Blackford: PM and Chancellor have made worst first impression in history

SNP delegates met in person at the party conference in Aberdeen for the first time since before the pandemic.

08 October 2022

Liz Truss and her Chancellor have made “the worst first impression in the history of UK politics”, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Speaking on the first day of the party’s conference in Aberdeen, Ian Blackford took aim at the UK Government and the Labour Party as he sought to rally the party faithful.

In his address to members, the MP challenged Tory rebels to stand with his party “in stopping any real terms cuts to benefits and any return to austerity”.

Mr Blackford sought to take advantage of the economic turmoil of recent weeks, following the mini-budget announcement of tax cuts, the scrapping of the cap on bankers’ bonuses and a cut to stamp duty.

Following the announcements, the pound fell to its lowest point against the dollar and the Bank of England was forced to step in.

“Only a matter of weeks into their new roles, the disastrous duo of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have crashed the economy, sent the pound plummeting, put pension funds at risk and caused mayhem for mortgage holders,” Mr Blackford said.

Ian Blackford on stage
It is the first in-person party conference for the SNP since before the pandemic (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The truth is, the new Prime Minister and her new Chancellor have made the worst first impression in the history of UK politics.

“Because the inequality and incompetence of that budget will go down as one of the worst financial interventions in modern history.”

Meanwhile, the SNP’s depute leader Keith Brown also took a swipe at the UK Government, saying Prime Minister Liz Truss is “singularly unfit for the job”.

Keith Brown speaking before the SNP conference
The party’s depute leader Keith Brown also addressed the conference on Saturday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The chaos that she has created is no surprise – the only people who ever believed she was fit for No 10 were the very few thousand Tory members who put her there,” he said.

Both also took a swipe at Labour, with Mr Blackford describing Sir Keir Starmer’s party as a “Brexit- backing, democracy-denying, Tory-enabling party”.

The senior SNP figures sought to rouse the Aberdeen crowds with a call to arms, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next week that could allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum.

Invoking the memory of Ian Hamilton KC – one of the group who stole the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and brought it back to Scotland – who died ahead of the conference, Mr Blackford said the SNP had a “clear purpose and a clear path”.

“Ian Hamilton brought home the Stone of Destiny. My purpose, friends, is to lead our SNP MPs out of the doors of Westminster for the very last time and come home to our independent nation,” he said.

Ian Blackford
Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster Leader (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“For Ian Hamilton, for all those who have gone before, for those of us in Scotland today, but most importantly for future generations – let’s finish the job, let’s finish the journey and finally put a finish to Westminster control for good.”

Mr Brown said: “Friends, we have, as ever, work to do, and I would like to thank you for the work that you’ve done so far and ask you to be ready for the fight about to come.”

Delegates also heard from Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko, who thanked the people of Scotland for taking in more than 20,000 families since the outbreak of war in her native country, adding: “You have opened your homes and you have opened your hearts for us at the time of most need.”

In the only announcement on the first day, Mr Brown told the audience the party would be creating its own “broadcast platform” as it launched a podcast named Scotland’s Voices.

Lesia Vasylenko
Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian MP, addresses delegates in Aberdeen (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said the SNP’s “relentless drive for another divisive independence referendum might play well in an SNP conference hall but it will be met with dismay by most Scots”.

He added: “They expect SNP ministers to focus on the key issues facing Scots – namely the global cost-of-living crisis and the longest waiting times ever recorded in Scotland’s NHS.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Our sole priority is to secure and drive economic growth for people and their families – delivering jobs, investment, and energy security across the whole of the UK.

“People across Scotland want both their governments to be working together on the issues that matter to them and their families, not talking about another independence referendum.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “It’s clear for all to see that the SNP is rattled by Labour’s resurgence.

“The idea that the SNP is a progressive party has been exposed as a sham.

“The SNP is happy to let the Tories continue to govern so that they can stoke up grievance.

“Only Labour can kick out the Tories and focus on the priorities of the people of Scotland.”

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