Prime Minister in Scotland
Cameron: ‘we are main opposition to ‘inept’ nationalists’
Prime Minister David Cameron insisted today that the Scottish Conservatives could become the main Opposition in the Holyrood parliament.
In a stinging attack on ‘dogmatic, inept’ nationalists and the tax-rising Labour party he said the Tories were well placed under Ruth Davidson’s leadership to become the new force in Scottish politics.
He said his party now stood alone as the only party fully committed to the union and insisted his government had delivered on the extra devolved powers.
“I know some people doubted that we would ever get there. At every turn, they said: ‘you can’t trust the Tories’,” he told the party’s annual conference in Edinburgh.
“At every turn, we proved them wrong. They said we’d never see through Calman – we gave them the Scotland Act.
“They said we wouldn’t actually hold a referendum – we did. They said we’d never deliver extra powers – we have.
“And they said we’d never follow Robert Smith’s recommendations. He’s a man I admire. His recommendations are comprehensive – the biggest transfer of powers in the history of UK devolution.…giving Scotland control over VAT spending, over income tax bands and even some aspects of welfare.
“And what did we do? We implemented them. As he has put it, this is Smith: ‘delivered in full.’
“‘This will be transformational for our Parliament,’” he said.
“And he was right. There is now huge opportunity, proper accountability and full responsibility.
“So it’s time for the SNP Scottish Government to end the grudge, gripe and grievance – and start to govern.
“It’s an end to the blame game. The buck now stops at Bute House. Smith delivered. Vow met. A devolution deal for a powerhouse parliament. Our Union made stronger.
“All achieved by us – the Conservative and Unionist Party.”
He reeled off a list of the SNP’s ‘failures’ after nine years in power.
“With Labour’s collapse, Scotland is in danger of becoming a one-party state,” he said.
“Look at their litany of failure. Children’s school attainment – stagnating. The number of college students – falling. Help for poorer students at university – cut. Increasing health spending like England – unfulfilled.
“Then there’s the mess of the law that bans football songs.
“There’s the lost accountability of merging eight police forces into one.
“There’s the abolition of Right to Buy – yes, even though Nicola Sturgeon’s family benefitted from it, she’s saying that you can’t.
“There’s even the absurd Named-Person policy, which ensures every child is allocated a guardian – even if they have parents; even if they have no need for this extra layer of bureaucracy.
“Well I’ll tell you who needs a guardian – someone to keep them in check – it’s the SNP.
“And it falls to us, the Conservatives, the only party fit to expose these spendthrift, out-of-touch, dogmatic, inept nationalists for what they really are.”
Mr Cameron said the union issue had been settled for a generation and accused Labour and the Lib-Dems of wavering on the issue.
He introduced Ruth Davidson as the “Sturgeon-slaying, Dugdale-defying, absolute star of a leader” who had brought “a new buzz into this party” and “new blood”.
His party, he said, had won the 2014 referendum issue and the 2015 general election, and at the May election the Conservatives “can give Scotland the strong alternative it needs.
“That’s right: we, the Scottish Conservative Party; today we are the effective Opposition…and for the next 62 days, we’re going to fight to become the official Opposition.”
He went on to say that he now needed to win the next argument: that Scotland is stronger, safer and better off in a reformed Europe.
“There are 250,000 jobs, spanning so many Scottish sectors, that are linked to that ability to trade with Europe.
“But let’s just look at one: food. Today, Scottish farmers can sell their meat, without quotas, without tariffs, to a market of 500 million people.
“But if Britain leaves, that could all change. A trade deal – like the one Canada has agreed with the EU – could involve tariffs and quotas on our exports.
“And if we have to fall back on the basic rules for global trade, that could mean tariffs as high as 13 per cent on Scottish salmon…40 per cent on lamb…and up to 70 per cent on some beef products.
“I really think it’s time for those who want to leave to explain what Scotland would look like if we left, and to start giving voters some of these facts.
“It’s for them to look those farmers in the eye and tell them if they’re going to have to pay tariffs, and, if so, how much.
“And it’s for us to argue that when this great exporting nation can trade with the world, people are better off with more jobs, more growth, more investment and more opportunities all adding up to a brighter future for Scotland.”
He said membership helps put Scotland in the driving seat on the world’s biggest issues and shows that it is possible to be “a strong, successful, proud Scot – and be part of the United Kingdom and European Union.”
He said: “Being in these two clubs doesn’t diminish Scotland’s identity. It doesn’t make you less of a Scot, or less patriotic What matters is turning patriotism into action. Being able to get things done for the country you love.
“I believe that’s what we can do in a reformed Europe, where we have the best of both worlds in all the things that are so important to us, like the Single Market, but carved out of all those things we don’t want any part of.
“So no euro; no Eurozone bailouts; no European Army; no Schengen open borders; no European superstate.
“If we left, we would be swapping that certainty for uncertainty.”
He said the party had worked hard to get the economy growing, get people into work, and see living standards rise and leaving the EU could put all that at risk.
“And now there’s another risk to our economic security: tax rises. So that’s the second thing we need to tell voters about: the risk from Labour.
“Recently, they revealed their big idea to help hardworking people: An income tax rise for everyone.
“That’s right – just as people are getting jobs, seeing their pay rise ahead of inflation, seeing light at the end of the tunnel, Labour want to start raiding their pay packets. Now they say they’re doing it to help the low paid.
“But, tell me this: who is going to feel that tax rise? Is it going to be the rich? Those with well-paid jobs? Those with big homes and no money worries?
“It’s not. It’ll be the young teacher, just starting out. It’ll be the nurse on 25 grand. It’ll be the shop manager who has to watch every penny they spend.
“Labour have said they’d hand some people £100 back if they fall below a certain threshold. But how much would it even cost to administer that?
“Wouldn’t the cost negate the revenue it was supposed to be generating?
“How about – and here’s a novel idea – not taking their money off them in the first place?
“It’s classic Labour: dock people’s pay, hand some money back to them – and then ask them to thank you for it.
“We believe it is right that people keep more of the money they earn, not less.
“It comes back to that Conservative motto: There’s no such thing as government money; only taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Cameron said that since he became party leader 10 years ago he had believed in the future of the Scottish Conservative party.
“I knew it was right to look forward, not back – and that we should be the party that made devolution work.
“I knew it was right that we didn’t just talk to ourselves, but sought new support and new talent.
“I knew that we – the modern, compassionate Conservatives – would always be the only ones standing up for the Union, keeping our defences strong and delivering for hardworking people.
“No matter how long it took, no matter how hard it was, we’ve stuck at it, and come back every year, believing in what we can achieve.
“It has never been easy. But with our leader, Ruth. With Labour’s collapse. With the SNP arrogant and overbearing, let’s make this our moment.
“Let’s drape ourselves in red, white, and Saltire blue. Let’s do more great things. Let’s get out there over the next 62 days – and let’s win for Scotland.”