Depute Leader Keith Brown’s address to SNP conference

Below is the full speech given by Depute Leader Keith Brown’s to the SNP conference in Aberdeen. Check against delivery. 

Thank you Conference, friends.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in the election for the Depute Leadership of our Party.

Of course I would like to thank those, in particular, who voted for me. I realise you have afforded me a great privilege, and you’ve given me an important job to do on your behalf. Very importantly, I would like to sincerely thank my fellow candidates, Julie and Chris.

It is my view that this long campaign reflects huge credit on them, and indeed our Party, for the spirit in which it has been contested. It will be a huge privilege to serve alongside our Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon. This is the party I joined more than three decades ago.

The party I have campaigned for – and the party I have been honoured to represent in local government, in Holyrood and as a Cabinet Secretary.

And I am taking on this post with the party in good heart – and the polls showing us in a leading position at Holyrood and at Westminster, 11 years into office. While other parties bicker and fight we work hard to represent the people of Scotland and win their support.

Delegates, I believe passionately in independence. All of us in this hall do. But whatever constitutional scenario Scotland finds itself in, we will always do our best for this country. And we will always seek to engage our fellow citizens in the discussion about the future of their country.

Friends you may have noticed, but outside this hall things are starting to stir. Tens of thousands marching in our towns and cities. The discussions on Scotland’s future taking place up and down this country The myriad of projects and activities, big and small, bubbling to the surface, as individuals and groups come together to prepare for what is ahead.

Yes groups forming, organising and connecting. People with ideas making them happen. With the publication of the Sustainable Growth Commission report, we have opened a new debate on how Scotland can move beyond the damage and despair of Brexit – to a new hope and ambition..

The report shows that small, independent nations can be successful – and often more successful than larger nations.

In the leadership campaign I said I’d hold National Assemblies – well I’ll be chairing three National Assemblies over the summer to discuss the report’s findings. I’m looking forward to chairing those discussions, on what promises to be an exciting and invigorating debate, in the best traditions of our Party.

And that debate is not just for the SNP – we have a responsibility to set out a credible plan for independence, to listen to others and take on their ideas.

So I’ll will engage in a wider discussion too – inviting trade unions and business groups as well as people from across civic Scotland and the Yes family to share their views with us.

Whatever we decide – and it is our members who must decide our approach – it will reject austerity, that’s what this party has always done, it’s what the Growth Commission does and it’s what we will always do. Because I’ve got news for our opponents, we are about growing our economy, investing in our future.

And however people voted in the Brexit referendum, no one voted for the chaotic shambles that is unfolding, threating jobs and livelihoods across this country. That’s why – while we debate how to build a better future – I will also take steps to stop Brexit driving our economy down.

We want to grow the economy and, in particular, continue the successful growth in exports.

Europe remains a vitally important trading partner for Scotland. The total amount of goods exported to our European neighbours rose by 21% in the year ending March 2018, increasing to ÂŁ14.6 billion, highlighting the need to protect our trading links with Europe.

Brexit is a clear and present danger to that export drive.

This is clear from the work of the Scottish Fiscal Commission. Brexit will have a negative impact on Scotland’s economy, reducing growth in trade, productivity and investment. That is why we are now taking steps to mitigate its impact on business in Scotland.

I can today announce that, working through our national agencies, we will ensure eligible companies have access to a support grant of up to ÂŁ4,000 per company to help mitigate risks and capitalise on export opportunities.

Open to all, but of particular value to small and medium sized companies. Conference – this is a clear sign that the Scottish Government will stand behind Scotland’s businesses as they face the reality of Brexit. Exactly what a responsible government should be doing.

Delegates, When the facts change, people change their minds. A No campaign that promised stability and more say for Scotland has delivered the opposite – chaos and power grabs. So it’s no surprise that a major academic study published today found soaring confidence in the economic prospects of an independent Scotland.

And a huge rise in the number of people who believe independence would give Scotland a stronger voice in the world.

A separate opinion poll out today shows rising support for the SNP – and rising support for independence. This is the springboard that we must build on. It’s no wonder the opposition are getting rattled.

Friends, the decision on when the opportunity to put independence to the people of Scotland will come, is one I know is in the safest of hands. I am absolutely confident that the person you have just elected me to deputise for, our Leader, Nicola Sturgeon, will steer us towards that decision.

She bows to no-one in her commitment to an independent Scotland. Having seen for myself, at close proximity, I can also vouch that she dedicates her every effort, every day, to furthering the interests of everyone in Scotland.

While we wait for the clarity on Brexit and for the timing to become clear – it is our job – to make the case, to listen to the people and to ensure that when that time comes – we are ready.

Friends, believe me when I say I hold it as an absolute privilege to be elected by you as Depute Leader of our Party, Scotland’s National Party.

Now let’s get to it. Conference, Members, friends, Scotland – Let’s Get Ready!