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Jackson Carlaw campaign speech

16 Nov 2019

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has said today that “the rocks will melt with the sun” before the party supports Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a second independence referendum.

He also uses the speech to attack the First Minister’s form of “disposable democracy” which has seen the SNP attempt to “chuck away” the verdict of the 2014 independence referendum.

Mr Carlaw’s speech follows Jeremy Corbyn’s shambolic visit to Scotland earlier this week where he adopted at least four separate positions on a second referendum.

Mr Carlaw said that, as a result, if a Labour government were elected on December 12th “there is now the real and present danger of another divisive referendum on independence happening very soon.”

Mr Carlaw’s full speech, at the Parklands Hotel, Newton Mearns, Glasgow, is below.

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends,

Two weeks into the campaign here in Scotland, and it’s time to take stock of what we’ve learned since the election was called by the Prime Minister.

I think there have been three major events which stand out.

First off, we’ve seen Nicola Sturgeon retreat ever further into the Nationalist bunker – and significantly raise the stakes on the prospect of a second referendum on independence.

She has confirmed she will request the powers to hold a second independence referendum as soon as this campaign is over.

She’s made clear she wants that referendum to take place next year, in just a few months’ time.
She’s also now declared – following our exchanges at First minister’s Questions on Thursday – that, for her, a second referendum on independence takes priority not just over everything else she has said was her priority, but in particular over the other thing she wants – a second referendum on Brexit.

So we can ignore all that talk about the SNP being the party of Remain. She has now made it clear that the SNP is 100%, unabashed, the party of leaving – leaving the United Kingdom.

I genuinely don’t see this as just the usual SNP sabre rattling.

There is now the real and present danger of another divisive referendum on independence happening very soon.

Why? Because of the second major event of this campaign.

The reason why the Union is in such immediate danger is because of the stance Jeremy Corbyn has taken in the first stages of this election.

We have long known that Mr Corbyn does not have the Union on his list of priorities.

But what we’ve learnt this week is that it goes much deeper than that.

On one level, his visit to Scotland this week was just a shambles – and I’m pretty sure we all laughed at the sheer amateurism of it all.

But this really is no laughing matter. 

Because to see the leader of one of a once great political parties casually dismissing the need to stop the break-up of our country is chilling.

Time after time, Mr Corbyn had the chance to say no to Nicola Sturgeon.

He had ample opportunities to say something positive about our United Kingdom – to talk up his belief in our Union.

Yet he point-blank refused.

Refused to simply agree he was even a Unionist.

Refused to show any back-bone whatsoever.

Failed categorically to demonstrate that if he were to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in less than four weeks’ time, he would strive to deliver the most basic task – that of keeping the country together.

I am afraid the only conclusion to be reached is that it is now beyond doubt that the leader of the opposition, the heir to Atlee, Smith and Brown, believes Scotland is expendable.

Beyond doubt that he cannot or will not stand up to Nicola Sturgeon and her divisive referendum.

Clear that he sees a second referendum on independence as a price worth paying for Nicola Sturgeon’s support to shoehorn himself into Downing Street.

As someone who has spent decades in Scottish politics fighting independence – many of them alongside patriotic Labour politicians – I find that genuinely appalling.

No wonder former Government Minister and Labour MP Tom Harris made clear this week he’s now backing the Scottish Conservatives.

It’s because he knows – and I’ve met Labour voters who know – and there are thousands more Labour voters besides who know – that we are now the only party which will represent their views on this, the most fundamentally vital matter to Scotland by far.

Because the third significant event of the campaign was the Prime Minister’s own visit to Scotland just ten days ago.

Where – unlike Mr Corbyn – the Prime Minister did give a clear answer. No to a second referendum. No to more division. No to more Nationalist grievance.

It means Scottish voters now know for sure. If a Conservative government is re-elected on December 12th, we will answer Nicola Sturgeon’s letter by return post.

We will keep the Union safe.

We will strive to put the focus on what matters

As the only party in Scotland which now wants to take this country out of constitutional treacle, and back to normality.

Now I know Mr Corbyn’s shambolic visit this week has left many people in Scotland worried about our future.

So today, I want to reassure pro-Union voters in Scotland. Unlike Mr Corbyn, we won’t be cowed by Nicola Sturgeon – we’ll take on Nicola Sturgeon.

And we’ll do it with the power of our arguments, and the strength of our case.

So let’s start with that demand by Nicola Sturgeon for a second referendum.

As we’ve become accustomed, the First Minister has decided over the last couple of weeks that we all need a good talking to.

You see, opposing another referendum on independence isn’t just wrong, in her considered view. No – she claims it’s actually anti-democratic.

Because, she says, whether you’re pro or anti-independence, Scotland should have the right to choose.

Well, if Nicola Sturgeon wants to give us a lesson in democracy, I say let’s give her a lesson in modern Scottish studies.

You may remember, First Minister, that five years ago, we had an event. A big event. It was called a referendum. 

Before that referendum, you and your illustrious predecessor and mentor Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh agreement promising to respect the vote.

You then went further, making it clear the vote was to be “once in a generation”.

On 18th September 2014, 3.6 million people turned out – 84% of the voting age population – to have their say, and 2 million chose to say No.

It was clear. It was decisive. It was fair. It was legal and – we all agreed – it was to be final.

What’s there not to get here?

We said No. We meant it.

And we still mean it now. Most people in Scotland do not want to go back to yet more division.

We want to move on.

But I hear the First Minister already snapping away at me.

OK; we may have said it was once in a generation in 2014. But – I hear her say – things have now changed.

Brexit has created a clean slate. We didn’t know we’d be leaving the EU. We deserve another shot.

I’ve listened to the First Minister on this. And I’m sorry to say: it’s all bogus. 

The SNP’s own 500 page white paper “Scotland’s Future” set out the possibility of a Brexit vote if Scotland stayed in the UK.

No one was duped – they set it out themselves.

But more fundamentally, the idea that it’s Brexit which lies behind the Nationalists’ demand for another referendum is a joke.

Even if Brexit hadn’t happened, they would have found something else.

A weather map that made Scotland look smaller.

A UK Government that didn’t call them every day.

Strawberries incorrectly labelled as British.

We’re not facing a demand for a second referendum because of Brexit – we’re facing a demand for a second referendum because Nicola Sturgeon can’t let it go and will never let it go.

First Minister, the bottom line is this.

Scotland voted to stay in the UK.

Two years later, the UK – that’s all of us, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland – voted to leave the EU.

Referendums aren’t general elections.

You don’t get to over-turn them every five years.

You don’t get to retrospectively declare that the result doesn’t apply to you.

We all accepted the rules. We all campaigned hard.

And in Nicola Sturgeon’s case that included her campaigning in London, seeking to persuade people across the UK to back her side.

It’s time, First Minister, you backed democracy for once, and respected the result of a referendum.

So, unlike Jeremy Corbyn let me make clear: the Scottish Conservatives will not, under any circumstances, support another referendum on independence.

Not because we resist democracy – but because we demand democracy be respected. 

We reject the First Minister’s concept of disposable democracy: the idea that you can chuck away a once in a generation decision because you’ve had enough of it. 

In short – and to borrow a phrase – the rocks will melt with the sun before we ever give in to Nicola Sturgeon demand for a second independence referendum.

And the rewards of that resolute position won’t just be delivered by keeping our United Kingdom together.

They’ll also be felt because of what they stop.

Just think for a minute what Nicola Sturgeon is actually proposing.

Another referendum on independence next year would be calamitous for our country.

It would grind Scotland to a halt.

And the agony of the last decade – where constitutional politics has trumped everything else – would only continue.

And let’s not even for a moment pretend that divisive as the last referendum was, another referendum would be anything other than brutal for our country.

Scot pitched against Scot. A divisive contest so damaging it may take a lifetime for the country to recover.

And for what?

If Nicola Sturgeon did win, an independent Scotland would face years of fresh uncertainty – presumably applying afresh to join the European Union but only after securing an agreement to leave the UK. How many years, indeed decades, would that take?

They’d dump the pound and create a new currency. How much would that cost?

A massive financial black hole would have to be filled. Which taxes would go up? And what spending would be cut?

Surely it’s better for us all that Scotland takes a different path.

Where – for once – we get on with the people’s priorities, not Nicola Sturgeon’s obsession.

Where instead of trying to weaponize the NHS to muster support for independence, we had a First Minister and a Health Secretary who actually fixed the scandals happening, right now, on their watch.

I say that it is time Scotland got back to our traditions – of education, internationalism, invention and trade.

A confident Scotland working in partnership not conflict with our neighbours. One with the courage to tell the truth about itself and a conviction we can solve our own problems.

Scotland the brave, not the Scotland aggrieved. Self-reliant, not self-pitying. Taking responsibility ourselves not apportioning blame on Westminster and others.

It is time to get Brexit sorted and to draw a line under constitutional wrangling of all sorts. To accept the verdict of the people and start meeting the people’s real needs. Better schools, a decent health service, more housing- particularly for young people looking to buy a home for the first time –  a growing economy. Safe streets and secure neighbourhoods.

That is what we offer.

And it’s what we can deliver too.

Never let us forget that it was Scottish Conservative victories in 2017 – beating Alex Salmond, Angus Robertson and the rest – that brought the SNP to a halt.

That stopped them the last time they were trying to enforce a referendum on us.

Well, if we want to stop them again, we need to tell them again.

There’s only one way to make Nicola Sturgeon listen, I’ve found. Winning SNP seats.

Only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to do that.

So forget Corbyn’s defeatism – let’s fight back against the SNP.

Let’s have the courage to say it as it is.

Nicola Sturgeon is putting her attempt to secure her own legacy before the majority view in Scotland – who don’t want to go back to more division.

The SNP have had more than a decade in power. Their obsession with independence has been put before the everyday business of government – with the result that school standards have dropped, legal NHS waiting time guarantees are being missed, and the police service is being stretched to breaking point.

Let’s tell them we’ve had enough.

The last 12 years have shown how easy it is to practice the politics of division and how damaging it has proved to be for all fo us.

Let’s now rise to the challenge of uniting our nation. Let’s seize opportunities, by not nursing grievances but righting wrongs.

A vote for the SNP, or any of their helpers, is a vote to hold Scotland back. Another divisive, unwanted referendum. Stuck in a time warp of more than half a decade ago.

We cannot afford that.

Let’s respect the people of Scotland. Respect their views, opinions and decisions. Let’s move Scotland forward.

Let’s sort Brexit. Say no to any more divisive referendums.

Let’s deliver on Scotland’s real priorities and unite the country.

Only the Scottish Conservative and Unionists will do that.