BEFORE I start I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing to pay a warm tribute to Sheriff Nigel Ross. This is the man whose perspicacity and discernment last week handed the Yes movement a wonderful gift at this crucial point in the history of our great nation.

No more can supporters of Scottish independence ever again be accused by our Unionist opponents of conducting a nasty and divisive campaign as we were throughout 2014 and beyond. Sheriff Ross has single-handedly ushered in a bright new dawn of free speech in Scotland and made us the envy of those who cherish freedom of expression everywhere.

If I am reading his judgement correctly, we can now say anything we like about any living soul provided we believe it to be true at the time and can access the social media history of our chosen target to show that they are really lizards masquerading as human beings.

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Now that Scotland has thrown off the shackles of censorship and authoritarianism I now declare that Ruth Davidson is a fake and a coward who uses a body double when she is out on manoeuvres playing paintball up the Campsie Fells with the Territorial Army. This renders her entirely unsuitable for high public office in Scotland.

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Meanwhile I hereby unmask Richard Leonard as a secret agent of the Chinese government who has been tasked with undermining the British state by committing grievous acts of sabotage against the English language and appointing known undesirables with a history of anti-social behaviour to his frontbench. And, as for Willie Rennie, whenever he opens his mouth he makes you wish that his father had embraced a life of celibacy and gone to live with the Buddhist monks in Tibet. If my Holyrood colleagues wish to take this matter further I suggest they get in contact with the good Sheriff Ross.

Now that I’ve got all that out of the way, let me officially welcome you to the SNP spring conference of 2019 in Edinburgh, our wonderful capital city. Edinburgh is a city that sits near the apex of Scotland’s arc of prosperity and which has found the key to unlock the door to full employment. It found an ingenious way of creating employment by tearing up most of its city centre for an eight-mile tramline at a cost of three-quarters of a billion pounds over six long and fruitful years. I welcome the news that it is to pledge many more hundreds of millions extending this boutique transport system by an extra few miles. At this rate it will provide security of employment for thousands of workers well into the 21st century, by which time, and in keeping with the socialist principles of an independent Scotland, we will have nationalised the transport system so that multinationals don’t get to fill their boots profiting from all the delays and extra consulting costs.

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Delegates, I firmly believe that Scotland stands at a crossroads in the history of our proud nation. Depending on which direction we choose to take we can move forward together towards a future characterised by basic human decency and compassion for those among us who have been laid low by illness, infirmity and poverty. In this Scotland those fleeing torture, death and oppression in war zones will be made welcome without being made to feel that they must bend the knee in gratitude or otherwise to renounce their faith or ethnic traditions. The prospects facing us if we choose to remain in the United Kingdom are stark. We will be living in a country ruled by a government which has been forced to embrace the extremist elements lurking on the fringes of British society in its desire to pursue a future away from Europe.

And don’t let anyone dare to make a false equivalence between our desire to determine our future independent of the UK and the Brexiteers’ obsession with leaving the European Union. In an independent Scotland we will never declare that our way is the best or that we hold superior values to the peoples of other countries. Rather we will strive to play our part in maintaining peace and promoting universal ideas of equality and justice that make us fully human and fully part of the human family throughout the world.

The National:

Compare that with the narrow, twisted and hostile environment created by the Tories and some of their Labour colleagues at Westminster which has shamelessly played on the whipped-up fears and resentments of ordinary people by getting them to turn on each other and to disparage those whom they consider to be “other” and as such to be “inferior”. In doing this they have twisted the recent history of Britain and made it a lie by declaring that we and we alone were all that stood in the way of the evil of fascism in the Second World War.

If you want to belong to a country that sows hostility towards migrants and minorities and gives free rein to billionaire global capitalists to build their empires without the inconvenience of having to observe the basic rights of workers guaranteed by European protection, then by all means vote No in the second referendum on Scottish independence.

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ON that subject I wish to share with you some of my recent thoughts. I want to protect Scotland’s place in Europe and to create the opportunity for this country to play a meaningful part in the continent’s future on equal terms with the other 27 independent nations of the EU. However, as I’ve said on previous occasions, I don’t want to introduce the means of becoming an independent nation within Europe before the UK has exhausted all the avenues that remain open to maintaining a fruitful relationship with Europe either as a member of the EU or in a mutually beneficial trading relationship with it. I now believe that we are near the end of that road and that the prospects for either of these outcomes being delivered are bleak indeed. When this point has been reached – and we are very near to it – I will call a referendum on Scottish independence backed by a mandate of four Holyrood, Westminster and local government elections in which the SNP has pledged to deliver independence and won comfortably in each. I’m well aware that Unionists have threatened to boycott a referendum in these circumstances, despite using our continued membership of the EU as a key message in the Better Together campaign of 2014.

I also understand that the UK Government may appeal to the Supreme Court to keep Scotland in its grasp and thus to drag it out of the EU against its will. At this point though, I am inspired by the words of Canon Kenyon Wright, that great democrat and warrior for independence. “What will we do when that voice which we know so well says ‘now is not the time – we are the state and we say No’. Well we reply: ‘We say Yes and we are the people.’” I am confident that any fair system of justice in the UK and in Europe will pay heed to that voice and to respect it accordingly.