John Swinney MSP's Conference address

In May 2011, the people of Scotland made their choice. In the most traumatic economic circumstances since the Second World War, they opted to back the record, the team and the vision offered by the first Scottish National Party Government.

A record of delivering on our commitments to focus on the economy and our public services.

A team that listened and acted with care on the concerns of our people.

A vision of a prosperous and fair Independent Scotland, ushered in by a Referendum of the people.

We all worked hard to put that proposition to the people and the people responded with a landslide result.

Just weeks before, our opponents thought they had won the election before it had even started.

They relied on the politics of negativity and despair to peddle their message of gloom.

But they could not match our commitment to listen to or to motivate the people of our country.

They could not match our capacity to inspire with a message of hope, of ambition, of determination to realise the potential of our country.

And so it must be again. Conference, we will win the Referendum because we have a vision of a better Scotland.

Faster sustainable economic growth with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish.

A public sector and economy that reflects the unique character, skills, and values of the Scottish people.

And a nation that takes its full place in the international community and global economy and acts wisely in every respect.

And the current economic position demonstrates why we must win.

Right now we face the unprecedented economic challenges of this recession without the powers that other countries have at their disposal.

Just last week, the IMF downgraded their predictions for UK growth.

They warned of the consequences for the UK economy of continued austerity.

The Chancellor’s mistakes are laid bare for all to see.

The lack of a coherent economic plan.

The front-loading of cuts when the recovery was most fragile.

And, crucially, the decision to shift the burden of cuts onto capital investment.

Everyone from Paul Krugman and Joseph Stigilitz to the IMF’s Christine Lagarde is calling for a Plan B.

We have consistently argued for an approach that puts capital investment at the heart of the solution.

And what makes the situation truly tragic is the Chancellor’s actions are in themselves selfdefeating.

The lack of growth means that far from cutting the deficit, the UK Government’s own prediction is of an extra 158 billion pounds of borrowing over the next 5 years to pay the cost of economic failure.

That will give rise to is even more London cuts in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The status quo means seven consecutive years of cuts and counting.

So today I call on George Osborne to end his obsession with austerity.

Use the Autumn Budget Statement to change direction.

It’s time he listened. It’s time he learned.

And if he won’t – it’s time he left it to us, to Scotland – to shape a better economic future.

Conference, using the powers we have, we are focussed on helping Scottish households and business through the recession.

Unlike the UK Government, we cannot – we will not - stand idly by while people are suffering.

Your SNP Government is focussed on;

  • Boosting public sector capital investment – to create jobs and to build new homes and schools for the future
  • Tackling unemployment, particularly youth unemployment; and
  • Promoting economic confidence by encouraging private sector investment and providing security to Scottish households.

Despite the huge cuts handed to us by the Tory Liberal coalition – a cut of one third between 2010-11 and 2014-15 – we have committed over 3 billion pounds in capital spending this year.

We are switching over 700 million pounds from resource to capital spending between now and 2014-15 to keep that vital investment flowing.

And, we are delivering 2.5 billion pounds in Non Profit Distributing investment, building schools, hospitals and roads. Taken together we are delivering: 

  • 67 new schools,
  • The Aberdeen Bypass. 
  • Edinburgh sick kids’ hospital.
  • The M8 upgrade
  • 30,000 new homes
  • And, the new Forth Bridge.

Conference, for every 100 million pounds of additional capital spending we invest, fourteen hundred jobs in the Scottish economy are supported.

Our Opportunities for All initiative ensures every 16-19 year old not already in work, education or training is offered a learning or training opportunity; The new employer initiative will create up to 10,000 opportunities for SME businesses to recruit young people.

We have maintained the Education Maintenance Allowance – abolished by the Tories in the rest of the UK.

And, we are delivering 25,000 modern apprenticeships

These are the actions we are taking to boost the economic fight back in Scotland.

We always strive to do more. And we know we could achieve a great deal more with the full powers of an Independent nation.

The economic challenge is a serious one.

It is one my colleagues and I face every day, looking rigorously at what we are doing and what more could be done.

In recent weeks we have looked the problems of the economy harshly in the face as we have fought alongside others to provide a viable future for our fellow citizens who are employed at Halls of Broxburn.

We have worked with partners to find a way forward.

Ensuring that the people working at Halls are supported has been and will be our priority.

So let me say clearly today that we stand firmly with the communities of West Lothian and will support recovery from this body blow to their local economy.

And, conference, even while we face setbacks such as Halls, even while we struggle in the straight-jacket of London’s cuts, we are making Scotland a more attractive place to invest.

The Ernst and Young survey of the most attractive parts of the UK for foreign direct investment was published again this summer.

And, yet again it shows the difference your SNP government is making.

For the second year running Scotland outperformed every other part of the UK, including London. Amazon, Michelin, Dell, Mitsubishi and Samsung. Business is voting with their feet – and with their wallets - and choosing to invest in Scotland.

We must take every step we can to encourage investment in Scotland and we must also encourage new business growth in our country.

Those talents of new entrepreneurs, those home grown businesses, will be the source of so much of our future competitive edge and we want to provide every encouragement and support as these new companies take their first steps on the road to success.

So, today, Conference, I can announce our latest measure to make Scotland a more attractive place to do business.

The Scottish Government will come together with our enterprise agencies, our banks and business hothouse Entrepreneurial Spark to create a new one million pound fund to find the best in new Scottish business.

The Scottish Entrepreneurs Fund called The Scottish EDGE –will help accelerate innovative business ideas.

It will invest up to 50 thousand pounds in entrepreneurial businesses to stimulate economic growth, giving them an edge as they grow their businesses.

What’s more, they will have the help of Scotland’s business leaders with an Investment Panel of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs who will use their experience to judge the business proposals. Sir Willie Haughey – chairman of one of Europe’s fastest expanding companies, City Refrigeration – and Sir Tom Hunter the founder of Sports Division and West Coast Capital – have both agreed to take part and I welcome their involvement.

Conference that is your SNP Government coming together with Scotland’s business leaders.

Uniting to help Scotland’s new, young businesses flourish. Uniting to build the next generation of economic success.

Your SNP Government acting to build a new economic future in Scotland.

The alternative to Scotland flourishing as an independent country - in charge of our own resources and decision making – is there for all to see in Westminster’s record.

The economic difficulties we face are a product of the failed economic management of the last Labour Government and the current Conservative led Coalition.

We know that between Labour and the Tories, the double dip recession has “Made in London” stamped all over it.

What we want for Scotland is the opportunity to create a recovery, “Made in Scotland” with the powers of an independent country to bring it about.

There is a clear choice coming in 2014. The alternative to Scotland flourishing as an independent country - in charge of our own resources and decision making – is to see the achievements of the Scottish Parliament since 1999 being rolled back.

We all know what Tory rule looks like – cuts, cuts and more cuts – now Labour have put their cards on the table.

Johann Lamont has lined them up with Osborne and Cameron. In fact, she has gone further.

“Everything is on the table” is what the chairman of her cuts commission said – that’s the brief her cuts commission has been given.

Free personal care; education based on ability to learn not ability to pay; the NHS free at the point of need.

All of it under threat.

Even the extra 1,000 police we have put on Scotland’s streets.

Even the Tories don’t go that far.

The Labour Party has come to a pretty pass when they now sit to the right – the right - of the Tory Party.

And conference, I can tell you that I don’t need Johann Lamont to tell me that Scotland has to face the challenges of London’s failed economic policies.

I don’t need the Labour party – a party that in government had more money than it knew what to do with – to tell me tough decisions now have to be made to clear up their mess.

For five years now, I have delivered a balanced budget, not a penny borrowed, money spent on promoting economic recovery and protecting household incomes.

And what have Labour contributed over those five years?

They have voted against investment in our economy, against protecting the NHS budget, against every new school building whilst demanding more money be spent without saying where it will come from.

So forgive me if I take no lessons on how to handle the budget from the Labour Party in Scotland.

The budgets I have delivered have involved hard choices.

When we commissioned the Independent Budget Review – the Beveridge Report – their brief was come up with options.

Options that provided a range of steps that would meet our financial commitments.

Options that saved more than we needed.

We made our choices.

And, it’s important to acknowledge the pain of those choices.

Tens of thousands of public sector workers have seen their pay frozen.

But this allowed us to deliver a no-compulsory redundancy policy.

Efficiency savings in the public sector of 3% year on year.

But the NHS budget fully protected.

The creation of a single police force – but 1000 extra Bobbies on the beat.

The reform of our colleges but guarantees on places.

An end to ring fencing for councils, but a higher share of spending for local authorities.

These and the other hard choices we made, allowed us not just to deliver a balanced budget but to deliver the social contract we value and the services Scotland needs.

Unlike Westminster, we have not borrowed a single penny.

So I would just say this to Johann Lamont and her Tory colleagues.

Try telling the public sector worker whose pay has been frozen because of London’s cuts that Scotland hasn’t had to face hard choices.

Look them in the eye and tell them they are part of her “something for nothing culture”.

And then, Johann Lamont, hang your head in shame for the insult you have paid to the workers of Scotland.

Conference, I can pledge to you today, this party will not shirk from the hard choices needed to secure our nation’s future, but we will never – ever - insult the very people who are working to deliver that future.

It is the people of Scotland that are at the heart of all our decisions.

The hard decisions we have made have been focused on planning for the future.

That’s why we accepted the recommendations of the Christie Commission on the future of our public services.

Campbell Christie and his colleagues identified preventative spending as being crucial.

They told us we must spend now to deliver a better future.

We must invest in improving people’s lives to improve our country.

By investing in free personal care we save on the vastly more expensive emergency NHS admissions that come when older people don’t have the care they need. Conference, that’s why free personal care is so important.

That’s why our whole preventative spending programme is so important.

We’re investing over 500 million pounds in changing the lives of those who need it most, supporting our older citizens, our youngest children and giving second chances to those at risk of reoffending.

Not just because it will deliver better services.

Not just because it is the right thing to do.

But because it is also the smart thing to do – to achieve a secure future for our public services.

Conference, the question of how best we build the recovery from London’s recession will be at the heart of the political debate over the coming years.

It will be at the heart of the debate over our constitutional future.

We know Scotland pays 9.6% of UK taxes for just 9.3% of UK spending.

We know that 2010/11, Scotland’s finances were stronger than the UK’s to the tune of £2.7 billion.

That’s worth more than five hundred pounds for every man, women and child in Scotland – or over one thousands pounds per household.

And we know that’s not just a one off.

Over the last six years we have received 9.4% of UK spending, but contributed 9.7% of UK revenues.

And we know that if we can show that Scotland would be better off with Independence, people are likely to vote Yes.

The debate is there to be won.

And, in that debate, there is a fundamental difference between the vision we have for Scotland and the picture painted by our opponents.

Do we go forward to a Scotland that flourishes with the powers of an independent country, in charge of our own resources and decision making?

Or allow the achievements of the Scottish Parliament since 1999 to be rolled back by London cuts?

Our opponents are content to argue over how the economic and financial cake is divided.

They are content to accept a future where cuts and austerity stretch on for years to come.

I am not.

Independence will give us the powers we need to tailor policies to the priorities of the Scottish people, to extend competitive advantages and address challenges in the Scottish economy.

It will allow us to build a more dynamic economy.

It will allow expenditure and tax policy to work together in harmony.

It will enable us to use welfare to protect the most vulnerable.

And it will allow us to end the economic mismanagement of successive London governments.

It will give us the tools to build the Scotland we all want to see.

Compassionate. Prosperous. Progressive.

Conference, it will give us the powers to let Scotland flourish.