Conference, what do we value? How we chose to answer that question defines how we try to shape our world.
I’ll tell you what I value. I value opportunity.
I value the opportunity for our young people to attend university based on their ability to learn and not their ability to pay.
The opportunity for every newborn in Scotland to receive a babybox – a warm welcome to our country, to the world –to their home.
I value community.
I value a community that prides itself that healthcare is available for all, delivered by a health service that is public owned, public operated – and free at the point of need.
I value the diverse communities that call Scotland their home and make our nation richer and stronger for the contribution they make.
I value dignity.
The dignity that ensures that everyone who needs it get free personal care, regardless of their age.
And one year on from the passage of our legislation – and in sharp contrast to the cruelty of Westminster that sits at the pinnacle of a very broken system – I value the dignity and respect embedded throughout Scotland’s social security system.
And I value compassion.
The compassion shown every single day by the women and men working in our NHS and in social care.
The compassion of neighbours, communities and this country to open our arms and welcome those who are fleeing hunger, war and despair.
Opportunity, community, dignity and compassion. That’s what I value, and Conference, those are the values I want as the hallmark of our nation.
For Scotland to have the opportunity to play our part in the world, as a voice for progress and justice.
For Scotland to play a full role in the community of European nations – a member state of the European Union.
For Scotland’s people to have the dignity that the choices we make will be respected – no longer ignored by a shambolic Tory government scrambling for survival rather than serving the people.
And for Scotland to always show compassion to all who live here and to all who struggle and seek a better life here, and in countries across the world
These are the positive values that we can fully realise with independence.
Conference, as we look at the world today, it’s clear that we need many more positive voices.
Tragedy too heartbreaking for words seems to plague the news we see from around the world. Whether in New Zealand, Sri Lanka, or closer to home on the streets of Derry.
It can be all too easy to feel hopeless, to allow ourselves to be bleak.
Ours is too often a world where mindless brutes think their hatred is worth more than the lives – and the love of others.
Whatever the supposed cause, view, or belief that they claim to advance, all they produce is pain, loss, and suffering.
And there are plenty who use these actions as an excuse for rhetoric that demonises people living peaceful, productive lives with their families and in our communities.
Conference, I refuse to be bleak. I refuse to accept the fear and hate they want to impose on us. I refuse to accept the division they seek – and I refuse to accept that that is all there is and there is nothing we can do about it.
And I know for certain that we can deny their hate, their division, their abuse by how we conduct ourselves.
However frustrating when we face the behaviour of some, we will achieve far, far more when we are respectful, hopeful and positive – far, far more than we ever can or will, with abuse.
Ours is a positive vision for Scotland, a vision of hope, or opportunity, of possibility. A vision grounded in a track record of achievement. A vision that requires us to lift our words and our actions to match its promise.
Conference, that positive vision is that independence is not an end in itself – it is a means.
It is the means by which we protect vital services like the NHS long into the future.
As Health Secretary I have spent a great deal of my time in recent months working with the First Minister and others to try to prepare as much as is possible for the impact of a no-deal Brexit of our NHS.
And it is shameful that the Tory Government gambles – and keeps on gambling – with the health and wellbeing of patients in Scotland.
With independence Scotland would be represented in its own right in the world, with a seat at the negotiating table.
You only have to look at the support independent Ireland has had from its European partners to see this.
Right now it is the UK Government who is at the table, and sadly some vital aspects of health and procurement policy remain in their gift.
In June the UK Government will be rolling out the red carpet for the President of the United States – Donald Trump.
This is a Tory Government that is desperate to do a trade deal with the U.S – but what price will President Trump extract from this feeble UK Government?
Do you trust Theresa May and Liam Fox to stand up for Scotland’s NHS?
And there we see – blindingly exposed – the fundamental difference between independence and devolution.
Right now we are told what powers we can have. With independence it is the people of Scotland that would chose the powers that we share.
That’s why I want Scotland to be an independent member of the European Union. A sovereign nation, working with its equals and partners.
One of the huge benefits we realise from the EU is freedom of movement. Freedom of movement that has helped us to attract medical researchers and students from across the continent.
Brexit squanders the benefit we get from EU research funded programmes and seriously threatens the competitiveness of our medical research industry.
Freedom of movement also brought women and men from Europe into our health and care services – providing care day-in day-out for the people of Scotland.
They are among those we’ve attracted from around the world who are the beating heart of our NHS.
So Conference, whether our NHS staff are from Edinburgh, Dublin, Liverpool, Warsaw, or Paris – let’s show them now that we value all they do and we thank them for their tremendous service.
I know our NHS and care staff face challenges. But I also know we are determined to tackle them. That’s why next week we will conclude the final stage of our safe staffing legislation – the first comprehensive safe staffing legislation anywhere in the UK – Legislation that works for the whole health and care system in Scotland.
It’s also why this year we’re delivering record high health funding – with a health portfolio exceeding £14 billion, supporting a record number of NHS staff – up by over 10% under this SNP government.
Our health spending is £185 per person higher than England – that’s almost 9% higher per head – equivalent to over £1 billion more spent on health services for Scotland compared to England. And £760 million more for patients than Labour planned.
Our patient safety record is amongst the best in the world.
With infection from C.Diff and MRSA dramatically reduced in over 65s by 88% and 94% under our Government. And we continue to act swiftly to investigate
infection outbreaks and learn lessons so we keep on improving. There is no room for complacency.
In health, patient safety has to be our highest priority – above all else. So we push hard every day for improvements – and we get results. A 36% fall in post-surgical deaths since 2008 following the implementation of a safety checklist as part of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme.
Our Patient Safety Programme was the reason that earlier this month experts from around the world came to Scotland to discuss quality and safety in healthcare.
Here’s what some of them had to say.
Vibeke Rischel, Head of Healthcare Improvement in Denmark said “I have been following Scotland for the last ten years and have seen major changes and outstanding outcomes that we do not see anywhere else in the world at a system level… The world should look to Scotland and learn from your story.”
She wasn’t alone, Dr Doug Eby, the Vice President of Medical Services of Alaska’s Southcentral Foundation said:
“It was a great privilege to visit Scotland in person and get the updated story of sustained country-wide effort and excellence related to the National Safety Effort. The intentionality at scale, and the incredible ability to sustain at scale, now for over a decade, inspires all of us to think way beyond small steps of change…”.
And from south of the border Dr James Mountford, the Director of Quality at the Royal Free Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London said:
“Scotland’s progress over the last 10 years, initially on safety and now much more broadly across public services, in applying quality improvement systematically through daily work against tough, important problems, is a model for the world.”
Conference, since October 2012 over 1.7 million people have had their in-patient treatment within the 12 week target.
But there are still too many people waiting too long for the treatment they need. The challenge to meet this demand isn’t faced across the UK. But in England, they look like they are simply abandoning their targets.
They give up. We don’t. I have no intention of abandoning those who are waiting too long, in pain and discomfort for the treatment they need.
So a few months ago I set out how we will use the significant additional resource to tackle this. A plan that systematically brings improvement to ensure our targets are met by the Spring of 2021.
Conference, I am pleased to announce today that this year I will be targeting £70 million of additional investment to carry out more procedures – hip and knee replacements, cataract treatments, an increase in the number of outpatient and diagnostic appointments – and the next steps for our 5 new elective and diagnostic centres, bringing quicker treatment for planned surgery, and taking pressure off emergency care.
But the threat of Brexit still hangs over us.
Next month the European Parliament elections gives the people of Scotland a real opportunity to send a clear message. We believe our future lies in Europe. Scotland is for Europe.
Our Party President Ian Hudgeton has been an outstanding servant of Scotland in Europe, and I know in the coming month he’ll be doing all he can to return as many SNP MEPs as possible.
Our SNP candidates in these elections, led by Alyn Smith, are fantastic ambassadors for our party.
Alyn, Christian, Aileen, Margaret, Heather and Alex will be criss-crossing Scotland to take our message to the people.
Our job is to give our SNP candidates every ounce of our support. Our country needs Scotland’s voice to be heard in Europe – and heard as loudly as we can make it.
So conference for the next 25 days – let’s take our positive message to the doorsteps – let’s make sure that people from elsewhere in Europe who make Scotland their home know we’re standing up for them – lets send SNP MEPs to the European Parliament.
Conference, lets wins the European election in Scotland – let’s take the next step to independence.