WELCOME, friends, to the North East. It’s truly fantastic to meet up in person finally. I am looking forward to chatting and listening to you throughout today.

We meet at what is an exciting time for the Yes movement, with a referendum campaign starting, and finally being able to do the type of face-to-face campaigning we all love.

But we also know that it’s that very face-to-face campaigning that will win us the campaign.

With the council elections now behind us, it’s a fantastic time for the Yes movement, but not just any Yes movement: a progressive one!

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The results of the recent council elections speak for themselves. Scotland made it clear that it’s time to progress to Yes, which today is all about. Let’s look back a minute and remember 2014. The excitement, vision and creativity as we looked toward a forward-thinking independent Scotland. The ideas and hopes of a better nation.

Scotland and our movement were truly alive, and I know we can’t fight the last campaign all over again – that much is true – but we do need the new ideas and new voices that our progressive country has to offer. We need that energy and creativity.

Sadly, we have lost that in recent years, with way too much talk of process and referendum timing. But that changes from today: today, we start making independence about a better and more socially just nation.

Most people think independence would be admirable but are unwilling to vote for it unless it offers hope that things can and will get better. Independence must be about building an equal society.

Progressive voices have all too often been drowned out in the movement of late. Young people’s voices are met with contempt even when the same young people are those most likely to vote for independence. It was no shock that I saw the Aberdeen Independence Movement (AIM) being attacked online by a section of independence supporters for organising today.

However, AIM has shown us what we must do – and that is build our progressive movement despite them.

We leave the negativity and the intolerance behind and build a better Yes movement. We say with one voice that the Yes movement is civic, open, tolerant and proudly progressive, and that those voices of negativity do not define us. In its very ethos, the Yes movement is a human rights movement, and no human rights movement can prosper if it allows itself to be defined by intolerance.

Having seen the schedule for today, I am filled with excitement at the range of groups taking part, from the Radical Independence Movement to Business For Scotland, showing the wide breadth of views in the independence family.

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Although, of course, all the groups taking part today have differences of opinion on policy, we all agree on two things: that Scotland should be independent and that the campaign should be civic, free from transphobia and all other forms of hate. That is the platform that we shall build on going forward. Respecting our differences and working on what we do agree on.

Throughout today I’ll be directly involved in two of the panels. I’ll be joining No to Yes for a chat on how we can bring those who are not yet with us to perhaps not join our movement, but certainly begin their journey to Yes.

I am also taking part in the final panel in the main room, and this one is what the whole day leads up to with a title of “Building A Progressive And Winning Movement”. Aamer Anwar will join me as well as Mike Small, Maggie Chapman MSP and Olaf Stando. It’s a panel that really represents the modern, outward-looking, civic Scotland that we all want to build and one that represents independence.

Let us move into the summer with newfound positivity. A better nation is ours to win. We have much work to do, so let’s get cracking with it so that we can progress to Yes!