THE SNP’s depute leader has suggested “the future of our planet” depends on Scottish independence.

Keith Brown also said the campaign for independence was “well underway”, despite the ongoing Covid pandemic. 

He also said the world “loved what they saw” at the COP26 climate summit, when Nicola Sturgeon’s “exemplary leadership” gave them a preview of an independent Scotland

Mr Brown, who is Scotland’s Justice Secretary, made the comments in the opening speech of the SNP’s annual national conference, which runs online until Monday.

He said: “To match our world-leading ambitions to combat global Climate Change we need a just transition to a cleaner environment.

“We need independence to invest in our bountiful renewable energy resources, which are the envy of Europe.

“The future of our planet depends on it - and it’s too important to be left to the Tories.

"Never forget what Westminster control means for Scotland. Westminster control means the North east of Scotland is overlooked for investment in crucial carbon capture projects.

"Westminster control means pork barrel politics, where cash that should come to Scotland is diverted to shore up Tory votes in England.

"And only by becoming an Independent country can Scotland rid itself of Westminster control."

Mr Brown said the SNP already had a “cast-iron mandate” for a second referendum, but asked activists to add to it with a “thumping triumph” in next May’s council elections.

“We will continue to pile the pressure on the UK Government over our legitimate demand for a referendum. The Johnsons and the Goves of Westminster know they can’t stand in the way of the democratic will of Scotland,” he said. 

Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants Indyref2 by the end of 2023, Covid permitting, with independence to follow in 2026.

Amid complaints from internal critics and Alex Salmond’s Alba party that she is not doing enough to overcome UK Government resistance, Mr Brown reassured SNP members.

He said: “Friends, I can tell you this: That independence campaign is well underway.

“And I promise you we will not let up until we win that referendum!

“We are strengthening relationships with others in the Yes movement to unite behind our campaign.

“Just two months ago, back in September, our First Minister made a hugely significant announcement… The Scottish Government is resuming its crucial work on an updated and detailed prospectus for independence.

“That new government work will be essential to help voters make their fully informed choice and we await the delivery of that new prospectus with eager anticipation.

“Meanwhile, our combined task is clear. We must bring to life our vision of a better, fairer, more sustainable Scotland.”

Tory MSP Liam Kerr said: “Keith Brown is playing the same tired old tune but it will have left most listeners reaching for the mute button.

“It is deeply ironic that he should make this claim in the same week that the UK Government awarded nearly £10 million of funding to a Scottish windfarm, and signalled a significant investment in Scotland’s tidal stream power.

“The SNP’s record of failing to meet its emissions targets three years running suggests independence is anything but the answer.

“The last thing that Scotland’s renewable sector needs is the threat of division – what is needed is for the SNP to drop their grievance with the union and start delivering on the environment.”

Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Scotland’s biggest hospital is in crisis, our NHS is on life support, we have just five years to stop a climate emergency and a new Covid variant could be set to jumpstart more global instability.

“At a time like this only a party as utterly blinkered by separation and obsessed with grievance as the SNP could boast that a campaign to break up the the UK was in full swing.

“Government ministers should be focused on the Scotland’s covid recovery, on keeping families safe and on bringing the country together to build a better nation.

“Scotland deserves so much better than this.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The SNP are using independence as an excuse for their shortcomings and missed targets.

"While the SNP targeted COP26 delegates with adverts about independence, President Obama was inside warning that nationalism and tribalism are eating up the precious time left to save the planet.

"Scotland needs new hope, not the same old empty excuses.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “To boast that a fresh campaign to divide Scotland and break-up the UK is underway on the day that warnings are issued about a new Covid variant is simply extraordinary.

“Government ministers should be focused on the recovery and rebuilding our NHS and public services, not obsessing about the constitution.

“As part of the UK we are stronger together, protecting millions of jobs and livelihoods, investing more in schools and hospitals, and ensuring we can build a recovery that leaves no community behind.”