better. 

A £100 million winter fund for low income households – including a £100 direct payment for families of children in receipt of free school meals – is not just bold but essential as we support the most vulnerable through the coming months. 

The First Minister also announced further investment of £5m to support the homeless and boost our existing rapid rehoming plan, Housing First.

And as a thank you to all of our NHS and adult social care staff – who have been there for us throughout this terrible pandemic – the SNP Government will give you an extra £500. No strings attached – just the tangible recognition you deserve for your remarkable work throughout this pandemic. 

Colleagues, friends and delegates, in the face of exceptionally difficult circumstances our party has delivered for Scotland. 

READ MORE: Who's eligible for Nicola Sturgeon's £500 NHS and social care staff covid thank you payment

I have never been prouder to be a member of the SNP. 

With one hand tied behind our back we are building back a better Scotland and holding up a light to show countries across the world what is possible in our recovery from Coronavirus. 

The question now for all of us as we look ahead to the election next May is this: who should have the right to take decisions that will shape Scotland’s future for generations to come. The people of Scotland, or Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers?