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Ruth Davidson, Speech at the UK in Action Debate

8 Aug 2012

Below is the text from a speech made by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

The session was called UK in Action, and saw Ruth join colleagues from other parts of the UK, including the Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, Scotland Office Minister, David Mundell, and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, TheresaVilliers.

It was a televised, interactive session with questions from conference delegates.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

“Good Morning Conference

It’s a great pleasure to be able to address you today for the first time as the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Before I became leader, before I was even elected to the Scottish Parliament, I worked as a journalist.

And eleven years ago, I was sent to Kosovo, to report on my local regiment, the Black Watch.

While I was there, I saw lads who’d gone to my school – and schools just like it – protect civilians and help to rebuild a nation torn apart by war.

I saw young men from Perth and Tayside, Angus and Fife patrolling the streets, searching houses for bombs and – in their own free time – helping to build an orphanage.

They were part of a NATO peacekeeping force, and they are the finest – and proudest – example I have ever seen of the UK in Action.

Fast forward to today and – for me – Scotland’s never had more touch points with the rest of the United Kingdom.

In people, we see 800,000 Scots living and working South of the border.

One in five workers in Scotland today is employed by English, Welsh or Northern Irish Firms.

In industry, we see Scotland exporting twice as much to the rest of the UK as it does to the rest of the world

And in finance, the pensions of 1 million Scots are guaranteed by the UK welfare system.

This is a partnership that works, yet the United Kingdom’s very existence is under threat.

For the referendum on separation which is coming Scotland’s way, has ignited the biggest debate in a generation.

But in that debate, we find those who would break up Britain spending more and more time telling us how little anyone will notice.

Because the SNP say they’ll keep the pound and monetary policy will still be set by the Bank of England.

We’ll still have the same deal with the EU and there will be no border posts at Carlisle and Coldstream.

We’ll still enjoy social union, we’ll still enjoy the BBC and we’ll still have the same welfare benefits as the rest of the UK.

They even tell us they’ll keep the same conventional armed forces even though they haven’t a clue what their foreign policy will be.

Indeed, as those Black Watch soldiers helped quell ethnic cleansing on Europe’s own shores not seen since the second world war, Alex Salmond condemned that mission which saved so many civilian lives as ‘unpardonable folly’.

Global security, international trade, a stable currency, low interest rates, the strongest social, cultural and economic bonds with consistent welfare across the nation.

These are all powerful examples of the UK in action and it’s no coincidence that these are the very things the separatists want to assure Scottish voters will not disappear.

If things are going to change in Scotland, the SNP seem to say, everything must stay the same.

But things wouldn’t stay the same. Scotland’s relations with every nation and institution, in particular the EU, would be reset and have to start from scratch.

We know the campaign to keep our country together will be long and sometimes tough, and we don’t underestimate the challenge we face.

But for all Alex Salmond’s bombast and bluster, this is not a done deal.

Fewer than a third of Scots support independence, and the more people see the SNP’s offering, the less appealing it becomes.

That’s why the Scottish government is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in the courts, trying to keep information from the Scottish people.

That’s why they’re refusing to publish the future costs of their freebie electoral bribes, and that’s why they’re twisting and turning on fundamentals like the Queen, the currency and membership of NATO.

Indeed, in the parliament in Edinburgh, every policy, every bill, every SNP act, must fit in with their overall goal of bringing the United Kingdom as we know it to an end. And that is something which affects every one of us, not just Scots.

Victory for the UK in the referendum must be emphatic – it can’t be by an inch, it must be by a mile – to provide the stability essential for our continued prosperity.

And that is where you can help.

We know that during the referendum on separatism in Quebec, it mattered that the rest of Canada said, “we want you to stay.”

In Scotland, we might need to make different choices to those of you in the other nations of the United Kingdom. There are no one-size fits all solutions for the challenges facing our nations.

But I see far more similarities than differences between my home city of Glasgow and Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool or Belfast.

That is why I believe we must examine the relationship between the nations of the United Kingdom – all of the United Kingdom – and ensure stability for our lifetimes and beyond.

We cannot continue with a situation where separatists can simply lurch from one opportunity to another to create uncertainty.

And in one of the world’s great cities – London – this summer, the Olympics and Paralympics gave us the best illustration imaginable of how much we all benefit from working together.

English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish athletes all triumphed thanks to the resources the UK was able to provide. And millions of sports fans, from right across the Kingdom, cheered on the red, white and blue to glory together.

I am asking for that same solidarity now as we approach the referendum.

Because one thing is for certain, – we cannot get into a situation whereby federalism is forced on England as an answer to any single separatist movement in one of the other nations.

We know the vast majority of English voters are happy with Westminster and its electoral system. We know that if Geordies and Mackems reject regional assemblies, nowhere else in England is going to support them.

The United Kingdom is a family home where all relations are equally welcome. We have heard talk before about the pain of separation and the effect of divorce, but what we really need to talk about now is what makes the UK a good place to be.

Genuinely happy families don’t stay together because of the fear of divorce, they stay together instinctively because their relationships work and they can’t begin to imagine a life apart.

When times are good they love each other’s company and when times are bad they give each other support and reassurance.

Most people experience doubts from time to time and few relationships exist without difficulties. And sometimes even the most devoted need little reminders of why they stay together.

We know times are difficult right now, but let’s make sure we all speak up loud and clear about what makes this nation great and the great benefits we receive from being part of its number.

Global security.

International trade.

A stable currency.

Strong social, cultural and economic bonds between peoples.

Consistent help across the nation for our most vulnerable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a privilege to be part of the United Kingdom family – I will fight for Scotland’s continued membership and I want you to fight for it too.”