At the annual conference of the Scottish National Party, in Perth, I was re-elected unopposed as President. I am very grateful to all who nominated me for the position, and I look forward to another year of campaigning as we work together with the people of Scotland to achieve Independence.

Each year at conference I have the pleasure of awarding the Presidentʼs Prize to an active SNP member who has shown exemplary dedication to the cause of Scottish Independence. The prize was established by Winnie Ewing, during her term as SNP President, to recognise the contribution made by the many members who give so much time and effort to our campaigns, and who have not been otherwise recognised, through election to positions in the Party nationally, or to public bodies.

This yearʼs winner was Mary Bell Galbraith, known as Marybell, who is currently Convener of the Uist and Barra Branch of the SNP. Marybell joined the party in 1953, in Glasgow, following a rally in Govan Town Hall at which a young Douglas Henderson signed her membership card. Following many years of balancing SNP work with career and family commitments, Marybell returned to her native Barra in 1987, where she is still a key person in the SNP Western Isles constituency and a tremendous example to us all of enthusiasm and dedication to winning Independence for our country.

Also at the Perth conference, a large number of delegates turned out for a Fringe meeting hosted by the European Free Alliance (EFA), which is one of the EUʼs officially recognised European Political Parties. EFA member parties are from nations, stateless nations and territorial entities with a strong sense of identity that want a proper voice in Europe. EFA brings together 40 democratic parties who have elected representation at local, national or EU level in 17 Member States.

Since the first direct elections for the European Parliament, when Winnie Ewing won the Highlands and Islands seat for the SNP, EFA has advocated self-determination, and the right to speak and protect native and historic languages. Scotland, Wales, Catalunya, Flanders and the Basque Country are now on their path to Independence and a full place at the EU top table. Our countriesʼ current constitutional status means that we lack the normal status and representation that member states enjoy in Europe. That is why EFA highlights the benefits of proper representation for the stateless nations and peoples of Europe, and fully supports the SNP vision for Scotland as a normal, independent, Member State of the EU.

Guest speaker at the Fringe meeting was Eric Defoort from Flanders, elected President of the EFA political party earlier this year, who underlined the fact that Independence is the normal status for nations in Europe, and that the SNP has many allies across the continent who are looking to Scotland, and the SNP Government, for inspiration as they progress towards Independence for their own nations.

Bringing greetings from fellow EFA members, Eric Defoort summed up by declaring;

"I wish the Scottish National Party the best of luck at the Holyrood elections in 2011. A new SNP success will not only be another boost for Scottish independence, but a beacon of hope that will shed its light over the whole of Europe and send out a message that the future lies with our nations, Independent in a strong and decisive European Union."

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