The pandemic and Brexit are ‘no excuse’ to delay another referendum, Alex Salmond has insisted.
The former First Minister also claimed his party’s members have done more work on a second referendum in five weeks than the entire Scottish Government has in the past five years.
Mr Salmond made the comments in his address at the first Alba party conference today.
He was quick to tear down his successor Nicola Sturgeon, claiming she had made no progress on another referendum, and mocked remarks made by her and her senior colleagues on the timeline of a referendum over the past five years.
He said: “These are not headlines drawn from the remarks of some overheated backbencher but from the First Minister, her Deputy, the SNP President and the leader of the Westminster Group.
“Is it any wonder that Westminster Tory politicians now seem pretty relaxed about any political challenge from Scotland?”
Mr Salmond said that Brexit was a reason for “accelerating” the campaign for Scotland to leave the UK, and the pandemic was no excuse either.
He reiterated previous comments, comparing the progress on independence to the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day.
He said: “Bill Murray was only trapped in his time for a few months. Scotland’s Referendum Groundhog Day has lasted six years.
“And now in the run up to the SNP virtual Conference we have the announcement this week that a reduced civil service team are going to be asked to start preparations for an independence White Paper… Wow, haud me back.”
Mr Salmond then sarcastically said: “It is perfectly reasonable for the SNP to conduct a virtual Conference – but not to conduct a virtual referendum campaign” and added: “ Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday Covid had made the financial case for independence more challenging.
She is wrong – these great events, world events, make the economic and social necessity of Scottish independence overwhelming.”
He said his party would be the “grit in the independence oyster” and committed to “concentrating the minds” of the SNP and Green party.
He said: “The first political breakthrough scored by this party will concentrate the minds of the SNP/Green administration and concentrate them wonderfully.
“Independence will suddenly become the first thought not an afterthought. It will be like having the run up to an SNP conference every week of the year.”
Continuing to criticise the SNP, Mr Salmond said that dissent had been silenced at Westminster, adding: “The SNP and a few others provided an alternative view from the benches of the House of Commons.
“It didn’t win any votes in the Commons but it martialled much respect outside it – providing just a glimpse of a different world perspective that an independent country might take.
“I look at the House of Commons and see nothing of that now.
“With just a few honourable exceptions such as Joanna Cherry, Douglas Chapman and Angus Brendan McNeil, dissent has been absorbed into the green benches.”
He warned that the “SNP have been assimilated into dangerous neo-con nonsense just as America is turning away from it.”
Mr Salmond said that the arguments for an independent Scotland had to be “refurbished” for the modern time, suggesting that the reliance on Scotland’s oil revenues could now be revamped to focus on the wind sector.
He explained: “Ten years ago offshore wind was in its infancy and hugely expensive. Now it is hugely lucrative, worth many billions and moving into deeper waters – Scottish waters. Scotland needs a stake in the generation of wealth from our own natural resources.
“That is why the concept of a Scottish National Renewables Corporation is of such importance.”
He said there was a “lack of political will and industrial strategy” in the sector, adding: “Scotland needs a share in every major field, onshore and offshore and therefore in a position to insist that the infrastructure and platforms, floating or fixed, must be built in Scottish yards.”
He later said: “With one quarter of Europe’s entire offshore wind resource in our waters we have a second chance to put things right.
“For 50 years the cry ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’ has resounded through the politics of Scotland. Now let it be ‘It’s Scotland’s renewable energy’.”
During his speech, Mr Salmond said his party must now start ‘Scotland’s Claim of Right’ campaign, while also pledging to develop his own campaign materials.
The former First Minister said his party would fundraise to produce 100,000 copies of “the Wee Alba book” which would contain arguments in support of independence, to be edited by Wings Over Scotland author Stuart Campbell and written by former Common Weal think tank director Robin McAlpine.
Later in his speech, Mr Salmond said there were “now real, profound questions on the impartiality of the Crown Office and the blurring of proper boundaries between the legal system and politics”.
He also criticised the Scottish Government’s intention to reform the gender recognition act, saying ministers “seem almost oblivious to women’s sex based rights as they pursue gender self-identification in a divisive way and with an urgency totally lacking in the independence campaign.”
His half-hour long speech was received with applause by hundreds of conference delegates, who gave the former First Minister a standing ovation as he concluded his address.