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Between the virtual SNP conference and that of the new Alba Party in Greenock town hall, the refrain went “anything you can do, I can do better, I can do anything better than you” – with a call and response of “no you can’t, yes I can” coming from Scottish nationalists, once comrades -in-arms, but now locked in a woad-stained battle.
From Keith Brown’s plea to members to “reach out” to No voters to Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum-heavy speech, the SNP conference played many of its greatest indy hits over again. Meanwhile members of the Alba Party congregated for their first conference in Greenock, flocking to the sound of Alex Salmond’s cry for freedom.
The parties may want the same outcome, but their approaches are wildly different. Ms Sturgeon has shifted her stance slightly and is appealing for “co-operation” rather than confrontation with the UK Government in her bid to ensure a second referendum can be held by her promised date of 2023.
She is pinning her hopes on the idea that Boris Johnson will be forced to move his position by the sheer force of democracy and the mandate she says the Scottish people gave her at the May election, when the SNP won a historic fourth term in government.
But there is an undercurrent of a harder-edged challenge from the First Minister.
Work on the “prospectus” or white paper on independence has restarted within the Scottish Government, and she has been clear to state that any vote will be “legal”, which raises the prospect of the whole situation ending up in court – and who knows whether it will be adjudged that such a vote without Westminster approval will indeed be legal.
The Alba Party, however, believe the SNP has been too slow for too long in its demands for independence and called the six years since the referendum “Groundhog Day”.
In his speech, Mr Salmond was scathing, telling delegates: “If you constantly march people up to the top of the hill and then down again, then you end up all singing Rule Britannia.”