First Minister Alex Salmond's Conference address

First Minister Alex Salmond's address to SNP Conference

This is how it was. I was on the train yesterday – in a first class
carriage with my second class ticket.

Anyway one of these plebs came up to me impudently doing his job and I
just said to him.

“Don’t you know who I am my man? I’m the Chancellor of the Exchequer”
and he said “sure – and I’m the Czar of all the Russias! Get out of
this carriage”.

There is a serious point for us and for Scotland.

Why on earth do we allow this bunch of incompetent Lord Snooties to be
in positions of authority over our country?

And why does the Labour Party believe that they can survive getting
into bed with them in the No campaign?

Delegates, when I opened our proceedings a couple of days ago I spoke
of the giants of our party and I said that I trusted this Conference.

It was trust, based not on a result or a vote, but on the way I knew
this party of ours would conduct the debate.

And yesterday, have no doubt, we saw one of the finest debates in our
party’s history.

I'M CERTAIN THOSE GIANTS - ROBERT McINTYRE, BILLY WOLFE, ALLAN
MACARTNEY, NEIL MacCORMICK, MARGARET EWING AND BASHIR AHMAD -
LISTENING AND WATCHING YESTERDAY'S DEBATE ON THE FUTURE DEFENCE POLICY
FOR OUR COUNTRY WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD OF THEIR PARTY.

Conference, there are good reasons why the people of Scotland have
placed their trust in the SNP over two Scottish elections.

And they shone out like a beacon from this conference hall yesterday afternoon.

DIFFERENT VIEWS - HONESTLY HELD - OPENLY DEBATED - DEMOCRATICALLY AGREED.

When we started this Conference we had already demonstrated over five
years that we are a party that is more than capable of being
Scotland’s devolved government.

Today, the people of Scotland know, because of the manner in which we
have conducted ourselves, that we are a party that is capable of being
Scotland’s first independent government.

Friends, the two years that lie ahead are the most important in our
party’s history and in our country’s recent history.

To secure a better future for our families, for our communities, for our nation.

A FUTURE WHICH STARTS WITH A YES VOTE.

Earlier this week I met with the Prime Minister to sign the Edinburgh Agreement.

AN AGREEMENT WHICH GIVES OUR OWN PARLIAMENT UNCHALLANGED LEGAL
AUTHORITY TO HOLD THE REFERENDUM, WHICH AGREES THE PROCESS, RESPECTS
THE OUTCOME AND COMMITS BOTH GOVERNMENTS TO WORKING WITH THAT DECISION
IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF OUR PEOPLE.

DELEGATES IT IS NOW GAME ON FOR SCOTLAND.

This referendum that creates a once in a generation opportunity.

AND CONFERENCE, THAT INCLUDES THE NEW GENERATION.

16 AND 17 YEAR OLDS, YOUNG SCOTS WHO CAN MARRY, REGISTER FOR THE ARMY
AND CAN PAY TAX.

YOUNG SCOTS WHO I CAN CONFIRM TODAY, WILL ALL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO
VOTE ON SCOTLAND’S FUTURE.

Isn’t it interesting that parties which refused to support 16-17 year
olds voting are changing their tune.

Now they say how important it is that all 16-17 year olds vote, not
just the attainers on the current register.

Conference we intend to introduce a Paving Bill over the next few
weeks which SHALL make it possible for ALL 16-17 year olds to vote if
that is what Scotland’s Parliament so determines.

With Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands we can create a better Scotland.

We CAN choose a different path.

This referendum is not just about an independent Scotland, it is about
our belief that for Scotland there can be – there must be - a better
way.

Our cause is not and never had been just about achieving our
constitutional objective.

It is about using that power to create a more prosperous economy and a
more just society.

Now we know there are many of our fellow citizens who remain to be
convinced about the merits of independence.

But we also know that there IS a majority for change in this country.

We know that at heart people trust their own Parliament far more than
they will ever trust Westminster.

We know that asked about individual powers whether it be on defence,
social welfare or European representation people want these decisions
to be controlled in Scotland.

And we know that people want economic policy to be directed by the
Scottish Parliament.

Put these popular aspirations together.

A Parliament which decides on social welfare, Trident, the economy and
represents Scotland on the world stage - and you have an independent
Parliament.

For independence is not a single event but a process.

But it is a process which involves more than the transfer of powers.

It is a process by which we - that is all of us – accept the
responsibility for changing our country – our communities - for the
better.

Friends, in 1997, in Scotland’s last referendum, I was proud to share
a platform with Donald Dewar among many others as we made the case for
a fairer and more democratic Scotland.

Three quarters of the people voted for that proposition.

People from across Scotland who wanted a stronger say on the decisions
that affect them and their families.

And in the years that have followed, that appetite has grown.

They have seen what our Parliament has achieved and they like it.

Conference, many want independence, many want more powers. But have no
doubt, once again, the majority of our fellow citizens are for change.

In 2014, the people of Scotland will be heard again.

Today, I ask all those who wanted that fairer and more democratic
country - to pause and reflect on the kind of nation they would now
like Scotland to be.

To think of the progress that has been made. And to consider the next
step on Scotland’s journey.

FRIENDS, OUR NATION UNDERSTANDS THERE IS WORK TO DO IF WE ARE TO MAKE
SCOTLAND THE PLACE WE KNOW IT CAN BE.

WORK, TO BUILD A FAIRER NATION

TO TURN POTENTIAL INTO PROSPERITY

THE CHOICE BEFORE US IS NOW CLEAR.

SCOTLAND CAN VOTE NO AND SECURE NOTHING.

OR WE CAN VOTE YES TO GET THE PLATFORM THAT WE NEED.

WE SPEAK TODAY TO THOSE MILLIONS OF OUR FELLOW CITIZENS WHO SAID YES
TO SCOTLAND BEFORE.

AND WILL SAY YES TO SCOTLAND, YES TO PROGRESS, ONCE AGAIN.

A SCOTLAND UNITED BY AMBITION AND CONFIDENCE.

A SCOTLAND WHICH ACHIEVES ITS POTENTIAL - WHERE HOPE ECLIPSES FEAR.

Over these next two years our task is clear.

To tell the truth about Scotland and what we can achieve. To proclaim
that we have, in ourselves, all we need to truly prosper.

That, together, we can rebuild our nation, creating a Scotland that
flourishes - in body and in spirit - once again.

Standing alongside the other nations of these islands as a new partner
and true friend.

THAT DELEGATES IS THE PLATFORM ON WHICH WE SHALL WIN INDEPENDENCE FOR
OUR COUNTRY.

And as for the No campaign, their objective is somewhat different.

It seems they are against independence for one simple reason - because
an independent Scotland would be run by the people of Scotland, for
the people of Scotland.

Instead of telling people in Scotland what they can do. They tell us
what we can’t do.

The irony is that most of them are thirled to a Westminster Parliament
that can’t run a railway, never mind run a country.

Just think of it. Labour, the party which brought the country to its
financial knees, unites with the Tories, the party of omnishambles, to
tell Scotland that we are uniquely incapable as a nation.

Their message is clear enough. “Abandon hope all ye who vote No”

FRIENDS, WHAT “A PARCEL OF ROGUES IN A NATION”.

WESTMINSTER IS BEYOND SALVATION.

BUT OUR SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC SCOTLAND CAN STILL BE WON.

Conference, according to the Labour Party, Scotland has become a
“something for nothing” country.

So exactly who are these people who want something for nothing?

Is it the pensioner who wants the right to travel and the freedom from
the fear of not being able to fund their care in infirmity?

Is it the family on £16,000 a year who had to choose between
prescribed medicines before this Government restored a Health
Service free at the point of need?

Is it the student who now has the right to an education so that they
earn and redeem their obligation to society through a fair taxation
system?

Those who want something for nothing according to Labour are your
friends, neighbours, the workers at your side, your parents,
grandparents or children.

SO LET US TELL THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP ABOUT THE REALITY ABOUT OUR FELLOW SCOTS.

They don’t want something for nothing.

They just want the right to live in a country which understands the
importance of society.

A country that knows the value and not just the price of the services
we hold dear.

These are the fruits not just of this party or this government, but
the fruits of a Scottish Parliament that chose to reflect our nation
in these ways.

It is the social contract between our Parliament and our people.

SOME CALL IT UNIVERSALITY, AND SAY ITS TIME HAS PASSED

I CALL IT HUMAN DECENCY AND ITS TIME IS NOW

I would be tempted to say that Labour knows the price of everything
and the value of nothing.

But they don’t even know the price of anything.

These great gains of the Parliament, personal care, bus travel, an end
to tuition fees, a free National Health Service, cost just over 3% of
the Scottish Budget.

Conference, since 2007 John Swinney’s efficiency programme in the
Scottish Budget has been demonstrated to have saved 3 per cent a year.

An interesting figure that because the guru that Labour have chosen
for their Cuts Commission said in 2007 that no Government could manage
even 1 per cent a year.

Of course you can’t manage if you put bureaucracy before people - if
your response to every challenge is to give up.

That’s new Labour’s new way.

Our way is very different. We expect public services to be run
properly, we judge on output not just input. We know for example that
we can run the police and fire services on a Scottish basis, more
efficiently while protecting the front line.

We also know that free personal care is not some give away to the
older generation. It removes fear and provides dignity. It boosts the
independence and wellbeing of tens of thousands of our fellow
citizens. It prevents the need for many older people to be admitted
to geriatric wards, and instead helps support them to live where they
want to be, in their own homes and communities.

And, conference, it was at the “vanguard of turning our values into
law”, as the Labour Party once said.

We believe that the Parliament’s policies on personal care, transport
and education promote solidarity, remove stigma, prevent the
vulnerable from being isolated, and do not discriminate against hard
working families who have scrimped and saved.

They give everyone a stake in the country because they reflect the
common weal of Scotland.

Friends, what was won could now be lost.

Have no doubt, what was gained with devolution can only now be
guaranteed with independence.

For no sooner has Labour moved on to Tory ground than the other Tories
became even more extreme.

They declared that only 12 per cent of Scottish households were
contributors to the country, only 12 per cent were responsible for
“generating Scotland’s wealth”.

Even Mitt Romney only dismissed 47 per cent of the US population.
That’s not good enough for the Tory leader in Scotland.

She dismissed 88 per cent of the country!

Let us forget for a moment that she got her calculations wrong, that
it would be just about the same figure for the UK and how she forgot
about corporate tax and VAT and public sector workers and all the rest
of it.

Let us consider the mentality which seeks to depict just about every
pensioner in the country as “unproductive”. Every pensioner
unproductive?

I know lots of pensioners who have never sworn at a police officer or
dodged a fare.

DELEGATES, I DO NOT KNOW A SINGLE SCOTTISH PENSIONER WHO HAS BEEN LESS
PRODUCTIVE THAN DAVID CAMERON OR GEORGE OSBORNE.

And the Tories wonder why they are at 13 cent in the polls.

Believe me they are lucky to be at 13 per cent.

And so Labour and Tory - the two great pillars of the Union – united
in a death grip programme to a sweep away concessionary travel, free
prescriptions and education.

Some in Holyrood think Labour’s new approach is clever. But
conference, have no doubt, it is not wise.

It is not wise to end the social solidarity in benefits to all the
people. And it is not good politics to betray the fact that they will
continue with Tory austerity if they ever returned to government.

The STUC described Labour’s views as “extreme”.

Last year Scotland lost a giant of the trade union movement and of
Scottish public life. Campbell Christie was loved by many for his
principles, his humour, his courage and his wisdom.

In an interview he gave just before his passing he said:

”People say we can’t afford things now but in 1948 we couldn’t afford
the NHS and the pension schemes but we did it and when you start to
look at the whole question of provision of support, you just need to
remember how little there had been back then and how important it was
to make it happen.”

It was in this spirit that devolution was won.

Devolution - brought to life by people of all political persuasions
and of none, people with a vision of a better, of a different
Scotland.

NOW LABOUR’S LEADERS THINK WE HAVE WEALTH ENOUGH FOR WESTMINSTER’S
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

BUT THEY TELL US WE ARE TOO POOR FOR SCOTLAND’S FREE PERSONAL CARE

IF THAT IS THE PRICE OF LONDON GOVERNMENT - IT IS A PRICE THAT
SCOTLAND WILL NOT PAY

This Party, this Government, makes no apology for standing full square
behind the gains of the devolution era. And full square behind those
hard-pressed families that benefit from those gains.

And we will work hard to extend those gains.

AND SO WHAT IS OUR VISION WHICH RECONCILES OUR SOCIAL AMBITION TO LONG
TERM SUSTAINABILITY?

It lies in the process of early intervention and preventative spending
by which we shall build the platform of opportunity for all Scots.

Even under the most extreme budgetary pressure from Westminster, John
Swinney has diverted substantial sums - £500 million – to children’s
early years, reshaping care for older people, and reducing
reoffending.

WITHIN THE LIMITS OF DEVOLUTION, THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH WE CAN ACHIEVE.

BUT CONFERENCE - THAT WILL NOT STOP US FROM DOING WHAT IS RIGHT NOW AS
WELL AS POINTING THE WAY TO A BETTER FUTURE.

We want Scotland to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up.

I am proud to say that the Family Nurse Partnership, put in place by
this Government, has already made a valuable difference to the lives
of families in the four health boards that currently use this
programme.

Since 2010 the pilot initiative has supported over 450 young first
time mothers and their children.

The benefits of the Family Nurses is clear to anyone who has had the
privilege of meeting them and the families they help.

On Monday I met one of these nurses Caroline MacKenzie in Edinburgh
who told me about the nature of the fantastic work family nurses do in
helping to improve the health of both the mother and the child -
helping to increase employment and helping children’s readiness for
school and future academic achievement.

Our aim is to be the best in the world at implementation of the Family
Nurse Partnership.

I’m therefore delighted to announce that with £11 million over the
next two years, we will ensure the establishment of Family Nurse
Partnerships across Scotland by the end of 2015 - benefitting
thousands of young families – giving some of Scotland’s most
vulnerable children the best possible start in life.

CONFERENCE - LET OUR MESSAGE BE HEARD CLEARLY – THIS PARTY, SCOTLAND’S
PARTY OF GOVERNMENT, HAS AND NEVER WILL LACK AMBITION FOR OUR FUTURE
GENERATIONS.

But our ambition for Scotland’s children goes further.

The country we pass on to the next generation must be better than the
country we have today.

Across Scotland, I know, every parent hopes that the life their child
enjoys will be better than their own.

That their sons and daughters will see greater security, opportunity
and happiness.

Friends, for the first time in generations this natural progression is in doubt

That is why being independent is so important. Not just for the
Scotland of today, but the Scotland of tomorrow.

If independence is to mean anything it must improve the life chances
of every single young Scot.

Delegates, that is why the first fruits of an independent Parliament
should be felt by our youngest Scots.

It is our duty to lay these foundations for a stronger future, just as
it is our duty to face up to the challenges that have haunted Scottish
society for too many years.

During the debate yesterday some delegates suggested our projected
Budget for conventional defence be lower. I understand that but we
must keep the nation secure and we shall.

What they may have missed is that our plans are almost £1,000 million
a year lower than what we pay to Westminster at the moment - £230
million of that will be saved by ending our payments for the Trident
progamme.

Let us call it the independence dividend.

Over the next year we will spell out what that independence dividend
can do for services and for jobs, and we should start by committing to
give every child an equal chance in an independent Scotland.

A few weeks ago I visited Dr Bells in Leith – a family centre offering
support and advice, and friendship and hope, to young families in
their area.

LET US RESOLVE TO GROW SUCH CENTRES IN EVERY COMMUNITY IN AN
INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND.

We are still paying the price of the last Westminster recession, when
too many of our fellow citizens were forgotten.

Then Scotland was powerless in the face of a Westminster government
that looked the other way.

Leaving communities and families bereft of hope.

But today, the end of the story can be different.

Within the powers of devolution, we’ve delivered a record number of
modern apprenticeships, offering 26,000 Scots this year the chance of
work and training.

We have protected the numbers going to college. We have an all time
record of young Scots going to university.

I know that for many families the most important thing today is their
job. Finding a job or keeping a job.

FRIENDS - MY FRUSTRATION IS THIS.

AT A TIME WHEN SCOTLAND IS GENERATING A LARGER SHARE OF UK TAXES THAN
OUR SHARE OF UK SPENDING.

AS WE HEARD FROM YOUNG MAKKI TAHIR YESTERDAY ON THE LATEST FIGURES
SCOTLAND CONTRIBUTES 9.6% OF THE TAXATION AND GETS BACK 9.3% OF
EXPENDITURE.

FINACIALLY STRONGER THAN THE UK AS A WHOLE TO THE TUNE OF £2.7 BILLION
- MORE THAN £1,000 FOR EVERY HOUSEHOLD IN THE COUNTRY.

WITH ACCESS TO OUR OWN RESOURCES WE COULD INVEST MORE, BORROW LESS AND
SAVE FOR THE FUTURE, PROTECT SERVICES, OR A COMBINATION OF THE THREE.

WHEN I DEMAND NEW INVESTMENT TO CREATE NEW JOBS AND KICK-START THE ECONOMY . . .

WESTMINSTER CAN SIMPLY SAY NO - AS GEORGE OSBORNE DID YET AGAIN THIS WEEK.

AND CONFERENCE, IT IS NOT A NO TO ME AS FIRST MINISTER

IT IS A NO TO THOUSANDS OF OUR FELLOW SCOTS

MEN AND WOMEN WHO SEEK NOTHING MORE THAN A FAIR DAY’S WAGE. LET THE
MESSAGE GO OUT FROM THIS CONFERENCE TO A TORY CHANCELLOR – SCOTLAND IS
NOT IN A MOOD TO TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.

FRIENDS, AS SCOTLAND’S GOVERNMENT, WE REDOUBLE OUR EFFORTS.

WE WORK TO GIVE OUR WEALTH CREATING SMALL BUSINESSES THE MOST
COMPETITIVE BUSINESS TAX REGIME IN THE UK.

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPARK INITIATIVE IS SUPPORTING BUDDING BUSINESS
MEN AND WOMEN.

With the limited powers we do have this Scottish Government and its
agencies continue to work with every fibre of our being to encourage
jobs and growth in our country.

For example, for the last two years in a row Scotland has been the top
performing location in these islands for Foreign Direct Investment.

ACROSS THE WORLD PEOPLE SEE SCOTLAND FOR WHO WE ARE.

A LAND OF SKILLED, COMMITTED PEOPLE. A LAND WORTHY OF INVESTMENT

TODAY I CAN ANNOUNCE YET ANOTHER VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN SCOTLAND AND OUR PEOPLE.

The Hong Kong telecommunications company THREE have today announced
said they will be creating almost 400 new jobs in Glasgow.

This will almost double the number of workers at the site and I
welcome that many of these jobs will be for young people.

Conference, this is a much needed and welcome boost for Scotland’s economy.

Friends, what we strive for as the government of a devolved Scotland,
we can achieve as the government of an independent Scotland.

With devolution, day after day, year after year, we can take small
steps forward, when what Scotland needs is bigger, bolder strides.

It is time for Scotland to move up a gear.

Delegates, today as we look around our country can anyone truly say -
Scotland is as good as it can be?

That we are fair enough, that we are equal enough?

That we are making the most of the many talents we have been given?

Conference, Westminster has had its chance and Westminster has fallen short.

It’s not just that a government in London is unwilling to do what is
best for Scotland.

It is incapable of putting the people of Scotland first.

FOR SCOTLAND, WHAT WE HAVE TODAY IS NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH

We face a Westminster government that is hell bent on pulling our
society apart at the seams.

Austerity a one-way street, with tax cuts for the rich and benefit
cuts for the poor.

Billions to be spent on new nuclear weapons while families struggle to
heat their homes.

What brave new world is this?

Friends, now is the time for Scotland to choose a different future.

Using our own vast resources - our own tax base.

Our international reputation.

Universities that sit at the very top of world leagues for the quality
of their research and innovation.

One quarter of the EU’s offshore wind and tidal energy potential with
one per cent of the population.

Growing industries from food and drink and tourism, to life science. A
reputation for excellence in engineering, in science.

Given all that we have, I ask again, why isn’t Scotland doing better?

SO LET US BE CLEAR

WESTMINSTER WOULD PUT THIS FIRST CLASS NATION IN THE SECOND CLASS CARRIAGES.

NO MORE SECOND BEST FOR SCOTLAND

Friends, it is time for a fresh start for our nation. When
opportunity will be seized, not lost.

When our resources will be harnessed for the common weal, not squandered.

When we use our wealth to nurture, not destroy.

Conference, we seek independence for a reason.

It is not for me. It is not for this party.

It is for new opportunity for every person in Scotland watching today.

Independence is about family and future.

It is for a more equal Scotland, the opportunity to change our nation for good.

Within our reach a flourishing green economy, a fairer society and the
chance of a better future – what greater prizes can there be for any
nation?

Friends, Scotland’s time is coming.

Our home rule journey, begun by so few so many years past, is coming
to its conclusion.

Together, we say Yes. TO SCOTLAND AND TO INDEPENDENCE