I’m writing this from Aberdeen as the SNP meets for its 89th annual conference and has already passed some incredibly important resolutions, with passionate but respectful debate among members, particularly on the way forward for the independence campaign.
But before we got down to the business of shaping how we progress the case for Scotland to become a normal, independent country, there was an emergency resolution on the situation in the Middle East.
I am sure that you will have seen the coverage in the past week about the very difficult situation facing the First Minister’s family, with his in-laws trapped in Gaza. Despite the painful situation worrying about her parents, Nadia El-Nakla has been contributing here in Aberdeen, encouraging us all to do what we can to help not only her loved ones, but others in Palestine.
No one who heard Nadia speak to the conference for the resolution could fail to be deeply moved by her passionate plea for peace.
You could have heard a pin drop in the hall as she spoke.
“Let us survive. Let us live in peace. And I beg. And I plead. Give the children of Gaza a chance of life. Let my niece, Leila, my nephews Majeed, Amjad and my newest nephew, Amir. Eight weeks old. Let them survive.”
The pain of these words is something we must all hear and hold as we decide how to respond. Through my role as Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, I have met and spoken to many people fleeing war and persecution, and the stories they’ve told me, which ended in finding safety, are at the forefront of my mind lately. I cannot begin to fathom what it must be like to be in Gaza right now for the people who do not yet know if they will get the opportunity to make it out alive.
This is why the call to open up humanitarian corridors to let folk escape and vital supplies get in must be heard. There are innocent people stuck in terrible situations, including many children, and this is indefensible.
I am proud that, in the meantime, the Scottish Government has made available £500k to the UN’s relief effort in Gaza. The leadership of our First Minister over the past week is an example that many other world leaders should take lessons from.
As the conference continued, we debated a call for Scotland’s energy resources to be taken into public ownership after independence, which was strongly backed by members. I know that in Orkney there is frustration that such plentiful renewable generation doesn’t lead to lower electricity bills for households or businesses. The passing of this resolution by the SNP, which could see energy in public hands through a mix of local public ownership and nationalisation, would result in fairer prices being charged, breaking the link between electricity and the volatile market price of wholesale gas.
Energy independence will be a key benefit of Scotland becoming an independent country, and rightly so in such an energy-rich nation, where the scourge of fuel poverty means too many folk struggling to heat their homes and cook hot meals.
And that was the theme around the major debate of Sunday afternoon. In moving the resolution on our independence strategy, Humza Yousaf said it was time to move from the ‘how’ of independence to the ‘why’, and he urged folk to come together and ‘work like we’ve never worked before to deliver a better future for our country’.
And I will certainly be keen to get out round the doors to persuade folk of the benefits of Scotland becoming independent.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.