Nicola Sturgeon opening address to #SNP16

Below is the opening address given by Nicola Sturgeon to SNP Conference 2016. Check against delivery. 


Welcome to the Dear Green Place.

Welcome to the great city of Glasgow.

A city that said Yes in 2014.

A city where every citizen is now represented in the Scottish Parliament by an SNP constituency MSP.

Let me begin today by warmly congratulating our new Depute Leader, Angus Robertson.

We had four first class candidates to choose from.

Indeed, we had more quality in our race for depute than Labour managed in its election for leader.


Let me, on your behalf, thank Tommy, Alyn and Chris for bringing their talents, energy and ideas to the contest.

Each of you has a massive contribution to make to the future of our party.

And Angus – you will be an outstanding deputy leader. I am delighted to have you by my side and I look forward to working with you as we lead our party and our country to even greater success.


Over the next three days, we will talk in detail about our work to build a better, fairer Scotland.

On Saturday, my conference address will focus on our plans to help business and create jobs.

On our work to expand childcare and close the attainment gap in our schools.

On our absolute, undiminished commitment to invest in and reform our precious NHS.

At the heart of every single one of our plans is the ambition to build an inclusive Scotland.

A country where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to – and the right to benefit from – the better Scotland we are building together.

A country where we cherish diversity and value people for the contribution they make – not one where we judge them on the country of their birth or the colour of their passport.

The contrast with the Westminster government couldn’t be more stark.

Last week, in Birmingham, we heard an intolerance towards those from other countries that has no place in a modern, multicultural, civilised society.

You know, on the day of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Tory conference, the new leader of UKIP resigned.

Perhaps she realized that her job and her party are now redundant.

Last week, we saw the Tories adopt UKIP policy and Farage-style rhetoric – lock, stock and beer-barrel.

It was a disgrace. It shames the Tory party and all who speak for it.

But make no mistake – the right wing of the Tory party is now in the ascendancy and it is seeking to hijack the referendum result.

Brexit has become Tory Brexit.

The rampant right wing of the party are using it as license for the xenophobia that has long lain under the surface – but which is now in full, unlovely view.

They are using the result as cover for a hard Brexit for which they have no mandate – but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences.

Worse still, they intend to do all of this with no parliamentary authority. Virtually no scrutiny whatsoever.

And to do it with complete disregard for Scotland’s democratic voice.

That is simply not acceptable.

Last week, the Prime Minister told us that how important it was to respect the democratic mandate of the people.

I agree.

Which is why I say this to her today – it’s high time you showed some respect for the 62% of people across Scotland who voted to Remain.

Of course, I know that one million of our fellow citizens voted to Leave. They did so for a range of legitimate reasons and as First Minister, I have a duty to listen to, to understand and to respond to these reasons.

But I suspect that many of those who voted to Leave, look now at the actions and rhetoric of the Tories and think ‘that’s not what I voted for’.

They may have voted to take back control.

But I can’t imagine many of them voted to hand control to the unholy trinity of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.

Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – three men in a Brexit boat who haven’t got a paddle between them.

No, I don’t believe people voted for that.

They didn’t vote to throw economic rationality out of the window.

They didn’t vote to lower their own living standards or to sacrifice jobs and investment.

They didn’t vote for our businesses to face tariffs or for holiday-makers to need visas.

They didn’t vote for the scapegoating of foreigners.

And they didn’t vote for the voice of Scotland’s people and our parliament to be ignored.

Yet all of these are clear and present dangers: all of that will happen unless we fight against it.

And we will.


Our single most important job is to protect Scotland’s interests.

Our democratic interests.

Our economic interests.

Our interests in social protection and solidarity.

And our interest in influencing the world we live in.

There is no doubt that Brexit is a defining issue of our time – for Scotland and for the U.K.

It looms over everything. How could it not, given the implications for our economy, our society, our security and our place in the world?

So today I want to concentrate on what we will do in the months ahead to protect the interests of Scotland and – in so far as we can – of the UK as a whole.

Firstly, we will make our case in the House of Commons and in the Scottish Parliament.

I can confirm today that SNP MPs will vote against the Brexit Bill when it come before the House of Commons next year.

That Bill will repeal the legislation that enacted our EU membership. Scotland didn’t vote for that and so neither will our MPs.

But we will also work to persuade others – Labour, Liberals and moderate Tories – to join us in a coalition against a hard Brexit: not just for Scotland, but for the whole UK.

We know that Brexit will damage our economy.

Hard Brexit – removal, not just from the EU, but from the single market as well – will be disastrous.

The Treasury estimates that the cost to the UK economy could be £66 billion.

Here in Scotland 80,000 jobs could be lost. Wages would be hit by up to £2000 and growth in the economy would slow.

There is no rational case for taking the UK out of the single market.

And there is no authority for it either.

How many times did we hear prominent Leave campaigners assure us during the referendum campaign that leaving the EU did not mean leaving the single market?

And the Conservative Party manifesto, on which Theresa May and every other Tory MP was elected, couldn’t have been clearer. It said this: “We say yes to the Single Market.”

But now we face a hard Brexit imposed by the hard right of the Tory party.

Well, let me say this. The Prime Minister may have a mandate to take England and Wales out of the EU but she has no mandate whatsoever to remove any part of the UK from the Single Market.

And if the majority in the House of Commons stand up for what they know to be right, she will not get away with doing it.


We will also assert the right of the Scottish Parliament to have its say.

After the No vote in 2014 we were told the Sewel Convention – which means the UK Parliament can’t make law in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament – would be sacrosanct.

Every party signed up to this.

Now it seems the Tories are reneging.

They want to rip-up the Smith report.

Well, they need to understand this – Scotland’s Parliament is the democratic heartbeat of our nation.

To deny it the right to give or withhold its consent on an issue of such magnitude would be an act of constitutional vandalism. It is not on.


As well as Parliamentary action, over the next few weeks we will table specific proposals to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe and keep us in the single market – even if the rest of the UK decides to leave.

It’s clear that beyond hard-line rhetoric the UK Government has no detailed plan.

So the Scottish Government will set out a plan for Scotland.|

We will seek to make this plan a key element of the UK’s Article 50 negotiation.

It will require substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament.

All the powers in our areas of responsibility that currently lie with the EU – and significant new powers too.

Powers to strike international deals.

And greater powers over immigration. Powers not just to protect our economy, but also our values.

UK ministers might believe it acceptable to order businesses to create lists of foreign workers.

We do not.

Our ambition is to build a prosperous, inclusive and outward looking country.


The morning after the referendum, I said I would seek to find a way to allow Scotland’s voice to be heard and our interests to be protected.

And I said I would explore if that could happen within the UK.

The plan we table will honour that commitment.

But let me be clear – its chance of success will depend, not on us, but on the attitude of the UK government.

Recent signs have not been promising.

Last week, we heard from the Prime Minister a disregard for Scotland’s democratic voice that was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher.

An assertion of Westminster constitutional supremacy that belongs in another century.

High-handed pronouncements that dismiss Scottish opinion might delight the Tory Party conference – but they are no longer acceptable to mainstream Scotland.

So my message to the Prime Minister is this.

Scotland didn’t choose to be in this situation – your party put us here.

In 2014, you told us Scotland was an equal partner in the UK.

Well, the moment has come to prove it.

If you value the UK – as you say you do – it’s up to you to prove it can work for Scotland.

The ball is in your court.

But hear this – if you think for one single second that I’m not serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland’s interests, then think again.

If you can’t – or won’t – allow us to protect our interests within the UK, then Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path.

A hard Brexit will change the UK fundamentally.

A UK out of the single market – isolated, inward looking, haemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities – will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014.

If that’s the insecure, unstable prospect we face as part of the UK, then no one will have the right to deny Scotland the chance to choose a better future.


On the morning after the referendum, I said I would protect Scotland’s ability to make that choice.

In our Programme for Government, I committed to publishing a draft referendum bill.

I am determined that Scotland will have the ability to reconsider the question of independence – and to do so before the UK leaves the EU – if that is necessary to protect our country’s interests.

So I can confirm today that the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week.

You know, there’s not a day that passes just now without someone advising me to hurry up with a referendum.

And there’s not a day that passes without someone advising me to slow down.

Welcome to my world.

But the responsibility of leadership is to act in the best interests of our country as a whole.

The morning after the EU referendum, I said that I’d be guided at all times by a simple, clear test.

What is best for the people of Scotland?

That’s the principle that I will continue to be guided by – and I know I can on your support every step of the way.  


There is one final point I want to make. And it’s an important one.

When Scotland does come to take this decision again – whenever that might be – we must not take for granted how anyone will vote.

It will be a new debate – not a rerun of 2014.

We must not assume that people’s views – yes or no – are the same today as they were two years ago.

Instead we must engage the arguments with a fresh eye and an open mind.

The case for independence will have to be made and won.

But let’s never lose sight of this –

We are one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

We are rich in natural resources.

We are world-leaders in life sciences, technology and renewables.

We are at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing.

In tourism, and in food and drink we are unrivaled.  

Our foundations are strong.

So if the choice we face is an inward looking, insular, Brexit Britain, governed by a right wing Tory party, obsessed with borders and blue passports at the expense of economic strength and stability –

Or a progressive, outward looking, internationalist Scotland, able to chart our own course and build our own security and prosperity, then know this –

– that is a case we will win.


We stand for a fairer, wealthier, outward looking, progressive Scotland.

Let’s make it happen.