Keith Brown’s address to #SNP23 Conference

So we have just mentioned two giants, of our party, of our movement and of course, politics in Scotland.

There is in my view a third giant emerging amongst our ranks.

And whether it’s because every week he clears the decks with the opposition at First Minister’s Questions, and I have to say they’re not that great so it’s not a huge task.

Or whether it’s the reforms which he’s undertaken with the party’s commission for governance and transparency.

Or whether it’s leading us to yesterday’s decision on the strategy for independence.

Or whether it’s emerging as an international statesman. The way he has spoken with courage, personal experience, conviction and compassion on the situation in Israel and in Gaza, I think we are now seeing Humza Yousaf emerging on to the international stage, to the extent that other international leaders are now following his lead.

So let’s hear it for Humza Yousaf, our First Minister.

You’re getting your exercise today folks!

The theme on developing is one about the people we have in our party and our movement, the outstanding quality we have within our party. And I want to quickly mention, you never know if you get these chances again, so I want to quickly mention two or three other people.

First of all, somebody that most people here will know, because she was at every by-election for the last twenty years, at every conference, always smiling, always gossiping, a lifelong nationalist who lost her battle against cancer earlier this year. Can we hear some appreciation for Eileen Hamilton.

And I know it’s a bit self indulgent, but I’m going to mention my mum just now. My mum passed away in March this year. For the first thirty plus years of her life, she wasn’t involved in politics at all, she had the excuse of being a widow before she was thirty with six children and then she moved to the south-east of England for thirty years.

But she came back to Scotland and ended up delivering leaflets, going on independence marches, all with emphysema and various other conditions as well.

And I was reminded of this because when I left the hall yesterday somebody from Edinburgh Pentlands mentioned the fact that he’d been at my mum’s funeral. And he mentioned that he’d gone round to her house for leaflets and the smoky environment of my mum’s front room.

And he mentioned the folder she always kept by her on the settee, which was choc-a-bloc full with correspondence from the BBC because she refused to pay her license fee for a number of years.

I’m not endorsing it, I’m just mentioning the fact.

And also, my last bit of self indulgence, I’m very pleased  to welcome my son and his girlfriend, this is their first ever conference as well. Welcome, Kieran.

The last person I want to mention now is somebody who has been through a tough experience these past few weeks and months.

We all know Rutherglen was a bruising experience but what we discovered was the person who stood for our party is a shining diamond. Compassionate, measured, articulate and a fantastic ambassador for the SNP. Councillor Katy Loudon.

It’s always been the case that the people in our party are our strongest asset. We should have no doubt about our ability to prevail in the battle for independence when we think about the quality of the people that we have.

We have the people. And thanks to you all, we  have the strategy for the next campaign.

What you’ll now see is a bunch of people who have for their whole political lives believed the highest mark in politics is to win a Westminster election, to win the most seats in a Westminster election, what you’ll now see is them backtracking, saying “except for Scotland.”

But that is our policy. And most international observers would say the same thing.

Win the election, win the most seats and we will have gained a mandate.

And it is funny, thinking about the current Tory Party, she might these days be viewed as a ‘wet liberal’ but Margaret Thatcher had a different view on this.

I say that because if you think about this Margaret Thatcher would never have had in her cabinet, Enoch Powell. And yet Rishi Sunak has got Suella Braverman in one of the highest offices of state.

But the point is Thatcher was explicit in recognising the fact that if we win, if we win a majority of seats at a Westminster election then that is a mandate for independence.

Keep that in mind when we find people coming forward claiming that it doesn’t count for Scotland.

And talking about the Tories, here we are in the sunny uplands of Brexit Britain.

Can you just feel the warmth of Brexit Britain?

The highest ever debt, the biggest drop in living standards, the highest taxes since World War Two, billions squandered on mad monetary experiments.

All this to be paid for by pensioners, by the poorest in society, by businesses, by mortgage holders, by communities, and by public services

The UK under the Tories is in a spiral of political and economic decline.

They’ve broken international laws almost as soon as they’ve made them.

The bad faith that they’ve shown to the international community, to the British public, that shows the level to which the UK is currently sinking.

Labour tells us change is coming. But how will that change be different from Tory austerity?

Labour is hardly famed for consistency, certainly not Keir Starmer.

On thing that is consistent is that they ended the last Labour government in the same way they want to start their next one. “There is no money left.”

And last week, at Labour conference, Rachel Reeves said the same thing. There is no money left. Austerity will continue.

That means that what we’ve got is the height of Labour ambition is the low watermark of the decline under the Tories.

Brexit under Labour is here to stay. Doesn’t matter what Scotland says.

Austerity is here to stay.

The rape clause is here to stay.

The two child cap is here to stay.

More devolved powers, including the employment powers they themselves promised, will stay at Westminster.

The Tories’ failure to address climate change will continue under Labour. And in fact the sum total of Labour’s ambition to improve the lives of people in Scotland is net zero.

They will do nothing differently.

We have to get that message across in the next election.

The alternative is to point to two other countries, Ireland and Denmark.

They are more equal. Happier and more prosperous.

In fact, Ireland has been struggling these past weeks to think what to do with the billions of surplus that they can disperse to help the people of their country.

The difference is Ireland is independent.

The only answer to isolated, austerity obsessed Brexit Britain is independence.

Friends, that won’t happen by itself.

We have to make sure that people realise we can escape the chaos of Westminster mismanagement.

Whether it’s the hard right economic destruction of a Tory budget or the lurch to the right from Labour on everything from workers rights to immigration.

With our party united and our strategy agreed, our job is to take the substance of that independence strategy to theTh people. To build, support and then deliver independence.

And conference, our First Minister has pledged a rebuttal unit, to arm you with the facts to dispel some of the most ridiculous claims from the opposition we face, the political parties and their friends elsewhere.

You’ll see much more content from that unit and I’d like to give you a little taste of what’s to come.

I was asked to comment this morning on the crisis of the NHS in Scotland.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the NHS in Scotland gets the worst deal of any in the UK.

And I made a point of challenging the premise of the question. Of course, we are solely responsible for the funding of the NHS in Scotland.

The fact is Westminster decides how much it wants to spend, which is considerably less than comparable countries.

We have complete freedom.

The NHS has faced challenges in the wake of the pandemic but it has been unstinting. One patient I know was needing a gall bladder surgery and when they asked how long it would take, the doctor on duty said “I’m working tonight, so we’ll do it tonight.”

That is the standard of service in our NHS.

So don’t listen to the Jackie Bailles of this world.

The SNP Scottish Government funds NHS services to the tune of £3377 per person. Conference, that is 10% higher than Tory-run England. Proportionally, this means that almost £1.8 billion more is spend on frontline services.

So when you are asked on the doorstep, the street stalls or over the Christmas dinner table, you can offer up the facts.

Conference, you’ll all know we’ve had our fair share of challenges in recent months. And there will be more challenges to come.

But there is no question that we’ve come through these challenges before.

None of these challenges can come close to breaking our unshakeable belief that Scotland is best governed by the people who live here.

We’re still leading the polls, we have the government of Scotland, the vast majority of Westminster seats. Labour are thrilled to increase their seats, but as long as we have more than forty I’m content to let them have their two.

We have the best political leader and a fantastic group of representatives.

So if we the right people, the right leader and the right campaign then we can achieve our visions.

People now are facing real hardship of the kind we thought was in the past. We can offer them real change, we have that vision. If can convince them of that vision, then we will be on the way to independence.

Thank you, conference.