SCOTLAND’S full potential will only be realised with independence, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The SNP leader and First Minister said despite this her party was using “every power at its disposal to deliver for the people of Scotland”.
She used a speech to the SNP National Council in Glasgow to defend her party’s record after 11 years in government.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We know that Scotland’s full potential will only be realised when we have the normal powers of an independent country – but not being independent yet has not stopped us doing our best to improve the lives of the people of Scotland.
“With the new powers of the Parliament, won after the independence referendum, we are renewing our mission as a party of government and a movement for change.
“The Scottish Government budget, passed last month, has reignited a debate about the kind of country we want to be.
“On one side of the argument are the Tories. They want to give tax cuts to the richest – instead of investing in the NHS. They are dismantling the post-war welfare state.
“The SNP has a renewed mission in government: to use Scotland’s new powers to show we can follow a new path – better than the old Westminster way of cuts and austerity, to meet the challenges of the future.”
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP was “the first party in most of my lifetime to have the guts in government to make income tax more progressive and raise more money from it to protect what we hold dear”.
She said the Tories had “gone back to thinking they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it”.
“Well, they can’t. They are a party, after all, that hasn’t won a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland for over 60 years. A party that struggles to even get the levels of support they got under Margaret Thatcher,” she added.
“So let this message go to the Tories today. You have no mandate for your hard Brexit. No mandate for your cuts. And no mandate for your attacks on the welfare state.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the SNP’s record was “nothing to shout about”.
He said: “Economic growth has been pathetic compared to the rest of the UK, and to make matters worse they’ve broken a manifesto pledge and raised taxes on hardworking Scots.
“Everyone earning over £26,000 is now paying more tax than south of the border, yet we’ve seen no improvement in public services.
“And with NHS waiting time targets being consistently missed and Police Scotland lurching from crisis to crisis, Nicola Sturgeon is fooling no-one when she claims the SNP’s time in power has been a success.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “This is woeful stuff from Nicola Sturgeon.
“Her party had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a position where it supported income tax rises but even then only tinkered round the edges and still delivered a massive cut to lifeline public services.
“And she continues to fail to use the full powers of the Scottish Parliament to halt Tory austerity – that’s not guts, it’s a shameful abdication of a government’s duty to support the poorest in society.”