Ruth Davidson’s speech to conference

Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

 

“Friends.

 

I’m not supposed to be here today. I am not supposed to be speaking on this stage. This conference isn’t supposed to include Scotland.

 

The Nationalists have been telling anyone who would listen for years, that if people looked – really examined  - our United Kingdom,  they would see a country borne of history that should be returned to history.

 

A Britain in decline that oppresses the very people who make it up.

 

An anachronism on Europe’s northern shores, still dreaming of a globe painted pink and a place where that which divides us is greater than anything we have in common.

 

We were told, if people just opened their eyes, they would see a nation state with its best days behind it; a product past its sell by date, a sinking ship with independence the only lifeboat.

 

Well, we did look. We did examine. Scotland as a country embraced the political arguments of this campaign like no other.

 

Propositions were tested, conjectures dissected, claims analysed and questions of identity -  both national and personal -  weighed and measured.

 

Never in modern British history has any democratic event seen such levels of participation.

 

And when all the ballots were cast, all the votes were counted…

 

The result was clear.

 

More than 2 million Scots said No thanks to separation.

 

No thanks to division

 

No thanks to leaving a family of nations that belongs to every single one of us, whether we are from Cardiff of Kirkcaldy, Birmingham or Belfast.

 

And thank God for that.

 

Thank God, because I love this country.

 

I am Scottish to my bones, but I am British too.

 

And if Scotland had chosen to leave, I would have felt an aching sense of loss. And I would have felt it deeply.

 

And here’s what the nationalists don’t understand.

 

As they try to write their own history of the last few weeks, their story is that everyone who voted No, was duped or conned or scared into that vote.

 

That they walked into the polling station as timid wee mice and came out conflicted by what they’d done.

 

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Hundreds of thousands of people right across Scotland cast that ballot with pride.

 

I know, because I was one of them.

 

So, too, was my friend Lorna. Who I met many years ago, when we did our officer training together.

 

She signed up dozens of her army colleagues, making sure no matter where they were based across the world, they had registered to vote back home.

 

Or Lewis – who at 14 years old asked his mum if he could get the bus from East Kilbride every day to Glasgow to help in the Better Together offices.

 

Or Pat – In her 80s, but who worked every single day to help the campaign in any way she could. Some days that was stuffing envelopes or making the tea….  some, it was taking to the streets to dish out a particular brand of Scottish wifie justice. When the MP, Jim Murphy, was being horrendously barracked and abused, wee Pat was in there giving what for to the abusers, telling them how to behave properly.

 

Forget the politicians; they are the real heroes of this campaign.

 

They did all this because they believed in something.

 

They believed that the UK was worth fighting for. And more than two million fellow scots agreed.

 

But it would be easy. It would be easy to stand here today and talk just about the two million. About the people who know, instinctively, that we are better together. That we stand shoulder to shoulder, facing the world, sharing resource and shouldering a common burden.

 

It would be easy to talk of the messy wonderfulness of these islands and wipe our brow in relief. To pat ourselves on the back for a lucky escape, and move on.

 

But that would do a disservice to the debate we’ve just had.

 

That would be to ignore the 1.6 million people who thought that Britain had stopped being worth it. That the UK wasn’t working for them, that many felt just as passionate about breaking away as we feel about staying together.

 

This referendum sent a tremor through the fabric of this nation and the echoes of that tremor will last a lifetime.

 

We have to address the fact that – Yes or No - people in Scotland want change.

 

The Status Quo is smashed, there’s no going back, and the old rules do not apply.

 

And that is a challenge. But it is an opportunity too.

 

A chance to shape a new Union. To craft and hew a settlement that fits the age and meets our ambitions.

 

Because if, as I believe, our best days still lie ahead of us, we do not reach them by happy accident.

 

We must work to get there.

 

And the work begins now.

 

We must reshape our union so that each of its nations is comfortable in its own clothes.

 

For Scotland, that means having a parliament that – finally - has to look taxpayers in the eye.

 

Right now, First Ministers of Scotland have a block grant transferred from Westminster and their only concern is how to spend it.

 

This has allowed a nationalist government to spend 7 years telling the people of Scotland that everything good in the country is down to them, for spending money on it, and everything bad is Westminster’s fault for not handing over enough.

 

It makes every Scottish election a spending competition, with no thought or regard of who the money comes from.

 

I am an old-fashioned Tory. I don’t believe there is any such thing as government money. It doesn’t exist.

 

The only money that government has is the money it takes from the businesses and people of this country; and we should never forget that.

 

And that’s something I want to ensure for Scotland.

 

I want a Scottish Parliament that is in charge of raising more of the money it spends. I want the working people of Scotland to know – when they look at their monthly paycheck - that the right hand column is going straight to Holyrood.

 

A more direct link between what is raised in Scotland and what is spent in Scotland.

 

Less reliance on a block grant, and a more rigorous and fiscally responsible administration in Edinburgh.

 

And when that happens. When people see their earnings taxed, and that tax sent directly to Bute House. They will hold future First Ministers to account.

 

No more free passes

No more false promises

No more excuses

And no more cries of ‘only with the powers of independence…’

 

The SNP lost. Scotland demonstrated her sovereign will. And yet, people at the top want to run this race again as soon as possible. They want Scotland locked in a cycle of neverendum.

 

This referendum sent a tremor through our United Kingdom. And while nationalists may agitate for another, in 5 years, 10 years, one last heave...

 

We know that only by changing the way we do politics,

 

Only by making the Scottish Government look taxpayers in the eye, taking away the grudge and grievance, removing the fantasy economics

 

Only then can we guard against us being back here again.

 

And I never want to see our Union in such peril in my lifetime.

 

But a new settlement is not just for Scotland. New rules shouldn’t just apply to one, but to all.

 

And it is right that our Prime Minister, who fought so hard for our United Kingdom, considers the way forward for each constituent part.

 

And just as I would guard jealously Scotland’s right to consider her own future; so I recognise, THAT development is not for me to impose on others.

 

The referendum in Scotland has allowed all of us to look again at how we make this country work better. It is our chance to craft a new Union, more at ease with itself and better able to take on the world.

 

It is a task to which we must apply ourselves with energy and purpose.

 

And, conference, we are the party to do it.

 

We have the passion for Britain, the pragmatism for success and the perception to see what needs done.

 

Our friends in Labour and the Lib Dems do not have the same clarity of vision.

 

And there is no doubt – no doubt in my mind - that we will reshape our nation, we will re-craft our Union, we will make it fit for the next 300 years.

 

But as we do, we are allowed a moment - Just a moment conference - to recognise what an achievement we have been part of.

 

History was made last week.

 

Our supposedly battered and dog-eared Union was put under the microscope.

 

Frayed and sometimes fractious, we were supposed to turn on each other and tear up our social contract.

 

Alex Salmond chose the referendum’s timing, he chose the wording, he chose the franchise. He put the full weight of the Scottish government behind his campaign.

 

And yet, and yet – faced with a clear choice and by a clear majority, Scotland voted to stay.

 

Our union was strong enough to stand the test.

 

And I want to thank you.

 

Last year, I came to conference and I asked you to help. And help you did.

 

Many physically came to trudge the streets and post the leaflets and knock the doors and whether that was for a week, a day, an hour, I thank you for your efforts.

 

Many helped from home, manning our call centres in Cardiff and London to help with the get out the vote.

 

Many simply added their voice to a chorus that rang out loud across the UK and said simply – we want you to stay.

 

I thank each and every one of you. Your efforts made a difference.

 

And I am proud. I am proud that when our country called, our party answered.

 

Scottish Conservatives stood tall in this debate. We made the arguments of the heart, as well as the head.

 

We took the fight to the SNP in the SNPs back yard. In Angus, in Perthshire, in Moray, in Aberdeenshire it was Conservatives in the lead – and in our border lands too.

 

It is no coincidence that these areas returned a resounding vote for our United Kingdom.

 

In Scotland, our party comes out of this campaign stronger than it went in. Having grown in stature and confidence as we spoke our truth and stood up – without apology - for what we believed. We fought head, heart, body and soul to keep our country.

 

Because we knew, that when it comes to our United Kingdom, leaving  would be to lose something of ourselves and to see what was left behind be diminished too.

 

And that’s why, conference, the work doesn’t stop.

 

We don’t just pack up and go home.

 

People across the UK are hungry for change. Now.

 

They want power driven out of Whitehall and into their communities.

 

They want decisions taken not just at Westminster, but closer to home.

 

That desire, that demand, must be what drives us on.

 

To build that new union – where Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have more power in themselves, but stand taller together.

 

This is the challenge we have been set,

 

This is the opportunity of our age.

 

So let us go from this place,

 

and shape that new future.

 

In the knowledge that as we do, we do it together.

 

Thank you.”