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Michael Fallon addresses Scottish Conservative conference

3 Mar 2017

MichaelFallon

Below is the text of a speech made by defence secretary Michael Fallon to the Scottish Conservative conference today.

Check against delivery.

“It’s a pleasure to be back in Scotland.

I’ve been spending a lot of time here recently.

Last month I went to Condor and confirmed the long term future of 45 Commando Royal Marines based there.

Last week I brought the Defence Board to Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh for its first ever meeting in Scotland – defeating Storm Doris’ attempts to keep us in London.

And this morning, in Rosyth, I inspected work on our new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers which will enter into service with the Royal Navy later this year.

I’m here so often because Scotland is on the front line of defending the United Kingdom from growing threats at sea, in the air and on land.

More than 14,000 regular and reserve personnel are based here across all three services.

Today, Scottish-based members of the Armed Forces are serving as part of Britain’s 28 operations in more than 25 countries:

The Royal Highland Fusiliers (2 SCOTS) are supporting Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

Soldiers from 39 Engr Regt. based at Kinloss, are in South Sudan as part of Britain’s contribution to the UN Peacekeeping mission with the Fusiliers [2 Scots] due to join them later this year and pilots from Lossiemouth are flying day and night conducting airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

I want to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do to keep our country safe.

Unlike Labour and the SNP, our party is committed to backing up our armed forces with the money they need to protect us.

We made the decision to increase the defence budget every year and to continue to meet NATO’s target to spend 2% of our wealth on defence for the rest of this parliament.

We also plan to spend £178 billion on new equipment and equipment support in the next ten years.

I am proud that under this Conservative Government we have a defence budget, already the biggest in Europe, that will rise every year of this decade.

DEFENCE IN SCOTLAND

This new money will directly benefit Scotland.

The defence industry here employs over 12,600 people.

They are playing a crucial role in our defence, with projects including an £800 million contract for Leonardo-Finmeccanica in Edinburgh to develop a new radar system that will extend the life of our RAF Typhoons until at least 2040.

Our party’s commitment to defence means that we can now go further – investing in Scotland, growing our military presence, and creating more jobs.

Our plans mean that by 2020, all of the Royal Navy’s submarines, one of the Army’s Infantry Brigades, and one of three RAF fast jet main operating bases will be located here.

We are creating another Typhoon squadron to join the three already based at RAF Lossiemouth.
Lossiemouth will also be the base for our nine new maritime patrol aircraft.

When these planes begin to arrive in two years’ time, they will protect our nuclear deterrent and support our maritime search and rescue capabilities.

To prepare for these new aircraft, we are investing £400 million to upgrade runways, taxiways and accommodation.

With Faslane becoming home to all the Royal Navy’s submarines, I confirmed last week that we will spend £1.3 billion to upgrade its facilities.

This is part of a commitment to create 1,400 more jobs over the next five years at one of the largest employment sites in Scotland.

And over the next ten years we plan to spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warships.

That includes the £287 million contract announced in December for two more patrol vessels to be built at Govan and Scotstoun.

It also includes eight new Type 26 anti-submarine frigates.

With these decisions, we have secured thousands of jobs on the Clyde for the next two decades.

This summer I will cut steel on the first of these ships.

But the apprentice who will work on the last Type 26 is yet to be born.

That is the depth of our commitment to Scottish shipbuilding.

Later this year, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will leave Rosyth and begin sea trials.

There are only four countries in the world constructing new aircraft carriers – and we are building two.

They will be the most powerful warships ever built for the Royal Navy.

A proud symbol of our nation’s maritime strength – and a reminder that defence relies on Scottish brainpower.

And I want to do more to tap into the creativity in small firms, like Seebyte in Edinburgh who are developing underwater drones, and in universities, like Glasgow which is exploring potentially disruptive capabilities.

That’s why we have set up an £800 million Innovation Fund to help take ideas from concept to reality and keep us ahead of our adversaries.

Backed by Scottish brainpower, our new ships will project the power and influence of a Global Britain.

They are the future of our Royal Navy – made in Scotland, defending our United Kingdom.

TRIDENT

Scotland will also continue to be home to our independent nuclear deterrent.

I pay tribute to the crews of HMS Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious and Vigilant, their families, and all those who play a role in making sure one of these boats is on patrol 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Last summer MPs voted overwhelmingly to build four new submarines that will protect our country against the most extreme threats through to the 2060s and in October, I cut steel on the first of these, HMS Dreadnought.

Our deterrent has operated without halt for almost half a century.

But it is as crucial today as it has ever been.

To those who say we will never use it, I say: we use it every day to deter those who would wish us harm.

To abandon this guarantee, we would have to be certain that no extreme threats would emerge through the 2030s, the 2040s and the 2050s.

I am not prepared to take that gamble with our security.

I am proud that this party’s commitment to defending our nation has never wavered.

But when Parliament voted to guarantee our security, every single SNP MP voted to unilaterally abandon our nuclear deterrent.

SNP/LABOUR

That would endanger the security of our United Kingdom.

And with Jeremy Corbyn leading dozens of Labour MPs to vote against renewal too, this is not a hypothetical danger.

That’s why our resolve must never waver.

We cannot allow Labour and the SNP to do a cosy deal that bargains away our security.

The SNP’s ideological opposition to our deterrent would not just weaken our defence.

It would destroy highly skilled Scottish jobs too.

No ultimate deterrent, fewer jobs, weaker defence.

That’s the SNP’s separatist vision for Scotland.

THE UNION

The Conservative Party will never stop fighting that vision.

With a Conservative Government at Westminster and a strong Conservative opposition at Holyrood under Ruth Davidson, Scotland will continue to benefit from the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom.

Security, long-term investment, and a role at the heart of our plans for defence.

That’s the Conservative offer.

With an arc of instability spreading across the globe, the threats this country faces are growing.

A resurgent Russia, North Korea illegally testing nuclear weapons, Daesh terrorism on the streets of Europe.

We must face these threats together, with every nation in the United Kingdom playing its part.

That’s why this historic Union matters more than ever before.

ARMED FORCES AND A COUNTRY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

As the Prime Minister reminded us during her first statement in Downing Street, the full title of our party is the Conservative and Unionist Party.

That word ‘unionist’ means we value the precious bond between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As the only true unionist party in Scotland, our party welcomes all those who treasure it.

But it also means we believe in a union between all of our citizens, whatever our background and wherever we’re from.

It means we believe in building a country that works for everyone.

Our armed forces, including those here in Scotland, play a vital role in that work.

As Defence Secretary I get to see how our armed forces give people opportunities they never imagined.

They are a remarkable engine of social mobility.

Look at the 50,000 apprenticeships we plan to train by 2020.

Look at the 150 new cadet units we are setting up in state schools by 2020.

The most recent round of approvals includes Maxwelltown High School in Dumfries.

Giving young people there, and in other schools, opportunities to develop confidence and discipline.

Look at how we are helping thousands to buy their own homes with the Forces’ Help to Buy scheme.

And look at the target I have set to recruit at least 10 per cent of new personnel from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds by 2020.

That’s not about tokenism; it’s about talent.

Our armed forces keep Britain safe.

By giving anyone who is willing to work hard a chance to get on, they help to make it work for everyone
too.

CONCLUSION

Since I last spoke at this Conference, our party, under Ruth’s leadership, has made remarkable progress.

At the Scottish Parliament elections, we made the proud, unabashed case for Scotland’s place in our historic Union.

The Scottish people embraced that message and gave us the responsibility to hold the SNP to account.

Not just for their many failures in government.

But for their false promises to the Scottish people too.

That an independent Scotland would be safer; that jobs and investment in the defence industry would continue; that abandoning our nuclear deterrent would protect us.

We must never shy away from that responsibility.

Conference, only our party will fight to preserve the Union.

Only our party will resolutely oppose the SNP.

Only our party will put Scotland at the heart of the UK’s defence.

That is a message all Scottish Conservatives can be proud of.

Thank you.