A strong Scottish Conservative opposition can break the “Labour-SNP stranglehold”
2 Apr 2016
A strong Scottish Conservative opposition can break the “Labour-SNP stranglehold” on Scottish politics, Ruth Davidson will say today.
In a speech in Ayr, the Scottish Conservative leader says that the country has not benefited from having Labour and the SNP battling to “out-left each other”.
She says that if the Scottish Conservative become the principle opposition party, the Scottish Parliament will see a “genuine clash of ideas” out of which will emerge better government.
She highlights the passing of the controversial named persons law as an example of how bad laws have been waived through by Scottish Labour – and opposed by the Conservatives.
She also uses the speech to hit out at Scottish Labour after Kezia Dugdale was reported today saying it was “not inconceivable” she would support independence.
In her speech, she declares:
“I have had enough of watching a party of government not being whined at rather than challenged by the principle party of opposition. Who votes for their bills anyway.
“I’ve had enough of seeing political debate extend only to how much money can be spent, and how much can be taken out of the pockets of Scotland’s workers.
“Consensus breeds bad laws and lazy thinking. It has given us named persons and an education system that is failing our deprived communities.
“Well, my message is that if we get more Scottish Conservatives at this election and if we become the main opposition party, we can break the old Labour-SNP stranglehold on Scotland.
“Scotland has not been well served by two left wing parties battling it out to decide who can out-left the other.
“It will be bettered by a genuine clash of ideas – from which we’ll get a better Scotland.”
On Kezia Dugdale’s comments on indepencence, Ruth says:
“I asked Kezia Dugdale last week whether she would stand shoulder to shoulder with me if there was another referendum on independence. She swallowed her answer – and now we know why.”
“At a time when the SNP is proposing another campaign for independence in just a few months’ time, it is scarcely believable.”
“And it now makes it clearer than ever before – if people want a party they can trust to stand by the UK no matter what, then the Scottish Conservatives are the only party will guarantee that.”
“Back in 2010, Gordon Brown tried to win back support by telling everyone that ‘I agree with Nick’. At this election, Labour’s message appears to be ‘I agree with Nicola’.”
See full speech below
Good morning and it’s a pleasure to be with you here in Ayr here today.
Well, week one of the campaign is under our belts. I have to say, my campaign tour of Scotland has so far been on the decidedly snowy side.
On Thursday I launched our rural action plan on the top of Cairngorm, while riding a skidoo.
As one does.
Yesterday, the team decided that wasn’t cold enough so they sent me to play ice hockey in Dumfries badly.
So can I just say what an absolute pleasure it is to speak to you today – inside – in a nice, warm room, in Ayr.
This is second in a number of speeches I want to make in this campaign as we head towards the May vote.
Last week, in Glasgow, I talked about how we in the Scottish Conservatives can provide the balance that our Parliament needs right now to ensure taxes are kept both fair and competitive here in Scotland.
The week since has seen just how vital that task is.
At the TV debate on Tuesday night, four parties – the SNP, Labour, the LibDems and the Greens – lined up to out-left each other. Sparking a dutch auction – not on how much they could help working people by, but by how much more they could tax them by. How much extra they could reach in and take from their pay packets.
Just one party– our party – said how, and why, we will protect income tax bills.
It demonstrated that, north and south of the border, we are the party of working people.
Across the UK, we are the party which is ensuring people on the minimum wage a £1000 pay rise, with the new living wage kicking in yesterday.
We are the party which is taking andother £80 off the income tax bills of everyone in the country, with the personal allowance rising – to add to the hundreds saved with previous rises.
And here in Scotland, we will demand that those benefits are felt by Scottish taxpayers, not immediately taken away as Labour and the LibDems would have it.
That is the way to ensure we keep a fair and competitive Scotland for the next generation.
But I don’t want to just focus on the case for lower taxes today.
I also want to talk about the job a strong opposition, under my leadership, can do in the Scottish Parliament.
And I want to explain why it is us, the Scottish Conservatives, who are best placed to do that.
Let me begin by using another example from the campaign trail this week – and that is political row over the new named persons legislation.
For the three years this law has been debated and scrutinized in the Scottish parliament, it has been the Scottish Conservatives who have stood alone in challenging it.
We alone have raised the concerns of parents who believe this is an intrusion into family life.
We alone have spoken up for the police officers, law officers, health visitors and social workers who have told us of their concerns about these plans.
We alone have raised the unintended consequences of such a law which – if implemented – could erode the trust that currently exists – and needs to exist – between many care professionals and parents.
And we alone have made the most important point of all – by imposing a named person on every child in Scotland, you spread resource too thin. You take the focus away from those vulnerable children who need it most. And, as the police have said, the bureaucracy of the scheme could result in delays in removing at-risk youngsters from situations of harm.
Why is this the case? Why is it only our party that has stood in opposition to those plans? It is because of our values and our beliefs
Because, alone among the parties at Holyrood, we seek to balance the good that government can and does do, against the rights of people and families to live their lives.
We alone have questioned whether ever more government, and ever more state control, is the right thing to do.
You might call them liberal values – except the LibDems have rather tarnished that particular phrase.
…..indeed, I still can’t believe that the LibDems seem to support what is such an illiberal policy.
But what five years as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament has taught me is that time and time again, it is only the Scottish Conservatives who are giving a voice for those values.
And it is only the Scottish Conservatives who are offering a strong opposition to the status quo at Holyrood.
Not based on tactics or expediency – but one based on clear and credible principles
If you want evidence – just look for a moment, at the way Scottish Labour has approached this same issue.
Back in 2013, the current leader of the party declared that opposition of the new law was down to peoples’ “ignorance”.
A few months ago, during a debate in Holyrood, I watched as Labour MSP after Labour MSP condemned the Scottish Conservatives for daring to so much as question the impact of the law.
And then, last week – the coup de grace. With opinion polls showing opposition to the law, suddenly Labour decided it was a bad thing, and demanded it be put on pause.
But, when the backlash started coming from supporters, they backtracked again. They still want the named person in principle. Just not in practice. At least not yet. Not until after the election period is over.
The naked opportunism and hypocrisy is something to behold.
The bigger question is to ask what might have happened if Labour had shown just a bit of concern when it really mattered.
Of course, the SNP could easily have just rail-roaded the bill through with the majority they have.
But if Labour had acted like a proper opposition party a little earlier, we might – just might – have been able to have stopped some of the worst aspects of this law in its tracks.
It was us who tried to offer opt outs for parents – voted down by Labour..
So the SNP was simply able to see this plan sail through with a minimum of fuss.
And the parliament did not have the big challenging debate that might have helped produce a better system.
It comes down to this.
Cheerleaders don’t sharpen a team. A good opponent does.
And that’s what is required in the Scottish Parliament.
Do you know, I think there are even some SNP supporters who see this.
Because all of us know that in a democracy, it is in testing and scrutinizing ideas, then we all benefit.
And that’s where we come in.
I don’t see opposition as simply moaning and carping from the sidelines. Offering no alternative.
I see it as a job: one in which we hold the Government to account; challenge their ideas and show that there is a better way.
Let me take another example – education.
For the last few years, improving the education in our state schools has been our number one policy priority in the parliament.
It was us, two years ago, who first raised the scandal of our attainment gap in Scotland
– a gap which means you are twenty times less likely to get three As at Higher if you come from a poor area, compared to someone from better off parts of Scotland.
And it is us who – alone – have sought to question the flawed model we have in Scotland.
We have demanded the First Minister ditches the ideological baggage, and the small c conservatism, and thinks differently about how we education our children.
We have urged her to think radically and take on new ideas.
It is beginning to work.
Last year, the SNP accepted our demand for more testing to be brought back into our schools – so we can finally measure how our children are doing.
And just a few weeks ago, the First Minister saw sense and will now ensure that funds for deprived pupils follow the child and are given directly to the schools they attend – not just handed in a lump to a few local authorities with those select councils told to get on with it.
I believe Nicola Sturgeon sees the sense of going further. She has seen what can be done and how – with more freedom and more autonomy – we can create more great schools.
But there needs to be pressure put on her to do so.
And that is precisely what we will do.
We will continue to champion parents like those at St Joseph’s primary in Milngavie – told by the council to close their school, but who are now campaigning to open a state run school themselves.
And we will demand that more money and more power flows direct to the school leaders who know their school the best.
That’s what a good opposition does.
Frankly, I have had enough of watching a party of government being whined at rather than challenged by the principle party of opposition. Who votes for their bills anyway.
I’ve had enough of seeing political debate extend only to how much money can be spent, and how much can be taken out of the pockets of scotland’s workers.
Consensus breeds bad laws and lazy thinking. It has given us named persons and an education system that is failing our deprived communities.
Well, my message is that if we get more Scottish Conservatives at this election and if we become the main opposition party, we can break the old Labour-SNP stranglehold on Scotland.
Scotland has not been well served by two left wing parties battling it out to decide who can out-left the other.
It will be bettered by a genuine clash of ideas – from which we’ll get a better Scotland.
So we will act where Labour has failed.
: failed to challenge over named persons
: failed to challenge over the erosion of university governance.
: cheerleaded land reform which will stop new entrants to the tenanted sector.
: nodded through the end of that great blue-collar policy, the right to buy.
: and worst of all, now appears to be falling apart on the most vital issue of all: Scotland’s place in the UK.
On this, the most vital of issues, all I see with Labour is complete confusion.
Last September, the leader of Scottish Labour said she was happy for her candidates and future MSPs to back independence if they so wish.
Then she told me in the TV debate last week that she was completely behind the UK.
And now we learn that it is “not inconceivable” that she herself could back independence if Britain were to leave the European Union.
These are incredibly irresponsible comments.
Let me just state my position clearly on this.
The EU referendum will be a massive moment for this country.
But the idea that whichever decision we take somehow wipes the independence referendum result away, negates the decision we made and the will we expressed as a country, is offensive.
Scotland helped build the UK and is an integral part of it. Our continued membership has been ratified by a full vote of our fellow countrymen and women.
At that referendum – in case Kezia Dugdale has forgotten – it was raised time and time again that we may soon have a referendum on the European Union.
So to say now – suddenly – that she could vote to leave the UK is quite staggering.
That the UK in the EU is more important to her than Scotland in Britain.
And it is a breach of trust.
Only last week, the Scottish Labour leader was parading herself as a defender of the UK.
She told the country that every single Labour MSP would support the Union.
Now, it turns out, she meant every MSP except – possibly – her.
I asked Kezia Dugdale last week whether she would stand shoulder to shoulder with me if there was another referendum on independence.
She swallowed her answer – and now we know why.
At a time when the SNP is proposing another campaign for independence in just a few months’ time, it is scarcely believable.
And it now makes it clearer than ever before – if people want a party they can trust to stand by the UK no matter what, then the Scottish Conservatives are the only party will guarantee that.
That’s what we offer people.
Standing up for Scotland’s place in the UK
Protecting family finances.
And holding the SNP to account
You don’t have to be a Conservative voter in Scotland to want somebody to do all these things in parliament.
But the fact is that right now, it’s only the Scottish Conservatives which is offering to get them done.
Labour’s position, meanwhile, all feels rather familiar.
Back in 2010, Gordon Brown tried to win back support by telling everyone that “I agree with Nick”.
At this election, Labour’s message appears to be “I agree with Nicola”.
It’s fair to say, that’s not where I’m coming from.
We are a distinctive party with our own plans and principled views on taking Scotland forward.
And we are passionate about making this country a better place for all.
Labour has had nine years to land a blow, to hold the government to account, to put forward a credible alternative vision for Scotland. And the sad truth is, they’ve quite simply failed.
The Scottish Conservatives stand ready to serve –
To serve not just our own supporters, but to serve everyone in Scotland who wants to see a real challenge to the Nationalists.
Not to go back to a second referendum
But to go forward together.
To see a government put on the spot. Held to account and focussed on the day job.
A principled opposition.
Prepared to take on the fight.
Acting for all.
We have less than five weeks to make that happen.
So, Let’s get on and do it.