Ian Blackford’s address to #SNP19
Good afternoon friends and welcome to the Scottish National Party Annual Conference, here in the thriving city of Aberdeen.
What a successful time for our party to come together. Not only have we seen the SNP achieve our greatest ever result at the European elections, winning three seats but, it’s my pleasure to congratulate our newest Councillor for this great city – Jessica Mennie – who won her seat in a by-election just ten days ago.
And what a start to conference – a stunning new poll from the Sunday Times shows support for Independence up at 50% – with the SNP projected to make gains across Scotland – and a clear majority believing that Scotland’s economy will be better off with independence.
Conference – on a serious note, we gather here today, conference, during one of the most turbulent times in modern history.
When we last met I warned that:
“Within months we could face Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister.
A real nightmare scenario.”
Conference – we are now living in that nightmare.
The UK government is in crisis, pursing a policy of economic and social destruction, being led by a Prime Minister who lies, makes racist comments and aspires to be his own Etonian version of Donald Trump.
The liars and the cheaters of the Vote Leave Campaign are pulling the strings of power in Downing Street.
Vote Leave is now in command of the UK Government and the Brexit fan boys have taken control of the Tory party.
The Brexit cult has well and truly taken over, and they are desperate to drive us off the Brexit cliff edge.
Make no mistake, conference, a no deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for Scotland.
The Tories do not care about the cost of Brexit, the cost of jobs, the chilling threats to the supply of food and medicines that are contained in their own Yellowhammer document.
We can see that no price is too high for the Brexit fanatics.
They are out of control.
We are now only 18 days away from when the UK is legally set to leave the European Union.
Instead of applying the brakes, Boris Johnson is taking us closer to an unprecedented catastrophe – with no plan to protect the economy or the rights of citizens across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
He is risking thousands of jobs and putting us, as the UK’s Chief Medical Officer has said, in a situation where lives are literally on the line.
Conference – lives on the line.
Johnson and his cronies should be hanging their heads in shame.
But Conference, in Scotland we are offering something different.
We know it doesn’t have to be like this and we know there is a way out.
Contrast the dysfunctional, dangerous administration in London with our SNP Government in Scotland.
A Government in London stagnant, check-mated in parliament – delivering nothing for the people – with our Government – working harder than ever for Scotland.
A Scottish Government that is putting our NHS first, delivering for our young people, taking action on the climate emergency and working to protect all of our citizens from the pain and hardship of the Tory austerity agenda.
The SNP leading the way.
We are winning elections and delivering for the people of Scotland.
The Scottish Government has introduced new policies providing care for those who need it, delivering new benefits to young families, building new homes, creating jobs and protecting our environment.
In Westminster – the Tories have done nothing.
We have seen our country grow and thrive under the outstanding leadership of Nicola Sturgeon and our strong, united, cabinet team.
In London we see a government that is chaotic, incompetent and riven with in fighting leaving the United Kingdom plagued with inequality, rife with uncertainty and facing economic catastrophe.
To put it simply friends, the Scottish Government is getting on with the day job – while the Tory Government in London has shut up shop so obsessed with achieving their fantasy Brexit dream.
20 years on from devolution it cannot be denied that the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government have made Scotland a better place – while Westminster has let us down.
Conference, we cannot allow the UK Government to hold us back any longer.
We need more powers to protect our citizens. To grow our economy. To build a wealthier nation.
We need the powers to deliver lasting change.
Conference – Scotland needs independence!
Tomorrow, a morally bankrupt Tory government – with no mandate, no majority, and no right to remain in office – which does not have enough support to pass a single piece of legislation will seek to distract Parliament from holding them to account over their secretive Brexit negotiations by bringing forward a Queens Speech.
Let’s be clear – this is a speech that won’t be about governing – no matter how many bills it contains, but about simple electioneering.
Well conference – I promise you this – every single SNP MP will stand in the way of this charade. And unlike Boris Johnson, when we make a promise – we deliver on it.
This Government’s time is up. This Prime Minister has failed, and we will not let Scotland continue to be frozen in his failure.
If this Queen’s speech ever comes to a vote, then – the SNP will vote it down.
If the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, wish to have any credibility left, then they must stand with us. Where do they stand, with the real opposition or with this bankrupt Tory Westminster government?
But conference, we will not be distracted. We will not let Boris Johnson pull the wool over Scotland’s eyes on Brexit.
Boris Johnson’s half-baked Brexit proposals are even worse than Theresa May’s.
They are unacceptable, unworkable, undeliverable and designed to fail.
These proposals would take Scotland out of the EU, the single market and the customs union against our will.
They imperil jobs and opportunities, put industries at risk and would see our hard-won rights sacrificed in trade deals with Donald Trump.
That is unacceptable.
The SNP – your SNP MPs – will stand firm in speaking up for Scotland, in respecting Scotland’s vote to remain and in never backing any attempt to take us out of the European Union against our will.
The Prime Minister knows he can’t get this proposal approved – and he doesn’t care. Because the truth is – this Prime Minister isn’t interested in getting a deal at all.
Marching to the tune of the liars and cheaters of his Brexit fan club – the Prime Minister is behaving like an emperor with no clothes.
Breaking the rules and undermining the law at every opportunity thinking no one can see what he’s up to. Obsessed with delivering Brexit and any Brexit at any cost.
Well conference – he didn’t reckon with the SNP.
Every move he has made – we have been there. Every trick he has pulled – we have been there. Every lie and falsehood he has perpetrated – we have been there.
Conference, we will always be there. With the SNP, Scotland knows that our voices are at their strongest and that our right to remain in the EU cannot be, will not be ignored.
We have sought compromise across the House of Commons and we have built consensus.
We have defeated the Government time and time again.
Stewart Hosie worked with others to take over the business of parliament and put the government in its place.
Stephen Gethins negotiated with others to secure the Benn Act, to make sure no deal is not an option.
And in the Courts – Joanna Cherry and a team of SNP MPs – delivered a historic defeat to this Prime Minister, forcing the Tories to respect the rule of law and to re-open the Parliament.
And let me be clear – if Boris Johnson does not comply with the Benn Act – or seeks to frustrate our efforts to block No Deal – we will be back in court, ready and waiting for him.
But conference – this perpetual cycle of court cases and parliamentary defeats – while it is effective – is no way to run a country.
We should not have to rely on the courts to solve our problems, or on arcane Westminster procedures to find ways to block the government.
We should not be tolerating this Tory government in office at all.
Conference we must force this dangerous Tory Government out of office and let me tell you, the SNP is primed and ready to do just that.
So today I want to set out very, very clearly the SNP position.
We have worked well with opposition parties – but our patience is waning.
Excuses after excuses from the Lib Dems. Their new leader seems more interested in filling their ranks with Tory politicians than in putting a Tory government out of office.
And let’s not forget – the Lib Dems voted for austerity, they defended cuts to income support, they tripled tuition fees and they promoted the punishing Universal Credit system.
The Lib Dems have been tory-lite ever since they set foot in the rose garden with David Cameron and it seems that old habits die hard.
And Labour – sometimes I think we need to remind Labour – that the job of the official opposition is to oppose the Tory government, not for Labour politicians to oppose each other.
Every day that Labour MPs fight with themselves and run scared from a general election is another day the Tories are in power.
We know that this Government is prepared to defy the Benn Act. That this Prime Minister is prepared to break the law.
So instead of sitting back and letting Boris Johnson hold all the cards. We – the opposition – must remove the deck from his hands.
There’s no more time for squabbles or putting party or personal ambition before country.
We have a job to do and people in Scotland expect us to do it.
So, my clear message to Labour and the Lib Dems is this –
The SNP is not in the business of propping up a Tory government – nor should you be.
The excuses for keeping Boris Johnson in office are running dry, and the patience of people in Scotland is running out.
We must take the power out of Boris Johnson’s hands – and put it back in the hands of the people.
So I can announce today – the SNP has prepared a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson.
We will not play Boris Johnson’s games and give in to his demands.
But after years of Brexit crisis and chaos the only option – the only option that truly puts a stop to this chaos – is to call a general election.
So Conference, It’s time for Jeremy Cobryn and Jo Swinson to step out of the sand pit and step up to the job.
So let’s come together – back a vote of No Confidence – get rid of Boris Johnson, secure that extension and give power back to the people with a general election.
The clock is ticking.
The SNP is ready to act.
Conference, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, a majority of Scotland’s MPs have voted against a no deal Brexit, as have a majority of MSPs at Holyrood.
Yet, despite that, Scotland’s wishes have counted for nothing, as the UK Government ploughs on ahead, taking us closer and closer to the cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit.
It is clearer than ever that the Tories simply don’t care what Scotland thinks.
They have imposed cruel and callous cuts in income support for the sick and the vulnerable.
They have robbed women of their state pensions and implemented the rape clause.
They created the hostile environment – forcing hardship on immigrants, ripping apart families and crippling our local economies.
And they are preparing to trade away our rights, our protections and our essential services.
In the general election – the SNP will stand firm against all these things.
A win for the SNP in any election will be a win for the right for immigrants to live and work in Scotland as their home.
It will be a win for fair and decent pensions.
A win for the right to help and support when you’re sick or out of work.
An end to austerity once and for all – and a win for a society where each and every citizen should be treated with dignity and respect.
That’s the platform we will stand on, and the platform our magnificent MPs and candidates are already taking to every doorstep across the country.
But that’s not all we will stand for.
We have already seen in the latest polls that support for independence is growing – as is support for an independence referendum.
Those same polls show that a majority of people across the UK, not just Scotland, believe that we have the right to decide our own future.
And conference – we have won that right.
We have the mandate.
We have the majority.
And we’ve absolutely got the momentum.
And no one – not Boris Johnson – not Jeremy Corbyn, not anyone – has any democratic right to block that decision from being made.
But if the Tories are so scared of putting Scotland’s future into the hands of Scotland’s people, if they are determined to play the part of dictators preventing the democratic will of the people of Scotland – then the right to decide Scotland’s future will be at the heart of the next election campaign.
I say this to Boris Johnson …
Bring it on.
Finally, let me say this.
The way to deliver independence is in a legal referendum that will be accepted and recognised by our European and international partners.
So when you hear talk of a so-called Plan B, I ask you to consider this.
The time to talk of a Plan B is not when Plan A has momentum.
And make no mistake – with rising support for independence and a general election on the horizon, we have that momentum.
You know, Plan Bs are by definition second best.
That’s why our opponents would love us to shift onto that ground – it concedes their right to block the best route to independence.
And they will always settle for second best for Scotland.
But we never should.
When it comes to choosing Scotland’s future, we should demand and win the gold standard fo democracy for our country.
The choice facing the people of Scotland is now abundantly clear.
Scotland can be part of a broken Brexit Britain or choose to take our place as an equal, independent European nation, determined to deliver a fairer, greener, and more just society.
It’s time Scotland was able to make that choice
The choice to end austerity.
To end the punitive and punishing welfare cuts regime.
To reform Universal Credit.
To dismantle the hostile environment.
To install a fair immigration system.
The choice to build our nation, free from the shackles of the failing Westminster establishment and it’s narrow, insular politics.
Conference, in any forthcoming election we will ask the people of Scotland to make Scotland’s voice stronger.
To elect more SNP MPs.
To reaffirm our majority.
And to reassert our mandate.
Our mandate to stand stronger for Scotland – and our mandate to give Scotland a choice – to become an independent country.
Conference it’s time.