30 Mar 2015
The Scottish Conservatives have launched their General Election campaign at an event in Edinburgh today.
MSPs, candidates and activists attended the event at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
Below is the speech made by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (check against delivery).
“Good morning everyone and welcome the launch of our general election campaign.
I have to say still feels a long, long way away to May 7th right now.
This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
For politicians it’s going to be a test of stamina.
For the general public it’s going to be a test of patience.
But at least what it does mean is that all the political parties standing in this campaign have the chance to set out their stall.
So, this morning, I want to talk to you not so much about what we’re going to do – there’s plenty of time for that.
I want to talk to you about what Conservatives in government have done…what we’ve achieved, and how it has made a difference.
Because we all know what’s coming.
There’s going to be a line spun by our opponents in this election. The one we Scottish Conservatives are well used to.
….that in office the Conservatives only look after their own
….that we only use power to help those with power
…that, in short, our motives and our actions are somehow less noble, less moral than those paragons of virtue in Labour and the SNP. That we are something different, something less, something ‘other’ – that our belief in the power of ideas, in politics itself has less to do with service than preferment or advancement.
And it is utter nonsense.
So, I’m going to take the fight to our opponents in this campaign.
I’m not prepared to see our record trashed by half truths and lazy assertion.
Let’s not take lectures from the SNP and Labour on how we improve the lives of millions.
Let’s not hear any earnest lessons about economic competence from Ed Miliband, the man who forgot to include the deficit in his own conference speech.
And let’s absolutely refuse to take lectures on social justice from politicians on six figure book deals quaffing pink champagne.
Let’s tell people about our record. Let’s make sure they know.
I want you all here to be in no doubt and to make sure people out there are are left in no doubt too…
I’m in this party because I believe it looks out for the little guy, the outsider, the family that just wants a fair deal.
And I want people to know…
…that we Conservatives are in this to look out for all of society.
…that our record in government stands true to that aim.
…and that it is the job destroying plans being set out by an SNP Labour alliance on the left which threatens to ruin all that hard work.
So here’s how we take on our critics. We give them with facts.
You’ll see three big numbers behind me. I want you to remember them during this campaign.
174,000. That’s the number of jobs created in Scotland alone since we got Labour out of office and got a competent Conservative-led Government back behind the wheel.
56,700. The number of jobseekers in Scotland who have come off benefits since we got Labour out of government.
And 37,600. The number of new businesses created in Scotland since that infamous Labour Minister walked out of his Whitehall office back in 2010 leaving a note to say there was no money left.
Labour’s idea of a joke. Deadly serious for the rest of us.
But at least it spelled out the situation the government faced back then. We were facing a national crisis.
The coalition was formed because it had to be – anything else wouldn’t have given the security this country needed.
We all know how tough it has been for families since then. The government had to take decisions which were difficult for people. Sometimes very difficult.
But when it came to getting the books under control, under a Conservative chancellor, the top 20% have contributed more to deficit reduction that the other 80% combined.
And it’s in those numbers that we are beginning to see a path back.
We now have the highest employment we’ve ever seen in this country. The highest ever.
More jobs being created in Britain than the rest of Europe combined – it’s no wonder immigration is still rising – if you’re French or Spanish, where else would you want to go?
All those new businesses – remember those siren warnings back in 2010 about public sector job cuts?
It turns out that for every public sector lost since then, our amazing businesses have produced another three.
And with jobs on the rise, and a welfare system that finally is beginning to incentivise work, we see more people in Scotland off jobseekers as could fit into Hampden park.
Now I know what our critics say at this point.
They might be jobs, but they’re the wrong type of jobs.
It might be a recovery, but people don’t feel it.
Now, I agree – absolutely agree – that there’s an awful lot more we can do.
If a firm is using zero hours contracts to exploit their workers, then I say let’s stop them – and by the way, the UK government is.
If a small business is paying less than the living wage, then I say let’s help them to pay more – and a Scottish Conservative plan has laid out how.
But let’s just stop for a minute and ask whether our critics in the SNP and Labour are right about it all.
And let’s hit them with a few more facts.
The minimum wage – we’ve raised it by 3%, ahead of inflation, and I can tell you, our Prime Minister wants to raise it more.
Taking the low paid out of tax- a total of 261,000 people in Scotland have been taken out of paying tax altogether, meaning that if you’re on the minimum wage, you’re now £618 a year better off.
And on the cost of living, the independent Office of Budget Responsibility now says that household incomes will be higher in real arcoxia terms than when we came to government. And thanks to falling inflation, that pound in your pocket is going to go further still.
As to inequality, I agree there is a disconnect between the mega rich who seem to float above society out of the reach of the rest of us.
But do you know what? It’s a fact that the top 1% will soon start paying 27% of all tax, up from 25% now – higher than in any year of the last Labour government.
And it’s a fact that this Conservative treasury has finally started doing what Labour failed utterly to do, cracking down on aggressive tax avoidance so that everyone pays their share.
I could go on. Fuel duty frozen – again – which means we’re limiting the cost of filling up a tank as best we can.
One million Scottish pensioners have benefitted from the triple lock protecting their state pension. It means the average Scot on the full state pension is now £560 better off. And has reduced pensioner poverty to its lowest ever level.
Funding for our NHS protected right across the last five years, and passed on – in full – to the Scottish Government.
And one thing we don’t make enough about: we’re part of a government which, from its office down the road from here in East Kilbride, has protected our aid budget to the poorest nations of the world, and kept our commitment to the world’s poorest people.
I know that people are still finding it tough. And if we want to get our debts finally falling, I know, too, that more savings will have to be made.
That’s not going to be easy.
But the gains we’ve made are real. And they give me confidence to know we can do more.
Raising the rate at which people start paying tax.
Keeping the retired secure in their old age.
All part of a country that, once again, lives within its means and doesn’t pile its debts onto the shoulders of our grandchildren.
Conservatives didn’t take the tough decisions of the last few years out of some ideological addiction to a smaller state.
We did it because we believe in a different path to social justice than those who oppose those cuts.
One which puts the long term ahead of short term tactics. Which knows that if we cut our cloth now, we’ll all benefit tomorrow.
It means that, while there’s six long weeks to go, the choice is already very clear.
All I see from Labour, the SNP and the LibDems is weakness and division.
A desire to dodge reality and either ignore the hard choices, or pretend they can be wished away.
And the terrifying prospect that not just one of these parties might get their hands on power, but that they might be grappling with the controls all together, and all at the same time.
You know, I don’t know what’s happened to the once proud Labour and LibDem parties.
All we see now are headless chickens.
Still running around the chicken coop, not a brain cell is sight…and about to get stuffed.
I don’t think Scots deserve to get dragged into their mess.
Labour, the SNP and the LibDems simply aren’t prepared for responsible government which keeps the recovery on track. Their plans are unfit for our country’s needs – And it’s our job to make sure they don’t get to use them.
And we do it by making sure we show up the positives of the other side of that choice. The Scottish Conservative choice.
Not the party of the establishment, as our critics like to call it.
But the party that takes on the establishment – the old Scottish Labour establishment, the centralising SNP establishment, the lazy, complacent central belt establishment that still thinks it knows best across Scotland but which is holding us back.
…the party that demands a great school for every child, and won’t accept that it’s ok for some schools to coast.
…the party that thinks money should stay with the worker, the grafter, not to feather the nest of a growing bureaucracy.
…the party which won’t accept a centralising SNP government that just wants to hoard power, not to give it away.
We’re the party which stands up for the moderate centre ground, the party that’s on your side, the party with the common good at its heart.
So tell people boldly and confidently in this campaign…
We’re the party that put the backbone into last years’ referendum victory.
We’re the party that has given Scotland the best of both worlds: strong devolution in a strong United Kingdom.
We’re the party that has secured our economy and is bringing the country back into the black.
We’re the party that will help low paid workers keep more of their money, delivering better paid jobs for all.
Come on, we’re not going to let Ed Miliband become Prime Minister, are we?
We’re not going to let Labour and the SNP throw away all the gains we’ve made over the last five years, are we?
But here’s what we are going to do.
We’re going to take our record of achievement to doorsteps across Scotland.
A growing economy, more jobs, the deficit being cut, work always paying more than benefits, living standards on the way up, poverty on the way down.
We’re going to take that record of achievement – and our plans for the future – to the Scottish people and we’re going to ask them to choose.
Do we go forward or back?
Back to the days of mismanagement and decline?
Back to uncertainty and insecurity?
Or forward with the Conservatives to more opportunity, greater prosperity and a better future for everyone?
Let’s hear it for a great campaign
For spreading our message, telling our story, speaking our truth.
And on May 7th, let’s hear it for a Conservative victory
Notes to editors:
ONS Regional Labour Market statistics
Feb-Apr 2010 employment was at 2,437,271
Nov-Jan 2015 employment was at 2,610,776
JSA Claimant Count (56,700)
ONS Regional Labour Market statistics
April 2010 claimant count was at 136,100
February 2015 claimant count was at 79,400
BIS Business Population Estimates
Start of 2010 – 285,000
Start of 2014 – 322,600