5 Jan 2012
Speaking today in Glasgow, Ruth Davidson has outlined plans for a wholesale review of Scottish Conservative policy across local, national and UK level.
Ruth Davidson said:
“Two months ago, the members of our party elected me as the first leader of the entire Scottish Conservative and unionist party.
“They put their trust in me and have given me an enormous privilege.
“I am proud to be their leader.
“I am proud to serve my party and my country.
“I am proud to fly the blue flag of conservatism in Scotland.
“During that leadership campaign, I set out my objectives for my party.
“I said that this must be the decade where we win again for Scotland, when we reach out to people who have stopped listening to us, or perhaps never did.
“When we are proud of who we are.
“Proud of what we stand for.
“Proud of our values, because they are Scotland’s values.
“Proud to be Scottish and British.
“While I lead my MSP group at Holyrood and am proud of our constructive opposition in that chamber, working for the people of Scotland; our parliamentary positioning is now only part of the leader’s job.
“As such, much of the last two months has been spent on internal party reform, which continues. New personnel, new funding structures, a recruitment drive to broaden the base, opening a new candidates list, instituting the new constitution – in short, professionalising what we do and how we do it.
“As these changes and others are brought forward, in order to improve the way in which our message is advanced to the people of Scotland, we must make clear what that message is.
“Too often we’ve been told on a doorstep that nobody knows what we stand for. No more.
“One of the biggest reforms I am instituting is a wholesale review of our policy across local, national and UK government. Our policy soundings will involve wider consultation and input than we’ve had in years and will result in a platform of policy ideas tested in the crucible of Scottish public life.
“Nothing will be off the table for discussion; there will be no ‘no go areas’.
“At the heart of our review will be engagement not only with our own members and supporters but with the people of Scotland. We will engage with the voluntary sector, with groups representing the business community and rural interests, with the trade unions, teachers and health professionals and with communities the length and breadth of Scotland.
“We will throw open the doors of our party and its policy making processes. We will listen, we will learn and we will build a set of policies that meet the challenges of our age and which reflect the aspirations of today’s Scotland.
“And yet, that too will not be enough to stake out the ground of a modern Scottish Conservative party fighting to be heard in the 21st century.
“We must not only state what we want to achieve, but why we want to achieve it.
“What we stand for, our values and principles which will be the framework upon which our policies hang.
“Our purpose is to decisively shift the balance of power from the hands of politicians into the hands of people and local communities.
“We believe in people, not in the state and we believe that the bigger the size of the state, the smaller the role left for the individual citizen.
“So today is the first in a number of values statements, explaining why Conservatives are wedded to the cause of a smaller state, sound public finances, enterprise, opportunity, endeavour, and – yes – to the success and growth of a private sector which offers opportunity to individuals and benefit to the whole country.
“All over Europe, economic chickens are coming home to roost. The dream of permanent growth and ever-increasing prosperity stands exposed as a collective delusion; a fantasy built on debt. Countries that have been living beyond their means, with unaffordable expenditure and cossetting of public sector workers, are being forced to relearn the harsh economic facts of life.
“The downturn has exposed not only the perils of living on credit but also the foolishness of imposing a one-size-fits-all currency union on hugely divergent economies. From the French banker who can’t collect on a loan to the Greek school janitor who can’t collect his pension, Europeans are paying the price for an experiment in which, again and again, fiscal discipline has been sacrificed to political expediency.
“Of course, in this maelstrom some countries have fared better than others. Size is not the key, as the divergent fates of large nations like Italy and Germany prove. While Ireland and Portugal suffer terribly, Denmark and the Netherlands remain less exposed, although none has escaped unscathed.
“So what makes the difference? I would argue that the single biggest factor in determining a country’s long term economic prosperity is attitude, and this is why we as Scots must ask ourselves a profound question: what kind of country do we want to be?
“Do we want to be like the Greeks? Borrowing and spending vast sums of other people’s money in the hope and expectation of never being called to account. Are we the kind of people who think that there is Money Tree somewhere that can provide an endless supply of ready cash? Perhaps we can persuade ourselves that everything could be paid for by taxing rich bankers.
“Or would we rather be like the Germans? They know that borrowing and printing money you haven’t earned leads to disaster. That awareness, deeply embedded in their national psyche, has led to decades of prosperity. In Germany, saving is a virtue and debt is shameful.
“I believe that the Scottish people are, by instinct and philosophy, on the right side of the argument. This is the land that gave Adam Smith, the father of economics, to the world. And this is the country that has elevated being careful with money into a national stereotype.
I believe that there is only one way for Scotland to be at ease with itself. We must return to the verities that made us great. If we want to prosper, we are going to have to work for it, as our forefathers did.
“Scots are not afraid of hard work. And we know in our guts that if something is too good to be true, it almost certainly is. The something-for-nothing society is over. Nobody who is able to work should be allowed by choice to live off the rest of us without contributing.
“To those who would claim that I am offering a miserable vision of the future I say this: we’ve had a lucky escape. If Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats had had their way, Britain would have joined the euro ten years ago and Scotland would now be the grip of an unparalleled crisis. If David Cameron had not become Prime Minister and formed a government pledging to live within its means, the markets would have inflicted the same fate on us as is befalling Italy and Spain. If Alex Salmond had succeeded in tearing Scotland out of the UK, our economy would have been buffeted and destabilised just as the economies of so many other small nations have been.
“My vision for Scotland is a positive one. We are a resourceful people, responsible for many of the world’s greatest inventions. Our ingenuity and endurance has built business empires and spread commerce across the globe. Decades of socialism have dampened our natural capacity for enterprise and hard work but the flame still burns. We can rise again if we learn from recent events and decide that we are determined to make Scotland work.
“We can build our country and make it the best that it can be; but to do that we must embrace a rebalancing of the economy between the public and private sectors. We must encourage business growth and teach enterprise in our schools. We must teach our children to reach for the stars and support them with a rigorous education system. We must cut red tape, encourage our entrepreneurs and build a country with the confidence to try and sometimes fail – knowing that the shame is not in falling short, but in not trying at all.
“Our public services are essential to the quality of life of our nation. But our private businesses are essential to our quality of opportunity – the opportunities of individuals, their aspirations and earnings but also the opportunities of government to properly fund those public services in a demographically challenging future.
“As Scots We can have pride in who we are and optimism in what we can be. Ours is a great nation with an even greater future. We can be all that we aspire to be if we are true to our values.
“Scotland can be the envy of the world – but we must work to make it so.”