Sturgeon laments 'gap between Scotland's interests and Westminster's priorities'

Updated: 

The gap between Scotland and Westminster has "never been wider", Nicola Sturgeon declared as she pledged the SNP will "always" make the case for independence.

The Scottish First Minister had been forced to delay plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, after suffering heavy losses in June's snap general election.

While she insisted her party still has a mandate to hold such a vote, she said she would "respect" the desire for greater clarity over Brexit before Scots go to the polls again.

But she was clear: "There is a better future to be had for all of us, if we chose to build it, together."

The case for leaving the UK "does not depend on Brexit", the SNP leader said, but she said the decision to leave the European Union - which was not supported in Scotland - showed "what can happen when we don't control our own future".

Ms Sturgeon told the conference: "The gap between Scotland's interests and Westminster's priorities has never been wider."

She accepted many independence supporters "are impatient for change" - but said that "we may not yet know exactly when the choice will be made."

Nicola Sturgeon delivers her keynote speech at the SNP conference in Glasgow
Nicola Sturgeon delivers her keynote speech at the SNP conference in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

However she stressed: "We can, we must, and we will always make the case for independence.

"With the UK government so engulfed in chaos and taking the country down a path of self imposed decline, the need to do so has never been greater."

She hit out at the Tories over their "heartless, shameful, self defeating" policies of austerity, and also condemned them for pursuing the "hardest possible Brexit".

With the SNP having been in power for 10 years at Holyrood she highlighted the importance of "acting and governing today" as well as campaigning for independence.

"With the UK government so engulfed in chaos and taking the country down a path of self imposed decline, the need to do so has never been greater."

She hit out at the Tories over their "heartless, shameful, self defeating" policies of austerity, and also condemned them for pursuing the "hardest possible Brexit".

With the SNP having been in power for 10 years at Holyrood she highlighted the importance of "acting and governing today" as well as campaigning for independence.

The First Minister after addressing the conference
The First Minister after addressing the conference (Jane Barlow/PA)

As part of that she announced that by the end of this Scottish Parliamentary term, her government will have set up a "publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company".

More details on this will be revealed in the Government's energy strategy, the First Minister said.

But she added: "The idea, at its heart, is simple. Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland - renewable, of course - and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible.

"No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider.

"It would give people - particularly those on low incomes - more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers."

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon poked fun at Theresa May (Jane Barlow/PA)

After Theresa May's speech last week was marred by coughing, Ms Sturgeon announced to delegates at the SNP conference in Glasgow that she had "come prepared" - holding up a packet of cough sweets.

She went on to make a series of announcements on domestic policy, pledging "record investment" of £3 billion over this Parliament for affordable homes - saying "every last penny" of this would go towards "delivering the new houses that people across this country need".

To help young people leaving care, she promised to change the law to make them exempt from paying council tax, to "make life a little bit easier".

And on the Scottish Government's "transformational" plans to expand free childcare, she said funding for this would double, reaching £840 million a year by August 2020 - with Ms Sturgeon hailing this as "commitment unmatched anywhere else in the UK"