23 Mar 2012
“It’s not always easy being a Conservative in Scotland, but I know this: there are no tougher, more loyal, more committed Conservatives than the ones in this room.
We’ve had to make some truly difficult decisions in this government…
…but every single step of the way you’ve been right behind us…
…so I want to thank everyone here for what they’ve done.
And friends – let’s remind people of what else we Conservatives have done in government.
We said we’d be on the side of those who work hard and do the right thing.
So we’re making work pay. Capping welfare. Ending the something-for-nothing culture.
Cutting income tax for 25 million people and yes – after George Osborne’s brave Budget this week, taking almost 2 million people out of income tax altogether.
We said we’d back British business…
…so we’ve axed the jobs tax, cut corporation tax, cut the small profits rate.
We said we’d look after those that look after us…
…so we’ve doubled the operational allowance for our brave soldiers in Afghanistan…
…and are writing the Military Covenant into the law of the land.
We said we’d give people dignity in old age…
…and yes: in just a couple of weeks we’ll have the biggest ever increase in the basic state pension.
We said we’d stand up for Britain – and so when there was a European treaty that was bad for Britain we said “no”…
…it won’t be a European Union treaty and we won’t sign it.
We said we’d treat Scotland with respect and stand up for the United Kingdom and we’ve done both those things…
…delivering the Scotland Bill…
…and pledging a decisive referendum that for the first time has got Alex Salmond on the back foot…
…giving everyone who supports our United Kingdom a cause around which to unite.
So let’s all of us be proud for what we’ve done for our country.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
And let’s be proud too of the leader you’ve elected.
Ruth has come in with a new vibrancy. A new urgency.
I’ve got to be honest with you.
A few years back when I came to these things I was the young British leader greeted by the slightly older, more experienced Scottish one.
Now the roles are reversed.
I am the old, gnarled veteran and Ruth is the face of the future.
And I like that.
Because this new leader gives us the chance of a fresh start.
And that’s what I want to speak to you about today: the future of this Party.
Let’s be frank.
We aren’t where we want to be in Scotland – nowhere near it.
There are those who think this is just a fact of life…
…that a small Conservative presence North of the border is inevitable.
I am resolutely not one of them.
I’m here today to argue that this is our moment – if we are bold enough – to come back stronger.
The challenge we face is very simple.
There are millions of people across Scotland who believe in some clear values.
That we have responsibilities to those less fortunate than ourselves.
But no one should look to the state to do things you can do yourself.
That everyone deserves a good start in life – but you should be able to rise as high as your effort and talent allow.
That we should love the solid things in life: family, place, country.
And that we should be fierce in defence of what’s right…
….speaking out for all the quiet heroes and hard-working people that make Scotland great.
This is us, this is what we believe too.
Our challenge is to reach out to these people, to reconnect their beliefs with ours…
…and that’s about driving three things home:
First, that this is a distinctively Scottish party…
…with its head, heart and soul right here in Scotland.
Second, that this is a passionately patriotic party…
…a party that knows a love for Scotland and a belief in the Union can go hand in hand.
Third – and most crucially – we must show how our values chime with the values of people all over Scotland.
A DISTINCTIVELY SCOTTISH PARTY
To demonstrate we have a distinctive party in Scotland…
…there can be no better person to lead than Ruth.
Born in Edinburgh. Raised in the Borders and Fife. Living and working in Glasgow.
A regular at Murrayfield and Hampden.
Passionate about Scotland.
Determined that this party should be shaped here, led from here, rooted in the concerns and dreams and hopes of Scottish people.
Anyone who thinks that she’s just going to look to Westminster for direction…
…trust me, if you’ve met Ruth, you know that’s never going to happen.
Already she’s out there speaking to business, families, communities from the Highlands to the cities.
And let’s be clear: when that manifesto is written, it will not be written by me and it will not be written in London
It’s going to be as purely Scottish as the best single malt – refined and distilled right here.
SCOTTISH PATRIOTISM AND THE UNION
We’ve got to show too that a love of Scotland does not belong to one party.
For too long we’ve let the SNP claim ownership of patriotism.
The Saltire is the flag of a proud nation – not the symbol of one party.
And that’s the thing about the SNP.
They’ve spread the idea that if you love your country, you have no choice but to go it alone…
…that believing in the Union is somehow treasonous.
Do you know what one of their MSPs said?
That leaders of the pro-United Kingdom parties were “anti-Scottish”.
This same SNP politician has also compared the United Kingdom to – I kid you not – an abusive relationship.
What planet are these people on?
Was it an abusive relationship that stood alone against Nazi Germany? Or that abolished slavery?
Or that turned these islands into one of the world’s greatest economic and political success stories?
It’s not an abusive relationship, it’s a Union.
This is the Union that has shone as a beacon of openness and tolerance the world over for generations…
…not just a place on the map but an idea and an ideal.
And it’s not just about our history. It’s about our future.
Together we’ve got global clout…
…a seat on the UN Security Council…
…the seventh-richest economy in the world…
…the fourth-largest defence budget in the world…
…and most importantly – the means to pool resources…
…to provide a fair safety net, a free education and a free health service to everyone.
This isn’t an abusive relationship…
…it’s a partnership – for liberty, security, prosperity.
The Conservative Friends of the Union – launched today – is going to say just that…
…we walk taller, stand prouder, shout louder together.
That’s why not only can you can love Scotland and love the United Kingdom…
…not only can you can drape yourself in the Saltire and the Union Jack…
…but you can be even prouder of your Scottish heritage than your British heritage – as many in Scotland are – and still believe that Scotland is better off in Britain.
And all this is why this Prime Minister and this Party is going to fight for the United Kingdom with everything we’ve got.
MESSAGE TO SALMOND
So I’m eager that we hold the debate, put the question, make the decision.
But you know the one big road-block standing in the way of this referendum?…
…yes, the man who’s been calling for one for decades.
At the last election, Alex Salmond asked for a mandate for a vote on independence.
He won that election. He got the mandate. I offered him his referendum…
…and now he won’t take it.
What on earth is going on?
First he wanted a referendum in 2010 – now they say they need 1000 days.
First he said they wanted one question – now he’s flirting with two.
Now he’s talking about Devo-Max, or Devo-Plus.
Soon it’ll be Devo: the sequel.
I tell you: it might say Braveheart on the box but the movie you’re watching is more like Chicken Run.
Seriously: what is he waiting for?
He says he wants to know whether more devolved powers are on the table…
…but no-one can accuse me of being dogmatic about this.
In the Scotland Bill we’ve got a huge transfer of fiscal powers…
…new borrowing powers. A cash reserve. A Scottish income tax. Indeed the proportion of the Budget that can be raised in Scotland will more than double.
And this week we’ve reached agreement with the Scottish Government on further issues they wanted reflected in the Bill.
So this is a Bill delivered in Westminster…
…supported by the Scottish Government…
…consented to by the Scottish Parliament.
I promised respect and that’s exactly what we’re giving.
Scotland’s two governments and parliaments working together.
Beyond this, I am open-minded about the transfer of more powers…
…as long as those powers are truly about improving the lives of Scottish people – not just bargaining chips in a game of constitutional poker.
But all these are principally questions for after the referendum.
The people of Scotland were promised a clear choice…
…yes or no, in or out of the Union – and that’s exactly the clarity they should get.
Delay creates uncertainty – for businesses, investors, families.
People need to know one way or the other.
So my message to the First Minister is this:
Stop dithering and start delivering.
Let’s give the Scottish people the chance to make a clear choice about their future.
In that campaign I want us to demonstrate that this is a party with a proud, patriotic message: Scottish and British.
But our long-term future depends on more than that…
…on showing how our values connect with the values of Scotland.
I see no reason why a party that is moderate, sensible, centre-right cannot represent the people of Scotland.
This is a nation founded on the virtues of thrift and graft…
…of paying your way, not running up debts.
There’s that profound belief in personal responsibility that gets Scottish workers through the snow to work on a winter’s morning.
There’s a take-on-the-world, buccaneering spirit…
…and a passionate belief in family, community, country.
As I’ve said, for Conservatives looking at these qualities is like looking in the mirror.
These are our values, our passions.
And yet – let’s face it – that’s not how many Scots think of this Party.
The pensioner in Yorkshire votes Conservative because he knows we will look after every pound of taxpayers’ money…
…but too often the pensioner in Perthshire – with the same belief in sound money – rejects us.
The entrepreneur in Birmingham backs us because we believe in lower taxes…
…but the one in Glasgow doesn’t always do the same.
The mother in Suffolk likes our focus on building a strong, safe society, where children are brought up with the right values…
…so does the mother in Angus, but still, she’s held back in that ballot box.
Some would say “it’s always going to be this way – so get used to it.”
I say it’s time we stood up even more strongly for what we believe in.
Because when you make a strong argument, you know what? People listen.
Not everyone will agree – but those who do will follow your lead.
That’s what we’ve done on the Union.
For years we shied away from the subject, afraid of saying anything, worried it would be taken the wrong way.
Now we’re the ones on the front foot – asking for that referendum, looking for the challenge…
…and though we’re just at the start of this journey, people are giving us a hearing.
We need to show that same fight right across the board, on all the issues that really matter to the Scottish people…
…the economy they work in, the jobs they do, the opportunities their children have, the society they live in.
They deserve a choice on all these things – a choice that includes practical, sensible, centre-right ideas…
…and those, my friends, have got to come from us.
The time for timidity is over.
Enough of the hand-wringing and trying to be all things to all people.
Let’s be clear about what we stand for – and what we won’t put up with.
So let’s take that message of fiscal responsibility out to this country.
This is a nation with prudence in its blood.
Every sensible Scot knows we’ve got to live within our means…
…and they know there are no short-cuts out of a mess like this.
Now Labour and the SNP are trying to tap into this mood.
They’re talking about ‘tough decisions’, speaking the language of austerity.
But I ask you: have you ever heard anyone from Labour or from the SNP ask for a single sensible cut in anything?
We’ve had Plan McB, the Celtic Lion, the arc of prosperity, but nothing – nothing – on how we can start living within our means.
So we’ve got to be very clear to the Scottish people.
If you care about dealing with this deficit…
…if you care about not handing on hideous debts to your children…
…there is only one party on your wavelength and that is us: the Scottish Conservatives.
And in this – the country of Adam Smith, who invented the free market…
…of inventors like James Watt and Alexander Graham Bell…
…of businessmen like Arthur Anderson and financiers like Robert Fleming…
…let us get the message out there that this party is the only party that really gets enterprise.
We’re the only ones who understand that crucial point…
…it’s not government that creates jobs, it’s people – the grafters, strivers, risk-takers, wealth-creators.
Our job is to get behind them, to give them the tools to finish the job.
That’s exactly what we did in the Budget this week.
Corporation tax – cut further.
Oil and gas investment – ramped up.
Superfast broadband for Edinburgh.
Corporate tax relief for the video games industry.
New Capital Allowances for industry in Dundee, Nigg, Irvine.
And yes – that really big, bold decision: to cut the top rate of tax.
If you want to have a dynamic, enterprise economy…
…if you want to attract the very brightest and best here…
…then you just cannot have the highest top rate of tax in Europe.
This is about sending a message out to the world that if you want to invest, create, invent, locate, make money, make jobs – then come and do it right here.
And let’s tell the truth about the 50p top rate of tax.
For thirteen years the Labour government didn’t bring in 50p tax.
When did they introduce it?
One month before the election they knew they were going to lose.
This wasn’t about raising money.
It wasn’t about fairness.
It was about making a political point, plain and simple.
I say let’s have tax rates that actually raise money.
And let’s have tax cuts that reward hard work, that get our economy moving forward.
You know the thing I’m most proud of in that Budget?
We’re taking almost two million people out of tax altogether…
…73,000 people right here in Scotland…
…and that’s why we can get out there on the doorstep and tell the printer in Prestwick, the shopkeeper in Stranraer, the internet entrepreneur in Inverness…
…that this is the party for the hard-working people in Scotland.
And friends: let’s tell the Scottish people that we are the only ones with the courage to fix our society too…
…to bring back the value of responsibility we so desperately need in this country.
Just look at what happened with the welfare cap.
We said it wasn’t right that people could take home more in benefits than the average working family earns.
We proposed a cap of £26,000 on what one family could have in benefits.
This was one important antidote to all those years of failure…
…the wasted lives, the families where no one’s ever worked, the epidemic of irresponsibility that has taken root in so many of our communities.
And guess what?
Labour voted against it.
The SNP said they “don’t really support it.”
Let me say this now:
If you want to keep the welfare system as the woeful, pitiful, factory of hopelessness it is today…
…if you want to back away from the big decisions that we need to fix our society, then vote Labour or SNP…
…because believe me, it’s only this party that will ever have the guts to change anything.
And to anyone who says being louder and prouder about our values means moving away from the new issues we have taken on in recent years…
…I would say nonsense.
The reason this party is a green party is because we believe that every generation has a responsibility to the next.
The reason we are passionate about social justice for the poorest is because we know that strong families, marriage and having good schools with firm discipline – Conservative values…
…are some of the best routes out of poverty.
So conference – we know what our values are.
Sound money. Enterprise. Responsibility. Genuine compassion.
In a time of really tough Budgets this is the government that has refused to cut overseas aid – because we keep our promises to the poorest in the world.
And we’ve kept our promises to the poorest at home too.
The most generous child tax credits ever.
More money for the National Health Service.
And for the poorest pensioners – over five pounds a week added to the minimum income guarantee…
…taking it to over £140 a week for the first time ever.
Real help for those who need it.
And we know that there are many, many people from the Highlands to the Borders…
…from Aberdeen to Arran…
…who have these beliefs running through them too.
So let this be our challenge – not just in the run-up to these elections but in the months and years beyond them…
…to reach out and send out the rallying cry across Scotland.
Saying to the parents who fear leaving a legacy of debt on the next generation…
…we feel it too; you have a home with us.
To the young web entrepreneur who’s desperate to get on and make it, make money and make new jobs…
…we’re behind you; you have a home with us.
To the pensioner who believes that duty and decency are the pillars of our communal life…
…you have a home with us.
To the doctor, the nurse, the teacher who want to have more say over what happens in the ward and the classroom…
…you have a home with us.
To everyone who wants more control over their lives and their neighbourhoods…
…to everyone who knows that this is a great country, but that we’ve got work to do to make it greater…
…and to everyone who loves Scotland with all their heart – and who loves the United Kingdom too, for all it has been, all it is and all it can be…
…then our message has got to ring out…
…join us, come with us, you have a home with us.”