Theresa May’s speech to Scottish Conservative conference

3 May 2019

Check against delivery.

And thank you, Andrew, for that introduction.

And can I again congratulate Andrew on recording the fastest time for an MP in this year’s London Marathon?

And the second fastest MP was John Lamont.

But that’s hardly surprising, given all the Scottish MPs have been running rings around the SNP since they came to Westminster.

Andrew is not just a fantastic representative for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, he is also a brilliant addition to my team in Downing Street.

Last year the weather stopped me joining you for Scottish Conference.

So it is an even greater pleasure to be with you all in this fantastic city of Aberdeen today.

The fact that you have chosen this particular location for your conference is, I think, quite significant.

Because we are gathered in the one and only SNP Westminster constituency left in the North East of Scotland.

Clearly you never stop taking the fight to the SNP!


Like Scotland as a whole, Aberdeen and the North East excels in sectors from financial services to manufacturing.

And of course it is a global energy hub.

Over decades, the oil and gas sector has made an outstanding contribution towards the whole UK economy.

It has developed a world-class centre of expertise in the incredibly challenging conditions of the North Sea.

The UK Government has done a lot to support the sector as the oil price has fluctuated over the last few years.

Being a United Kingdom, with the world’s fifth largest economy, gives us the broad shoulders to do that.

We have changed the tax regime to help save jobs and ensure businesses stay competitive.

We set up the Oil and Gas Authority as a strong independent regulator for the UK continental shelf, and made Aberdeen its HQ.

And we worked with the Scottish Government to deliver an Aberdeen City Deal – one of many right across Scotland, from the Borderlands Deal in the South, to Inverness and the Highlands in the North.

Here in Aberdeen the deal established the Oil and Gas Technology Centre and the National Decommissioning Centre.

This year, we launched a call for evidence to see what more we can do to strengthen our position as a global energy hub.

And today I can announce that the UK Government will back plans for a new Global Underwater Hub right here in Aberdeen.

It would bring areas of excellence in underwater technology together under a single commercial vision – creating jobs, boosting the local economy and cementing Aberdeen’s place as an energy hub for offshore and renewables.

Our subsea engineering sector already supports tens of thousands of jobs – 60% of which are based here in Scotland.

By building on that expertise, we can create the world’s pre-eminent subsea industrial cluster.

It would help established businesses thrive and create new opportunities as the world makes the shift towards clean growth.

Supporting industry, helping us in the fight against climate change and creating new skilled jobs and opportunities for people to get on.

A brighter future for this city, this county and the whole of Scotland.


Being here with you today on the east coast makes me cast my mind back to another Scottish conference I had the pleasure of attending, held on the west coast, in Troon, back in 2012.

The Party was in good heart, just limbering up for the fight your lives in the referendum campaign that was about to get started.

Looking around, I can see some familiar faces who will remember that time.

But I can see a lot more who will not.

Because today’s Scottish Conservative Party has been transformed from the one that met on the beautiful Ayrshire coast seven years ago.

Back then you had 115 councillors.

Today you have 264: making a real difference in communities across Scotland.

Back then, 15 MSPs. Today, 31: holding the SNP to account at Holyrood.

Back then, 1 MP: David Mundell.

Today he is one of 13: the clearest and strongest voices speaking up for Scotland at Westminster.

In 2012 you were fighting with the Liberal Democrats over third place – now you have defeated Labour to become the main opposition to the SNP.

It is a remarkable achievement and every single one of you should be proud of it.

So what happened? What turned things around so dramatically?

I could answer that question in one word: Ruth.

For the last few months she has been on maternity leave – bringing baby Finn into the world and, with Jen, starting to get to know him.

Showing that success in one of the biggest jobs in British politics should be no barrier to a woman starting a family.

And to the man who has held the fort and kept the SNP on their toes over the last few months I say this: Jackson: you did a great job, but the boss is back.


That 2012 conference in Troon was Ruth’s first as Party Leader.

I said in my speech that year that she was ‘making the arguments with passion and purpose.’

And during the independence referendum, hers was the most passionate and purposeful defence of our United Kingdom.

During that campaign, Ruth found her voice – and this Party rediscovered its purpose.

Because your success is not just down to having a great leader.

You have also had a great cause.

You stood up for what you believe in.

You fought for what you knew was right.

And you won the argument.

In 2014 – you said that if Scotland voted No, it would stay an integral part of the most successful family of nations the world has ever known. And so it does.

You said that the Scottish Parliament would gain new powers – to become one of the most powerful devolved legislatures anywhere in the world. And so it did.

And you said that Scottish Conservatives would never stop making the case and fighting the corner for our United Kingdom and the huge benefits that Union brings to every citizen who is lucky enough to call this wonderful country their home.

You have never stopped making that case.

We have never stopped making this case.

And we never will.


Compare that record of consistency and respect for the democratic process, with the record of the SNP.

In 2014, they said that the independence referendum would settle the issue for a generation – even for a lifetime.

In 2012 they signed the Edinburgh Agreement, which committed both governments to respect the outcome of the referendum.

That was the basis on which people cast their vote.

The people of Scotland spoke clearly – but the SNP did not like the answer.

Last weekend was their party conference, so of course that meant last week there was yet another ‘independence update’ from the First Minister.

Let me just say this: I have an old fashioned belief that in a democracy, if you put a question to the people – you should respect the answer they give you.

That seems to be a pretty big difference between Nicola Sturgeon and me.

Because not only does she want to re-run the independence referendum because she did not like the decision of the people of Scotland…

…she also wants to re-run the EU referendum because she did not like the decision of the people of the UK.

Many Scottish Conservatives campaigned passionately for Remain – but like me, you accepted the decision of the British people and you put your shoulders to the wheel to help get the best possible deal.

Once again – there’s a big contrast with Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

On the morning after the vote…

…before the dust had even begun to settle, before any serious discussions could take place…

…the First Minister invited the television cameras into Bute House to put the most divisive issue in Scottish politics, in her words: back ‘on the table.’

I would have welcomed a First Minister of Scotland who wanted to work with me to deliver a good Brexit deal for the UK.

But I knew from the start that Nicola Sturgeon was not interested in that outcome.  

She saw Brexit as an opportunity to further her party’s obsession with one thing and one thing only – independence.

Just imagine if Scotland had a government that put as much energy into improving Scotland’s hospitals as the SNP put into chasing independence.

A government as focused on boosting Scotland’s economy as the SNP is on internal debates about the hypothetical currency of an independent Scotland.

Or a First Minister who actually lived up to her promises to restore Scotland’s education system, instead of letting its standing slip in the international rankings.

Well, in 2021 you will have the chance to offer the people of Scotland a government that is devoted 100% to improving the lives of Scots.

A Scottish Conservative Government.

It is an opportunity I know you will seize.


Ever since I became Prime Minister, I have been determined to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK.

A Brexit that honours the result of the referendum – and sets us on course for a bright future.

That is what the deal we negotiated with the EU delivers.

Restored control over our laws and borders – and more powers in the hands of the devolved legislatures.

An end to vast annual payments to the EU – so we can spend taxpayers’ money how we choose.

Tariff-free trade and seamless borders for goods and agriculture.

Keeping our security partnerships strong – but building a new economic relationship that works for both sides.

Remaining a member of programmes that work for us.

But getting out of the things that do not – like the Common Agricultural Policy that fails our farmers.

And, crucially, the Common Fisheries Policy that has failed our fishermen.

The SNP want powers over fishing to stay with Brussels.

Only the Conservatives will make the CFP in Scotland a thing of the past.

All 13 Scottish Conservative MPs backed the Withdrawal Agreement when Parliament voted on it in March.

If others had followed-suit, we would be leaving the EU on 22 May.

But they did not, and we have had to face up to that fact.

So we have had to reach out to the official opposition to secure cross-party support for a deal.

That work continues with one clear aim – to get a deal over the line in Parliament.

Because that is the only way to deliver on the instruction of the British people.

And across the UK, people want to see the issue of Brexit resolved and for our country to move forward.

With Parliament making clear it will do all it can to stop a no deal exit – that can only be achieved by leaving the EU with a deal.

That is our goal and it is one we are determined to deliver.


Because the future for the whole United Kingdom, if we leave the EU with a deal that works for us, is a bright one.

We have everything it takes to make a success of what lies ahead of us.

The strength in diversity that comes from being a Union of four great and proud nations will be crucial to that success.

Scotland makes a huge contribution to our Union – and it always has.

As we chart a new course as a Global Britain post-Brexit, we will build on our strengths to help us take on the world.

We will make the most of the United Kingdom’s global reach.

Our diplomatic clout as permanent members of the UN Security Council, a leading power in NATO and chair-in-office of the Commonwealth.

UK diplomats – many born or educated in Scotland – serving all our interests, right around the world.

Staff in the UK Government’s international development department – headquartered in East Kilbride – are improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people on the planet.

And helping build a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world as they do so.

Our wonderful armed forces – the finest in the world – with a major footprint here in Scotland.

The Royal Marines at RM Condor in Angus.

The Royal Navy at HM Naval Base Clyde.

The RAF at Lossiemouth.

And the British Army in Edinburgh, Stirling and the Highlands.

The SNP have chosen to tax people in Scotland more heavily than anyone else in the UK, so our brave armed service personnel were due to have less in their pay packets each month just because they were based in Scotland.

But following a passionate campaign from Scottish Conservative MPs, the UK Government has ensured that defence personnel in Scotland are protected from those higher taxes – so there is no penalty for serving in Scotland.

A Global Britain with a global reach – and with Scotland an essential part.

And we will use that global reach and the new freedoms that being outside the EU will bring, to open up new markets and drive up our international trade.

The UK remains by a long way Scotland’s biggest and most important market – but with world-beating products and the opportunities of the future, there should be no limit to our ambition for Scottish exports.

I never miss an opportunity to bang the drum for Scottish businesses internationally.

And I have been proud to take the Scotch Whisky Association – representing an industry that on its own accounts for over 20% of all UK food and drink exports – on every international trade mission I have led as Prime Minister.

There is so much creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship here in Scotland and right across the United Kingdom.

It should fill us with pride – and fill us with optimism too.


Scotland’s success matters to me.

It matters to everyone who cares about our United Kingdom.

And a Conservative government will always put the interests of our Union first.

I am convinced that the future that awaits us is a bright one.

That huge prizes are to be won by a country of our talent and ambition.

We will only reach that bright future if we stand together.

Together as a Party.

Together into a bright future worthy of our great past.

Together as a proud Union of nations.