Alex Salmond Picture: Harris Morgan
The address given by First Minister for Scotland and SNP leader Alex Salmond to the SNP spring conference held in Glasgow, 12 March 2011.
Delegates, first and foremost our thoughts are with the people of Japan in their time of extremity.
Yesterday I sent a message to Prime Minister Kan on the sympathy that the Scottish people feel to our Japanese friends at this time. We stand ready to support or help in any way that is wished, in any way that we can.
Delegates, by your applause please express your solidarity with the people of Japan.
One of our Scottish connections with Japan is the great industrial combine of Mitsubishi, founded by a Scot, Thomas Blake Glover – born in the Broch – founded as the Nagasaki shipping company in 1870.
Now Mitsubishi are making a great impact on modern Scotland, already committed to a £100 million research and programme, and one of the intended industrial partners for the power of green energy innovation now rising on the banks of the Clyde.
For we are in Glasgow – a city of invention. Of entrepreneurs, engineers, of trains and ships.
It is said when the QE II was launched, she actually stretched – and this city’s influence has stretched across the world. First as the workshop of the empire and now as a creative city – building a new empire of the mind.
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But I believe it stands on the brink of another great success, Gallus Glasgow goes on, as a city at the cutting edge of the green revolution. For on the banks of the Clyde made famous by is traders and its shipbuilders, a new industry is rising.
Yesterday I announced a £90m investment – Government and private sector – in Strathclyde University’s International Technology and Renewable Energy Zone, dubbed IT-REZ – less of a mouthful!
That is £90m and 700 jobs at the cutting edge of the green revolution and the knowledge economy. Combining Scotland’s great strengths – our environment, our people and our education.
It is aspirational Glasgow – can do Scotland – a university and a Government and the private sector like Scottish Power, the Weir Group and Scottish and Southern Energy, coming together to stake their claim for the future.
It is aspirational Scotland, can do Glasgow, it is a revolution of expectation believing that we can lead the world in key aspects of technology and innovation.
Delegates, this is an example of Strathclyde technology. It is a miniature map of Scotland, hardly the width of a human hair
Nano-lithography, the manipulation of molecules, with great applications in medicine and across the sciences.
This is a miniature Scotland, but Scotland itself isn’t small. Scotland’s only small in the minds of our unionist opponents – people who think small.
What did they once try to call us? – The best wee wee country in the world. Why not just aspire to be the best country in the world!
And this is a revolution in which all of Scotland is involved
Before Christmas I announced the Mitsubishi investment. Then there is Gamesa’s investment in Dundee. These are not scraps blowing in the wind but solid investments, setting roots in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. In Machrihanish, Methil and Arnish.
We are in the rapids of a new energy revolution.
Let me state for this Conference and for this country the purpose of our objective. We intend that this nation – this Scotland – researches and develops, constructs and fabricates and then supplies and maintains the new green energy systems that will dominate this century.
We intend that this city of Glasgow, marine engineers the 21st century just as it once led the marine engineering of the 19th – when ships from the Clyde carried a nation in their hold.
These investments being made now will pay off for years and generations to come. We reckon this will be worth £30 billion for Scotland in offshore wind alone by 2020. With up to 130,000 job opportunities in the low-carbon sector.
The green energy revolution in which we are embarked is the right course. It is the right course for Scotland, for Europe and for the planet. We shall be the green energy powerhouse of the European continent and a world leader in many of the key technologies.
And yet amid all of this progress, more could be done with the real powers of a real parliament.
Let us take but two examples:
In London right now under OFGEM, there is a bank account of almost £200 million of Scotland’s money paid by fossil fuel generators – places like Longannet and Peterhead. By law, these funds can only be used and accessed to support renewable development in Scotland.
We need them right now to ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that places like Nigg and Dundee are able to benefit fully from the thousands of jobs which depend on these investments.
So why don’t we just access them right now? Because the Treasury say that if we do, then they will deduct the same sum from the block grant to fund education or health.
Now the Liberal Democrats – that party of moderation and commonsense – and of course of pandering to Tory rule in Scotland – they say give up your £250 million and we will lend you the same sum through the Green Investment Bank in a few years time – a sum certainly less than the Green Investment Bank would be lending in Scotland anyway!
So they take our money and then lend us back less in a few years’ time – and that’s meant to be a good deal? Delegates, that is the sort of deal Nick Clegg is offering to English students!
I’ve an alternative idea. Why don’t we just invest in the power of an independent parliament and then decide for ourselves to invest our own money in developing our own resources?
The second example concerns oil. Norway is the only country in Europe with more oil than Scotland. They have breezed through the world recession, largely because of the £300 billion fund for future generations accumulated over the last 15 years.
We should have done that.
Delegates, with oil set to last another 40 years we still can.
Scotland is the second-largest oil producer in Europe, but we have among the highest prices for petrol and derv, placing our families under pressure and our industry at a competitive disadvantage.
The oil price rises mean that revenues rise. This coming year they could rise by £4 billion to £14 billion – the highest ever – around £3,000 a head for every man, women and child in Scotland.
If you applied even half of that £4 billion windfall to cutting fuel tax in Scotland you could reduce it by 50p per litre in Scotland – in the UK by 5p a litre.
We have had enough humming and hawing on this. The case for a fuel tax regulator is made. Let the message go out loud and clear from this conference to the chancellor – cut fuel duty and cut it now.
Our country is rich in resources. So here we are in this lucky, lucky country – we have oil and gas aplenty, we have huge supplies of the most precious resources of the 21st century, water, we have land and sea resources, we have one quarter of Europe’s wind resource, one quarter of its tidal resource and one tenth of the wave resource and we have the skilled and inventive people.
Delegates, the unionist parties tell us we are too poor to be independent and that the only reason that Tory Government in London have set their face against independence is concern for out welfare. The reality is quite different.
The unionist parties oppose independence not because they Scotland is too poor, but because we are rich. What they really fear is the loss of Scottish resources.
It is time we put the wealth of the land to the good of the people, and delivered a nation that looks after its own and does good for the world.
On this subject, I have some more news for you about Glasgow. As you know, we intend to give Scottish Water a new direction, to become a dynamic player in our economy, and to project our humanitarian values around the world.
I can announce today that Glasgow has been put on the short list, along with South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, to host the 2015 World Water Forum. 30,000 delegates to this city, indeed to this very Conference Centre, to try and solve one of the world’s biggest challenges.
We will campaign for this prize with the same vigour that brought the Commonwealth Games to this city for 2014. We intend to win it for Scotland.
Delegates, we are Scotland’s first ever SNP Government and we are standing for re-election. We do so with the best record, the best team and the only real vision for the future of our country.
In the party broadcast last evening, you saw that we claimed a record 20,000 modern apprenticeships – 20,000 investments in the future. That was this year’s figure. Next year I fear we cannot repeat that.
Instead we have determined on 25,000 apprenticeships – not just another Scottish record but 66 per cent higher than the number we inherited from Labour in 2007.
Today we publish 100 key achievements of your SNP Government. The world’s leading climate change targets – done. NHS budget protected – it was, it is and it will be. Prescription charges – ended. Bridge Tolls – removed.
A thousand extra police officers – achieved. Over 1,000 council houses built – Labour only built six! Council tax frozen – done. A commitment to our infrastructure. A new Forth crossing and £2.5 billion of capital investment.
The business of government is a steep learning curve – particularly for a minority. No doubt we could have done some things better.
Yet – even in the teeth of world recession and the consequences of Brown’s bust – we have still achieved more in four years than any other Scottish government, and we have so much more yet to do.
I wanted Scotland to have her own government, so that together we could make Scotland better. I wanted the SNP to form that government so we could serve.
I am the First Minister of Scotland. We have plenty still to do. With the people’s support, I intend to continue to be Scotland’s First Minister.
Mind you, it’s a miracle I made it here today at all. This Wednesday, Ed Balls came to Scotland and said that Labour were going to use me as a punchbag. The next day Iain Gray said he would “take me on”. He took exception to me speaking to him calmly and got very upset. And they say they are not scared of the SNP!
Well, they are right to be scared, scared of our record and scared of our team. Scared because so many Scots of all political persuasions want to see this SNP Government re-elected. Scared because only the SNP speaks for all of Scotland.
Fear leads to people doing all sorts of strange things. It has even made Labour reverse its long-standing policy of charging young people for their education, and now they are engaged in council tax gymnastics.
Let’s just remember it was Labour who introduced tuition fees north and south of the border. It was this SNP Government which removed them.
Ed Balls doesn’t speak for Scotland. He’s the man who commissioned the Lord Browne review – the self same review that the Tories are now using to impose £9,000 a year fees on English students. He’s the man who wrecked the UK economy, Gordon Brown’s aide de camp. He’s the man who failed to regulate the banks – a failure he admitted this week.
This is a Scottish election for a Scottish parliament. Ed Balls ain’t standing. Neither is Ed Miliband nor even Douglas Alexander – indeed not even Wendy Alexander.
They were all on the media circuit this week trying to convince us otherwise. They hope that it will distract Scotland from what is really at stake in May. They want to convince us that this election is about enhancing Labour’s status at Westminster.
But this election is not about who rules in London. It is about who is chosen to serve Scotland. Labour expects that Scotland will do its duty, to move slavishly back into line. They don’t even think they have to present any ideas. They don’t speak for Scotland. They have nothing of significance to say about Scotland. That was true in their long years of Government.
Did Labour speak for Scotland when they took us into the Iraq war? Did Labour speak for Scotland when they raise the Council tax by 60 per cent? Did Labour speak for Scotland when they signed the PFI deals that now cost the public purse £800 million a year?
Did Labour speak for Scotland when Alistair Darling promised cuts which were to be “deeper and tougher” than those of Margaret Thatcher?
Did Labour speak for Scotland when they backed the obscenity of nuclear weapons – including £100 billion to be wasted on a new Trident system?
Labour didn’t stand up for Scotland when they had their chance. Why would they do any better now?
A noted Scottish journalist recently asked what Labour stood for apart from cheap booze and higher council tax.
Cheap booze and higher council taxes. Keir Hardie will be birlin in his grave in Cumnock cemetery – the Labour Party in Scotland – cheap booze and higher taxes. Has there ever been a more miserable and depressing prospectus ever proffered to the people of this nation?
Of course we all know they stand for more jobs – their own. They refused to back the SNP on 25,000 more apprentices. But even as they opposed supporting young people they wanted plenty of jobs for the boys.
I don’t think that Scotland want to go back to Labour’s crony state, where helping out your pals came before helping the poor. Where a party card was a passport to the cushiest numbers.
Remember Strathclyde Passenger Transport – whose Labour-connected officials had to leave in disgrace after an expenses scandal? They were meant to run the trains, but they were too busy operating the gravy train – like so much of Labour in Government.
Labour speaks for vested interest. The Scottish National Party speak for all of Scotland.
We speak for the poorest Scots the low-paid families and pensioners who have benefited most from our freeze on the council tax and our ending of prescription charges.
We speak for the young delivering the 25,000 apprenticeships that Labour voted against, lowering class sizes and keeping education free.
We speak for the vulnerable – we are protecting them with 1,000 extra police officers who have led crime to a 32-year low.
We speak for the aspirational. The millions of Scots who want a better future for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.
We speak for those who want to start their own business. The small business bonus has cut or abolished rates for 80,000 small businesses. Labour voted against that as well.
We speak for the communities of Lossie and Leuchars who have served this country well and expect loyalty not betrayal in return.
Delegates, we speak for all of Scotland and all of Scotland needs the Scottish National Party.
Let me tell you about Nancy. I met her on Kilmarnock High Street three weeks ago. I meet a lot of folk. It’s real politics – listening to real concerns from real people.
Nancy’s concern was that her disability living allowance would be taken away. That’s the thing that allows her to be in a job, to feel useful, wanted worthwhile.
And Nancy was worried – is worried – that her disability allowance will be taken away by the Tory-led coalition. And she understands that these were hard times, and that everyone had to cut their cloth.
But she wanted to know why she had to pay so much, for a crisis that had nothing to do with her.
Now when I talk real politics, I talk of Nancy – of the need for the ordinary people to be given a fair shout and a decent chance.
And as she told me her worries Nancy started to cry, not tears for herself but tears of worry, of uncertainty. And I felt concern and then sympathy and then anger – anger at the idea that a group of rich men in a London cabinet could cause such hurt to a women who overcomes adversity every single day of her life.
You see I’m all for a big society, but I’ m also for a fair society. The late Jimmy Reid didn’t learn about a big society on the playing fields of Eton. He learned about a fair society on the shipyards of the Clyde.
I know who received the better education in humanity, and to that concept we shall remain true.
In a sense that society should try to be as equal as it can be – as in our attitude to education. The widening of the mind is the greatest gift.
To learn of the universe and the atoms. Of the poets and philosophers. It is the one real luxury available to all according to their appetite to learn.
And this nation pioneered free education for all, which resulted in Scots inventing and explaining much of the modern world. We called this the Scottish Enlightenment. And out of educational access came social mobility as we reached all the talents of a nation to change the world for the better.
We can do so again.
Some of our university Principals say that we will fall behind England. We will not. We do not intend to withdraw the state from higher education. Any funding gap will be closed.
We would only fail if we were to betray our traditions and mortgage the future. So when it comes to the question of university fees or graduate taxes, I know where I stand.
The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students – upfront, or backdoor. This party restored free education to Scotland in our first term. We will protect it in the next.
This is part of the Scottish Settlement our social contract with the people. In the course of this coming week the Scottish Government intends to move forward again with that contract.
The cuts promised by Alistair Darling – remember, “deeper and tougher” than those of Margaret Thatcher – are upon us and now under the other Tories.
Across the public sector we face adversity. So let us face it together. As we are duty bound to do. We decided to protect the health service when Labour didn’t know what to do.
We have protected local government as best we could because they deliver some of the most vital services.
That has meant that the cuts being faced by our own administration are the most serious of all – 10 per cent this year and three per cent each year after that.
And yet this coming week we are committed to agreeing with our staff unions in the civil service the continuation of our no compulsory redundancy agreement.
And that comes with the pay-freeze that is inevitable and flexibility in the workforce which is necessary. But the prize in return is great.
I believe that such an agreement could and should be extended across the public sector through local government, through our schools and also into our colleges, as well as throughout our health service.
It will not be easy, but let me tell you why it is important. It is important to individuals to be relieved of economic uncertainty. It is important to have valuable staff properly valued. But it is also important to the economy.
For eight months now, thanks to the work of John Swinney, we have had rising employment in Scotland even in the most difficult of circumstances.
For three months we have had falling unemployment even as it has risen across the rest of the UK.
This is the direct result of our capital acceleration in building houses and stimulating capital projects.
In the first three quarters of last year, construction employment was up 16 per cent in Scotland – even as it fell across the UK.
Now the Tories are implementing the savage capital spending cuts planned by Labour.
We will respond by a £2.5 billion non-profit distribution programme. By moving ahead with the Southern General in Glasgow – a new bridge will span the River Forth, a new road around Aberdeen.
However, we will still be under pressure. One further response is through the economics of security.
If people have the fear of compulsory redundancy removed, then they are able to plan and to spend for the future of themselves and their families – that preserves jobs and helps the wider economy.
That is why as First Minister I will spend every day securing our agreement with the Scottish Government unions and then seeking to see it expanded across the public sector.
As a candidate I will campaign for it and if the people return me as First Minister then I will secure that prize – of no compulsory redundancies and economic security – that it brings.
Delegates, we have a rich land, but too many of our people live in poverty. We have a 21st century vision, but are held back by 19th century prejudices and structures. We are ready to play our part in the world, to help from the personal to the universal.
If we are to become a crucible of the new society, then we need the power of independence – we must have these powers. And there is only way of getting those, of making further advance.
To vote for Scotland, not because we are better than anywhere else, but because we are the same people as people all over the world. We seek fairness and justice and responsibility.
And we are the lucky nation, rich enough to deliver it all, yet we cannot without power. Our sense of the common weal is strong and should not be denied by the rich elites of elsewhere.
A Scotland caught between the universality of hope, and the parochialism of power for power’s sake. And as Labour peddle fear, we have led hope.
We live in tough times, but when the decision came to protect family budgets, it was straightforward – the council tax freeze stays because it’s worth more than £300 to the average family since 2007.
The NHS budget could have been cut, but for us it was a clear decision – the health service protects Scots young and old. Its budget is safe with the SNP.
We have made Scotland secure not by the kneejerk nonsense of locking people up for short sentences, but by putting 1,000 extra police on the street and taking crime to a 32-year low.
We have the best team on the park and we govern for the whole of Scotland.
But politics is nothing without a bigger vision. In government, much is in the day-to-day, but you must still keep an eye on the horizon, on the big prize.
For us, that prize is independence – but independence is a means to an end. That end is a society safe, happy, healthy, confident in its skin. A global citizen acting to help the world where it can.
Because the mapmakers’ ink is becoming smudged on every border. Globalism, the rise of the knowledge economy, the big economic changes, the great environmental challenges – all point to a world where the responsibility of the nation is to raise people who are responsible to the world.
And the definition of a nation is a community of people with a shared commitment to their culture and to their children. By having a strong sense of ourselves.
That allows our new communities from Asia to know what it meant to be Scottish and to give them something to join, to be part of. And that sense of self is built on community, on the shared value of helping each other out, lending a hand, on a sense that society should try to be as equal as it can be.
That is what we value and what we think is the purpose of government. To the rights of the ordinary to triumph over vested interests.
In our capital city of Edinburgh there stands a monument to Thomas Muir and his fellow friends of the people. His memory should cast a beam across the work of every civil servant in the Scottish Government and every Minister – because the monument to Muir and his fellows revolutionaries spikes out of Calton graveyard like a shaft of stony light across from St Andrew’s House.
And this monument contains Muir’s own vision: “I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause – it shall ultimately prevail – it shall finally triumph.”
And his message was not just for this place, but for every place. For his spirit, for Robert Burn’s spirit, Jimmy Reid’s spirit, our spirit, it is for the common weal.
The rights of man – and of women. And the legitimacy of the ordinary over the powerful.
This party has travelled a similar path. This movement, this nation, has been patronised, talked down, told it wasn’t good enough. And yet this party has risen from a few MPs and a land without a parliament, to a Scotland with a parliament, and an SNP government.
We never lost the strength of hope – and we fought on to triumph. But we, in our mix of the national and the international, of the personal and the political, we fought not to govern over people, but for the people to govern over themselves.
It is for that reason and that reason above all that we are the Friends of the People of Scotland, and for that reason we shall prevail.
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