17 October 2023

Key points in Humza Yousaf’s speech to the SNP conference

17 October 2023

Humza Yousaf has just finished his keynote speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen, his first as leader of the party.

It comes during a turbulent period for the SNP, with a significant by-election loss and the defection of an MP to the Conservatives earlier this month.

Here are some of the key points:

– Council tax will be frozen in the upcoming Scottish Budget. A consultation earlier this year suggested properties on Band E or higher could face rises of between 7.5% to 22.5%. However, the move has already caused “concern” among the SNP’s partners in the Scottish Government, the Scottish Green Party.

– The Scottish Government will issue its first financial bonds on the international market. Mr Yousaf said this would be subject to “due diligence” and would fund infrastructure projects like affordable housing.

– Mr Yousaf called for an international refugee programme to be set up for those fleeing violence in the Gaza strip. Over the past few days, he has spoken emotionally about his family members who are trapped in the enclave amid the ongoing military action.

– He insisted that support for independence can be built into a “sustained majority”. He said this would happen by focussing on the “why” rather than the “how” of independence. Recent opinion polls have found support for independence at just below 50% when the “don’t knows” are removed.

– The SNP leader confirmed the first line of the party’s general election manifesto would read “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country”. On Sunday, SNP members backed his proposal for independence negotiations to begin if the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats at the next general election.

– He used part of his speech to offer a “thank you” to his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon. She spoke to journalists at the conference on Monday, saying he was doing a “fantastic job”. Mr Yousaf said: “We will never forget that in the toughest of times our country faced, Nicola was the calmest of voices and the coolest of heads.”

– Hitting out at his political opponents, he said Home Secretary Suella Braverman had used “dog-whistle” language about migrants, accusing her of stoking a culture war. Taking aim at the Labour leader, he said he had “no idea what Keir Starmer stands for”.

– The First Minister pledged an extra £300 million for the NHS in Scotland over the next three years. He said the cash could bring down waiting lists by 100,000.

– Mr Yousaf also set out support for women experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland. Those who wish to leave an abusive partner will be able to receive up to £1,000 as part of a new, pilot fund.

– The Scottish Government will invest up to £500 million in the next five years for the offshore wind supply chain in Scotland. Mr Yousaf said this would “send a clear message to global investors – Scotland means business”.

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