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Theresa May, Scottish Conservative Party Conference

24 Mar 2012

“It’s a real privilege to be here in Troon today. What a beautiful town it is. So typically Scottish: the stunning coast line, friendly people and of course the famous golf course.

In so many ways it represents all that is special about Scotland.

Whenever I visit Scotland I’m always reminded of the fighting spirit of the Scots. It’s envied across the globe. I’m not Scottish – you might have noticed – but I have often observed how you receive a warm welcome wherever you travel.

It’s one of many things to be proud of.

And it’s reciprocated when people visit the vibrant cities, pretty towns, scenic villages and spiritual Islands of this great country.

A country admired across the world.

How many people abroad – some of whom might not have even visited these shores – would like to claim roots in Scotland?

Your country and its people are beloved and admired and everyone wants to be part of it. But the Scotland they love is part of a bigger whole. And I’m here today to talk about is why it should stay that way.

I want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. Because ladies and gentleman, I believe in the Union.

A shared past.

Centuries of being together.

The Union, for all its history of ups and downs, is to be cherished. I have no doubt that Scotland could survive outside the United Kingdom. But together we are stronger.

Stronger on the world stage.

Stronger in protecting our sovereignty in Europe

We are stronger in our own communities.

And we are stronger for recognising this.

So Conference, I’m pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about the work I do and how it operates within the Union. And why I believe that its continued success is tied to the Union.

As Home Secretary I see every day how we work together for the good of us all. A shared intent that unites us. Working together to protect our borders. Working together protecting our country from those who would seek to do us harm.

I also want to talk to you today about some of the myths that the SNP would have people believe.

And I want to spark some debate over issues like Europe. A debate that the SNP don’t want you to have.

I won’t pretend that our Party is the most popular in Scotland. And I won’t pretend that we don’t have some way to go in asking Scotland to trust us again. But we ought to look to the future. The uncertainty of the Union demands that we must.

Conservatives in Scotland

Conference, I believe that each and every woman and man in this room has a part to play in that future. And we have already started to make good progress.

There have been changes to the Party in Scotland of which we can be proud.

Your leader, Ruth Davidson, is a fresh talent. Already we have seen growth in Party membership under her leadership. That’s a fantastic achievement. And the new campaign to find more will continue to yield throughout the year.

She has already become a powerful voice in Scotland. Making the arguments with passion and purpose.

My friend Annabel Goldie did so much for our Party for so long and continues to do so. She’s a tough act to follow. Ruth has done that in her own way, with her own style. She has hit the ground running in modernising the party, setting up policy reviews and bringing people together.

And the issues she faces as leader are not small as the Party heads into the local government election. But under her leadership I believe we are making good progress.

Like everyone in this room she understands the strength that comes from the Union. Yesterday (Friday) the Party launched its ‘Conservative Friends of the Union Campaign’. I look forward to helping in any way I can.

Under Ruth’s leadership the Party has the energy, vision and the will to win once again. We can demonstrate that we are a modern, relevant and powerful force in Scotland.

And now, as the threat of separation looms large, Scotland needs us.

More than ever before.

Europe

The question over the future of the United Kingdom can’t be taken lightly and that is why it deserves open and honest debate on a number of key issues.

Don’t be fooled, Conference, by the ‘N’ in SNP.

The Scottish National Party is not made up of nationalists. Nor should we see them as patriots. As David Cameron said yesterday how dare the SNP claim patriotism for Independence alone? Is not everyone in this room a patriot? No, the SNP are not nationalists. They are separatists.

Separatists like Alex Salmond want to duck the tough questions. He calls himself a social democrat yet he fails to deal with the many issues for democracy that arise from being a separate Scotland.

He calls himself a progressive but what’s progressive about breaking Scotland off from the rest of the United Kingdom then giving away powers to Europe? It completely defeats the SNP argument that Scotland would fare better with more control over its affairs when they seek to hand over so many serious areas of government elsewhere.

And people want to know – And they have the right to know – what handing over those powers will mean:

Maybe even joining a single currency.

In the UK we maintain control over our borders. Joining Europe’s borderless Schengen area could open Scotland’s border up to mass immigration.

In the UK we have an opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs matters. Almost certainly Scotland would not have an opt-out.

All serious issues with huge implications for Scotland.

It’s unfair and it’s undemocratic of Alex Salmond not to tell us how all of this will affect Scotland.

Let’s take the issue of currency as a case in point.

Over the years Alex Salmond has made the case for Scotland joining the Euro. Indeed he did so with the passion for which he is well known.

Nowadays he has shifted his position – for now he says that an independent Scotland would retain Sterling. But that doesn’t really work either because Scotland would still find itself in a currency zone in which interest rates are set elsewhere.

All that upheaval.

All that change.

And for no meaningful change at all.

Immigration

There are, of course, occasions when the Government’s of Holyrood and Westminster might take a different view on an issue.

Immigration is a policy area that is retained and for which I am responsible as Home Secretary.

However, the SNP and Labour believe that all immigration is good.

I don’t agree. We need to reduce and control immigration.

For those who add value to our economy the door will always be wide open. Indeed recent changes to the system we have made make it easier for them to do so. We want the brightest and the best, those who will contribute to the economy to come to the UK.

And of course we will always welcome those who genuinely seek refuge from persecution.

But under Labour net migration to Britain numbered 2.2 million people. Some of those will have settled in Scotland.

Understandably, some communities struggled with such rapid change. They found that Labour’s decade of mass, mismanaged immigration policy had a huge impact on public services like health and schools. Indeed a recent report – which included Scotland – carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee found evidence to suggest a negative association between people coming to Britain from outside Europe and British born employment during the past 15 years. It also found that some potentially adverse impacts, such as housing costs and increased congestion in public transport are not easily absorbed.

And then there’s illegal immigration: sham marriages, illegal working, people staying on with expired visas.

In rooting out illegal immigrants, there have been some success cases here in Scotland. UK Border Agency’s Glasgow team disrupted nine suspected sham marriages in Gretna in February of this year. And earlier this month, the local immigration team in Glasgow, accompanied by Strathclyde Police arrested 11 suspected illegal entrants.

We’ve made it our aim to get net migration back down to the tens of thousands. Cutting immigration isn’t simple and it will take time but we are taking action on every route to the UK. And whilst it isn’t simple, it’s vital, so don’t let Labour and the SNP tell you any different.

Policing

In being devolved, Scotland has shown great success in managing its affairs.

Take policing for example.

As Home Secretary, I have no say at all in policing in Scotland and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There are many differences in our approach to policing. Scotland is about to have just one force. We in England and Wales have 43. But I am always struck by just how well that arrangement works. It certainly doesn’t mean we never talk to one another. In fact the opposite is true.

Police forces, intelligence agencies and immigration officers work alongside one another on everything from cracking down on illegal immigration to counter terrorism. The approach balances the reserved nature of some of the work while recognising the devolved nature of important aspects of its delivery in Scotland.

Again we are stronger together.

Security

The threat from terrorism shows no regard for borders.

On several occasions, Scotland has been on the forefront of international terrorist attacks.

When a bomb went off at Glasgow Airport the full resources of the UK state went into running down every lead.

Extensive co-operation between the UK and the Scottish Government has developed effective counter-terrorism capabilities. Working together our Governments have worked in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Scottish Police Forces and those in England and Wales have been working closely to make this international event safe and secure for all to enjoy.

Indeed, a National Counter-Terrorism exercise – to test our preparedness in response to a terror threat for 2014 Games – will take place next year.

And we all look forward to delivering a secure London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Glasgow’s Hampden Park will be one of the venues.

The challenge of the Games is immense.

The Olympics safety and security programme will be probably the largest security operations ever undertaken in peacetime Britain.

A global TV audience of up to four billion is expected. All eyes will be upon us and regardless of where you come from in the UK we will be seen as British.

Conclusion

Working together we are fighting the scourge of international terrorism.

Working together we are busting the international drug barons that ruin our communities, rip families apart and ravage the lives of so many.

Working together we can look to the future – as a United Kingdom – sending out the message that if people wish to threaten our security and way of life, then we stand ready together to do all we can to stop them in their tracks.

There is more that brings us together than tears us apart.

A future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners.

Different and proud to be so.

Outward not inward.

Keep moving forward. We know what we are worth and we will go out and get what we are worth…and we will do it together. That’s how we’ll win.

That’s progressive.

Conference, I believe in the Union. We believe in the Union. Let’s see that famous Scottish fighting spirit out on the doorsteps to save our Union.”