THE Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (SSRG) hosted a groundbreaking cross-party conference, Empowering the Nation, in Dunfermline over the weekend.

It was the first major conference to be held since the First Minister’s announcement of a date for the next independence referendum and the first subsequent chance for independence supporters to address publicly many of the key issues and constitutional questions currently facing Scotland.

All of Scotland’s political parties were invited and more than 250 delegates attended the event in the Carnegie Conference Centre, with 130-plus people taking part online.

Early feedback has been very positive with delegates praising the positive way in which the 22 strong line-up of well-known speakers led wide-ranging debates on Scotland’s future from all aspects – academic, technical, populist and political; under the devolved settlement and as a self-reliant sovereign nation.

SSRG team member David Henry said his two highlights of the weekend was when conference delegate Sally Hughes stood on Sunday and said: “More than anything you put into the collective consciousness of the English people just how much they are robbing us of our assets, our countries assets, it is beyond debate, it becomes a matter of reality, it becomes a very powerful political tool, but it empowers them to sort out these bastards down in Westminster”.

The second was when Gareth Wardell (aka Grouse Beater) made a surprise appearance on Saturday which electrified the audience.

The first debate of many over the weekend focused on the potential routes to independence – and established a clear consensus that action needs to be taken urgently in parallel on a number of fronts.

Many agreed that to be able resolve the economic and social damage being imposed on us by the actions of the Westminster government, Scotland needs to fully exercise our constitutional rights domestically and internationally as a sovereign nation.

READ MORE: The question of an independent Scotland's currency answered in 40 seconds

One of the many highlights over the weekend was the session on strategic infrastructure and trade where the gaps, weaknesses and the strategic decisions of the UK Government were explored, with the resulting under-development in Scotland’s road, rail, aviation and maritime infrastructure exposed by Professor Alf Baird and Iain Cameron. The likely social and economic benefits achievable in these areas in an independent Scotland were the subject of considerable debate with conference delegates.

There were significant contributions by Professor Richard Murphy and Dr Tim Rideout on Scotland’s economy and proposals for a Scottish Currency with a wide-ranging debate on some quite technical issues.

On a slightly lighter note, delegates enjoyed taking part in a novel experiment over the weekend led by the Scottish Currency Group, which advocates the introduction of a Scottish currency as soon as possible after independence.

A “Scottish Central Bank” and a “bureau de change” booth were set up during the conference to illustrate the introduction of a new currency. The conference virtually became a “sterling-free zone” for three days so that all attendees could use newly-designed Scottish currency for any purchases they made at the venue.

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The concluding session, led by Dr Mark McNaught, saw Douglas Chapman MP (above), Neale Hanvey MP, and Sara Salyers deliver an inspiring open and honest debate with hard-hitting questions from attendees.

Alba MP Hanvey said: “As a Yesser, I think if we are going to have a plebiscite election and it’s going to be a single issue, it needs to be conducted as the Yes movement rather than any political party.”

“It’s not about going down to Westminster to ask for a negotiation ... what we have to do is have the guts and gumption to go down and say “right, meeting now, we are going to negotiate the withdrawal from the Treaty of Union.

“We have to be much less timid.”

The SNP’s Chapman said: “If you’re standing on a platform a plebiscite election then I think it would need to be some sort of alliance candidate structure that you would need to have there.”

There was respectful disagreement among delegates and speakers on tactics and timing, but a meeting of minds and a shared understanding of what preparations and actions need to be taken by individuals and different groups across Scotland, now and in the coming months, to increase political momentum and ensure we achieve our goal of Scottish independence.