Prime Minister addresses Scottish Conservative conference

14 Mar 2014

Please find below the text of Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to the Scottish Conservative party conference.

(Check against delivery)


“Friends, we meet here today with priderespect and resolve.

Pride – because after all those long years…

“…campaigning and planning…

…we’re seeing what Conservative Government can really do:

Our economy growing. Our deficit shrinking.

Manufacturing up. Unemployment down.

More of our countrymen and women in work than ever before – indeed 1.3 million more.

Just think of the mothers and fathers who can look their children in their eye and say “I’m working now”…

…mums and dads who go to bed at night not worrying about the future but planning for it with hope and peace of mind.

Be proud of that – and be proud of our whole record.

Who’s cut the taxes of 25 million people? We have.

Who’s taken 2 and a half million people out of tax altogether? We have.

Who’s capped welfare? We have.

Who’s delivered the fastest rate of business creation in Britain’s history? We have.

And friends – don’t just be proud of our competence

…be proud of our compassion too.

We said we’d look after our troops…

…and we’ve doubled their operational allowance…

…so that we can proudly say, to those doing their duty by us, that we are doing our duty by you.

We said we’d look out for the poorest in our planet…

…and every two seconds, a child somewhere in the world is vaccinated thanks to British aid…

…that is millions of babies who might have died who are alive today.

We brought in the most generous child tax credits ever…

…giving families across this nation more peace of mind.

And for our pensioners – we promised them security in old age.

This wasn’t a slogan, it goes right to the heart of being a Conservative…

…saying that if you’ve worked hard all your life then we will look out for you – and we made good on those words with the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension.

So I want everyone here to walk tall, hold your head high, be proud of what we’ve done…

…and thank you for the part you have played.


So we meet with pride, and for me – I come here with respect.

Because I look around this room and see people who embody something I’d call the ‘Scottish Conservative spirit’.

That spirit is about fighting through adversity.

It’s about having a stout heart, an unwavering gaze…

…and, let’s be frank, having a skin as thick and impenetrable as the SNP’s white paper on independence.

Above all, the Scottish Conservative spirit means having a fierce belief in our values – how they can change lives and change nations.

Enterprise. Aspiration. Responsibility – and yes – social responsibility.

When they say that Conservative values are somehow wrong for Scotland we’ve got to say: “Excuse me?…

We believe that enterprise is not the enemy but the answer…

…and how on earth is that wrong for the country of Adam Smith and David Hume, of Edinburgh’s tech start-ups and Aberdeen’s innovators?

We believe in family, community, place, history, in cherishing our traditions…

…and guess what – so do millions of people in Scotland.

We believe that you serve someone best when you help them stand on their own two feet…

…no – not to fend for themselves but to build a life for themselves…

…and that is the attitude that built this country.

Our values are Scotland’s values.

We’ve got to make this case fearlessly, passionately…

…and that is exactly what our brilliant leader Ruth is doing today.

Modernising our party.

Taking on the Nationalists.

Making the case for tax cuts.

Fighting heart and soul for our United Kingdom.

That’s the Scottish Conservative spirit – and I am so grateful, so proud we have Ruth fighting this corner of the UK.

And friends, speaking of leaders of this Party – no-one embodied the Scottish Conservative spirit more than David McLetchie.

Our first leader in the devolved Parliament…

…David always had the last word – and yes, it was often a zinger.

As he once said of the Lib Dems:

“There’s a shiver running along the Lib Dem benches looking for a spine to shimmy up.”

I’ll say no more on that – but I will say this:

David McLetchie was a great public servant…

…a great Conservative…

…and I know there are many here who miss him terribly today.


So we meet with priderespect, and above all – we meet with resolve.

6 months from now, the day will dawn…

…the polling booths will open…

…the voters will come out…

…and the people of Scotland will decide:

Stay – or go.

Stick with the UK – or walk away.

If the Scottish people vote Yes in September, then Scotland will become an independent country.

There will be no going back. No second chances.

We face a monumental battle to keep our United Kingdom together…

…and here, in this hall, is a team with the resolve to fight.


But a big question for months now has been – how do we fight?’

Do we get involved or pull back? Do we take on the SNP or not? Do we lay out the economic case? Do we appeal to people’s hearts or their heads?

Let me tell you what I think.

Where the SNP are spreading outright myths about this referendum, then we have got to take them on and take them apart.

And there are a few myths doing the rounds.

There’s the myth that any talk about the consequences of separation is all “bluff” and “bluster” – or even “bullying”.

Warnings on the currency. Warnings on the EU.

The Nationalists say: “This is a big political conspiracy from South of the border – just ignore it.”

But that is wrong and frankly irresponsible.

Think about it.

You have 4 million people on the brink of a decision that will affect their lives in a profound way…

…the money in their pocket, the job they have, the chances their children will have.

This is a major life-changing decision – and you don’t make one of those without getting all the information you can.

You wouldn’t buy a house without getting a survey done.

You wouldn’t choose a car without an MOT.

And you shouldn’t make a decision about changing your nation – forever – without knowing in full what the consequences may be.

And look at who’s laying out those consequences.

The Governor of the Bank of England.

The President of the European Commission.

Business chiefs from companies like BP and Shell; Alliance Trust and RBS; Lloyds, Barclays – the list goes on.

These are not political puppets, they are serious, non-partisan figures.

So the idea that these are empty warnings and political scare-mongering is a myth – and we owe it to the people of Scotland to take that myth apart.

Then there’s the myth that Alex Salmond is a man with a plan.

I tell you – if there is a plan, he seems to be on draft 93.

One year he wants the euro – the next the pound.

One day he wants to be best friends with England – the next he wants to discriminate against its students.

One minute he wants to pose as a model of financial prudence – the next he wants to make £2billion of new spending promises without any clue of how he’d pay for them.

In one breath he wants a brave new world – in the next he seems to want everything to stay the same.

You know – Alex Salmond wants Scotland to say “Yes”…

…but with plans like these, even the man from Del Monte would have second thoughts.

The reality is: Alex Salmond is a man without a plan.

And there’s a third myth:

That if you vote ‘no’, you’re voting for ‘no change’ in Scotland.

The Nationalists want people to believe that this is the end of the line for devolution.

Do or die.

Separate or just stick with the status quo.

Again, this is wrong.

Let me be absolutely clear.

A vote for ‘no’ is not a vote for ‘no change’.

We are committed to making devolution work better still.

Not because we want to give Alex Salmond a consolation prize if Scotland votes No…

…but because it’s the right thing to do.

Giving the Scottish Parliament greater responsibility for raising more of the money it spends…

…that’s what Ruth believes – and I believe it too.

So here’s the re-cap:

Vote yes – that is total separation.

Vote no – that can mean further devolution…

…more power to the Scottish people and their Parliament…

but with the crucial insurance policy that comes with being part of the UK.


So friends, where there are blatant myths being spread around then yes, of course, we must challenge them.

But my big message to you today is this.

Let’s leave the negativity and narrow arguments to the Nationalists…

…and let’s make a big, generous, positive argument for the UK.

Not about risks. Not about rivalry.

But about how we in these islands are a great agenda-making, expectation-smashing…

…punch-above-our-weight success story…

…Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland…

…a family of nations that should stick together.


And let’s say it proudly – an important part of that argument is our past.

100 years ago, in this city, they were digging trenches to practise for warfare on the front.

The factories in the Clyde Valley began churning out munitions.

Proud Scots in this land – and across the world – were telling their sweethearts that they were going to war.

One of them was my Great-Great uncle, Captain John Geddes.

He served in the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish, in one of the most extraordinary episodes of the war…the Battle of Kitchener’s Wood.

On the 22 April 1915, the Germans launched their first poison gas attack on the Western front…

…leaving a gap in the line 4 miles wide.

The order was given to two battalions to advance, which they did, without prior reconnaissance, breaking through any obstacles with rifle butts, into a wall of German machine gun fire.

My relative was the one who helped lead the way.

I am proud to be linked, in some small way, to this extraordinary heroism.

I’ve been to the Menin Gate and seen the name of Captain Geddes alongside thousands of others.

Young men who went away, and never came home.

Now you can debate the rights and wrongs of that war, but no-one can dispute what a powerful example it is of how when the chips were down, the stakes were high and the cause just – we stood together…

…the McDonalds and the Smiths, the Davies’ and the O’Briens…

…we stood together – not just then, but to abolish slavery…

…to defeat fascism…to fight Communism…

…to build our NHS…to create the welfare state…

…to help the world’s sick and poor and desperate and weary…

…we stood together.

The United Kingdom has a great and glorious history…

…and as Conservatives we’ll never be ashamed to say it.


But friends, we know the bigger part of the argument is not our past but our future as a United Kingdom.

Relentless competition is a fact of our world.

The rise of China, India, Brazil, Russia – these are earthquakes in the old order.

Of course it’s not doom and gloom – they ‘win’ and we ‘lose’…

…but we have got to be primed, ready, more dynamic than ever to seize these new opportunities.

That’s why we have set out a serious long-term economic plan for our country.

Reducing the deficit – so we deal with our debts, safeguard our economy for the long-term and keep mortgage rates low.

Cutting income tax and freezing fuel duty – to help hardworking people be more financially secure.

Creating more jobs by backing small business and enterprise – with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes.

Capping welfare and reducing immigration – so our economy delivers for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.

This is a serious, long-term plan.

And across Scotland, that plan is working.

We have seen six consecutive quarters of Scottish growth.

Employment is up by over 100,000 people since the election.

2.2million Scottish taxpayers who have more money in their pockets thanks to our tax cuts…

…indeed from next month, a typical taxpayer in Scotland will be £705 better off.

That is a huge, huge difference for families across this country.

So together we’ve come through the Great Recession as the fastest-growing economy in Europe…

…and together there are huge prizes to be taken in the future.

In oil and gas – if we maximise this asset our economy could be boosted by £200billion over the next 20 years.

And yes – that’s about the bravery of those who work in deep-sea exploration and the experts in Aberdeen…

…but it’s also about encouraging investment with the proven, long-term stability of the UK economy – the broad shoulders that make it all possible.

It’s the same in defence.

We have centuries of experience in shipbuilding on the Clyde…

…but that’s backed up by the UK defence budget – in the top five on the planet.

In renewables – we’ve got the wind and waves off Scotland’s coast…

…backed up by a UK domestic market of more than 60 million people.

In tech – we have so many brilliant tech companies in Scotland, from video game makers in Dundee to web developers in Edinburgh…

…and we in the UK are pulling every lever possible to help them.

So with all these great industries, we’re better off, Scotland’s better off – if we stick together.

And we have a positive argument about our place in the world, too.

Our seat on the UN Security Council isn’t some empty status symbol – it matters.

The fact that we’re Members of the EU, the G8 and the G20 – that really matters.


Because we in these islands make our living in the world.

Always have, always will.

We have millions of our fellow citizens living abroad.

Ships right now ploughing the seas containing whisky from Speyside…

…knitwear from the borders…

…salmon from the Highlands that’s headed to over 60 countries worldwide.

To trade and get the best deals we need a place around the top table.

And I personally make sure that Scottish-based companies are there with me at the top table.

Like Aggreko, headquartered in Glasgow.

I’ve taken them on trade missions to Brazil, India, South East Asia…

…shaking hands and doing deals that mean more work and more wealth right here in Scotland.

Our place in the world matters – and the fact is we matter more as a United Kingdom.


So this is the argument.

A big, positive message about what we can achieve in the future if we stick together.

And for me – there’s one more thing about our UK that we’ve got to get across.

The values we share – and the friendship that is built on those values.

Too many people in this country have been made to feel that you can’t be a proud Scot and a proud Brit…

…that somehow you’ve got to choose between the Saltire and the Union flag.

It’s the lie that these islands are riven with divisions and difference.

But just look at how we live together.

Today 800,000 Scots live elsewhere in the UK.

More than 400,000 people who were born in the rest of the UK now live in Scotland.

And guess what?

The vast majority of us actually like each other.

Yes, we can cheer ourselves hoarse at Murrayfield or Twickenham in the 6 Nations and root for our home side…

…but there is something deeper than that.

For a week last month, the whole nation became transfixed…

…on a sheet of ice, some lumps of granite, and teams of people moving their brooms around on the ice.

When Team GB won the silver and bronze for curling it was another brilliant Olympic moment.

Eve Muirhead, who was on the women’s team, said this:

“When it comes to the Olympic Games and you get a chance to represent Team GB, it makes it extra special.

…You’re one big team and we’re all together and it’s a great, great feeling to know when you step on that ice that you are part of Team Great Britain…”

It is a great feeling.

It’s not about subjection or colonialism or dry pragmatism…

…it’s about being part of a bigger team. A family of nations.

And we’ll see the strength of that family again at the Commonwealth Games this summer.

You want to know something wonderful?

When the call went out for volunteers at Glasgow 2014, more than a quarter of those who responded were from elsewhere in the UK…

…people who were happy to travel hundreds of miles, to stay with friends or relatives, to give their time for free and be part of it.

Because it’s not ‘over the border’, it’s not a foreign country, this is our home, and when any corner of these islands needs back up or support, the rest is there.

When there were riots in England in 2011, the Scottish police provided vital support.

When Scottish patients need specialist care, they come to English hospitals.

We’re there for each other.

And let’s never forget how unique and precious this is.

When you look around the world, so often, tragically, neighbourliness has been lost and replaced by wars and feuds.

We don’t do that.

We don’t slam the doors and turn compatriots into foreigners.

We work together…

…and we are envied and rightly envied for that.

This is a family of nations…

…argumentative at times, competitive at times…

…but a family nonetheless.

A family forged through shared endeavour…

…through the fires of war…

…through the tests of economic hardship…

…this family of nations has stuck together and I say – let us stick together still…

…four nations, one family, one United Kingdom.

Let us fight for it…

…and together we will win.”