Nicola Sturgeon's address to #SNP16

By , 15/10/16

Below is the address given by SNP Leader and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to SNP conference 2016. Check against delivery. 

Delegates,
 
We meet here in the city of Glasgow, five months on from the Scottish Parliament election.
 
When we gathered back in March, we were preparing to seek election as Scotland's government for a third consecutive term.
 
Thanks to your hard-work and your campaigning brilliance, we did just that.
 
We won the election.
 
From the bottom of my heart, let me say this to the people of our country -
 
Thank you for putting your trust in me as your First Minister.
 
Thank you for choosing us to be your government.
 
The SECC - where we meet today - was first opened back in 1985.
 
It has witnessed quite a few changes in the 30 years since.
 
The biggest change of all has been in the politics of our country and of this city.
 
In 1985, a Scottish Parliament seemed like a pipe dream.
 
Today, it is the beating heart of our democracy.
 
We no longer question if we should have a parliament of our own.
 
Instead, we ask if our parliament should be independent.
 
We say yes.
 
In 1985 every constituency in this city, bar one, was held by Labour.
 
Today, the political landscape is very different.
 
Last year, every Westminster constituency in this city was won by the SNP.
 
This year, every Holyrood constituency voted SNP as well.
 
And just last week, in a council by-election, a massive 19% swing to the SNP secured victory for our brilliant candidate, Chris Cunningham.
 
Friends,
 
Next year, we have the chance to complete this political transformation.
 
Glasgow was once described as the second city of the Empire.
 
In the council elections next May, let's work as hard as we ever have to bring the SNP to power.
 
And then let's build this city as one of the very best in Europe.
 
Glasgow is a vivid illustration of the success of our party.
 
But it also stands as a lesson.
 
Labour lost because they took the voters for granted.
 
They became arrogant on power. They thought they were invincible.
 
And they rightly paid the price.
 
So our promise - to Glasgow and to all the people of Scotland - is this:
 
We will never take you for granted.
 
We will work each and every day to earn and re-earn your trust.
 
Conference,
 
It's not just attitude which distinguishes the SNP from Labour.
 
It's policy and principle too.
 
When Labour held its conference in Liverpool recently its defence spokesman wanted to announce support for the renewal of Trident.
 
He was enraged at not being allowed to go as far as he wanted in supporting weapons of mass destruction.
                                                                
Well, we're pretty angry too.
 
We’re angry that with so many children still living in poverty, we have a Tory government determined to waste tens of billions of pounds on a new generation of nuclear weapons.
 
And we’re angry at Labour for meekly falling into line behind the Tories.
 
Friends, I promise you this -
 
No-one will ever have to slip a note to politicians in this party reminding us to oppose Trident.
 
Now and always with the SNP: it is no to Trident.
 
Not in our name.
 
Conference,
 
In the conflicts facing the world today, nuclear weapons are not the answer.
 
In Syria, up to 400,000 men, women and children have been killed since the conflict started.
 
Over a million have been wounded.
 
No-one can fail to be profoundly moved, and deeply angered, by the appalling scenes we are witnessing in Aleppo.
 
Innocent children are being killed and wounded with impunity.
 
The barbarism of the Assad regime and the actions of Russia are sickening.
 
We condemn them unreservedly.
 
We agree with the UN that all countries must stand up for the millions of Syrians who desperately need help.
 
And although at times we can feel powerless, we should remember that communities across Scotland are making a difference to families fleeing the conflict.
 
Last month the 1,000th Syrian refugee was welcomed to Scotland.
 
And they are welcome.
 
But we can and we must do more - especially for children, alone without their parents.
 
So, I say to the UK Government today – stop treating this as a migration issue. 
 
It is a humanitarian crisis.
 
We must rise to the challenge.
 
And Scotland is ready and willing to play our part. 
 
Friends,
 
It may just be five months since we won the Holyrood election, but in many ways it feels like a political lifetime.
 
We are in a completely new era -
 
- A new political era and a new battle of ideas
 
- A new era for our Parliament, with new powers and responsibilities
 
-   And a new era for our relationship with Europe and the wider world.
 
There are challenges aplenty.
 
As we face up to them, we must make sure of this -
 
That Scotland always remains the progressive, internationalist, communitarian country that the majority of us living here want it be.
 
Make no mistake - today, we face a choice of two futures.
 
After last week in Birmingham, there can be no doubt - that choice has never been so stark.
 
The primary contest of ideas in our country is now between the SNP and the hard right Tories.
 
The Cameroons have fallen to the Faragistas - and let's face it, the Cameroons were never very appealing in the first place.
 
Conference,
 
The SNP’s vision for Scotland is welcoming, progressive, open, outward looking, and inclusive.
 
The Tory vision?
 
Xenophobic, closed, inward looking, discriminatory.
 
Let’s be frank, the Tories are no longer the Conservative and Unionist Party.
 
After last week, we should call them what they are:
 
The Conservative and Separatist Party.
 
Or UKIP for short.
 
Today's Tories display an ingrained hostility to immigration and offer a stony heart to refugees.
 
They treat those with disabilities with suspicion.
 
People seeking support to get back into employment are humiliated and harassed.
 
A mother unable to find the bus fare to get to a job centre appointment is more likely to face a benefit sanction than she is to be offered a helping hand.
 
And those from other European countries who have chosen to make their homes here - human beings with lives, jobs and families - they are treated as no more than bargaining chips.
 
Conference,
 
The Prime Minister's position on EU nationals shames her and it will be a stain on her government each and every day that it is allowed to continue.
 
The fact is, with almost every action the Tories take, somebody is excluded. Somebody loses out. Somebody is left behind.
 
So let us make it clear.
 
That is not our way.
 
It is not who we are.
 
And it is not who we aspire to be.
 
And what of Labour?
 
Well, so lost have they become that they prefer the prospect of years of continuous Tory government at Westminster to self-government for Scotland.
 
It is inexplicable, I know - but I guess branch offices just don't have all that much in the way of ambition.
 
Friends,
 
Labour may have thrown in the towel.
 
But let me make this pledge today.
 
The SNP will never stand by while a right wing and intolerant Tory government undermines the very fabric of our society.
 
At Westminster, we will continue to provide the strong opposition that Labour is failing to deliver.
 
In recent months, it hasn't been Labour asking the hard questions about our place in the single market and the jobs that depend on it - it's been our Westminster leader, our new deputy leader, Angus Robertson.
 
Just as it's been Alison Thewliss making the case against the immorality of denying tax credits to women unless they can prove they've been raped.
 
And Ian Blackford, standing against the deportation of the Brain family.
 
Or Mhairi Black standing up for women denied the pension entitlements they saved for all their working lives.
 
The SNP isn’t just the real opposition to the Tories at Westminster.
 
The SNP is the only effective opposition to the Tories at Westminster.
 
Our job at Westminster is to provide the strong opposition that is so desperately needed, not just in Scotland, but right across the UK.
 
And our job at Holyrood is to use our powers to build the better Scotland we all want to see.
 
Conference,
 
If you remember just one word from my speech today, I want it to be this one.
 
It begins with an 'I'.
 
No, not that one! Not yet.
 
The word I want you to remember is this - inclusion.
 
Inclusion is the guiding principle for everything we do.
 
It encapsulates what we stand for as a party and it describes the kind of country we want Scotland to be.
 
An inclusive country.
 
A country where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to a better future and to share in the benefits of that better future.
 
A country which works for those who value the security they currently have and for those who yearn for change.
 
A country where we value people for the contribution they make.
 
Not one where we will ever judge them on their country of birth or the colour of their passport.
 
That is the inclusive Scotland we are working to build.
 
And I'm proud of the progress we've made.
 
Earlier, this week a major European research study reached this conclusion.
 
On health, on education, on tolerance and on the environment - out of all of the four nations in the UK, Scotland is top.
 
Of course, I know there is still much to do.
 
Much to do in the next phase of Scotland’s home rule journey.
 
Westminster is still responsible for the majority of funding for our public services.
 
But more than ever before, the new Scotland Act means the growth of Scotland’s budget depends on the growth of Scotland’s economy.
 
Creating jobs, expanding the economy and growing tax revenues - these priorities must be at the centre of everything we do. 
 
And they always will be.
 
This time last year, workers at the Tata Steel plants at Dalzell and Clydebridge faced huge uncertainty.
 
I stood up at our conference and promised we would leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find and secure a viable future.
 
We worked with the company, with trade unions, with local government and the local community.
 
Two weeks ago, I returned to Dalzell with this message for the workforce.
 
We kept our promise - the plant is open for business and Scotland is rolling steel once more.
 
When I think of the many times in years gone by when Westminster governments have stood by and allowed Scottish industry to wither and die, I think about what might have been.
 
What might have been if there had been a Scottish Parliament - and a Scottish government - there to fight for them.
 
What might have been if the people of Scotland had been able to steward the immense natural resources of these lands for present and future generations.
 
Just like independent Norway did.
 
So let us make this resolution today -
 
Never again will we be content to look back helplessly at the damage the Tories have done to Scottish industry and wonder what might have been.
 
We must win the power to always shape our own future.
 
Conference,
 
We will not just intervene to save jobs. We will also provide help and support for businesses to thrive.
 
I can confirm today that our small business bonus will be extended.
 
From April 1 next year, 100,000 business premises across Scotland will pay no business rates at all.
 
Absolutely none.
 
Our new half billion pound Growth Scheme will offer guarantees and loans to companies seeking to export, expand and create new jobs.
 
And we'll make sure that the benefits of growth are shared more widely.
 
Central to that is our work to extend payment of the living wage.
 
There are currently over 600 accredited living wage employers in Scotland.
 
By this time next year, that number will rise to at least 1000.
 
That's what inclusion means in practice.
 
We will also redouble our efforts to make sure our economy is internationally competitive.
 
That's even more important now in the wake of the Brexit vote.
 
Make no mistake, the threat to our economy is not just the prospect of losing our place in the single market - disastrous though that would be.
 
It is also the deeply damaging - and utterly shameful - message that the Tories' rhetoric about foreign workers is sending to the world.
 
More than ever we need to tell our European friends that Scotland is open for business.
 
And let me be crystal clear about this – we cannot trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to do that for us.
 
So, today I can announce a four-point plan to boost trade and exports, by taking Scotland's message, directly and in our own voice, to the very heart of Europe.
 
Firstly, we will establish a new Board of Trade in the Scottish Government.
 
Secondly, we will set up a new trade envoy scheme. It will ask prominent Scots to help us boost our export effort.
 
Thirdly, we will establish permanent trade representation in Berlin - adding to our Investment hubs in Dublin, London and Brussels.
 
And, fourthly, we will more than double the number of Scottish Development International staff working across Europe -
 
Men and women whose job it will be to market Scotland as an open economy and welcoming society.
 
Friends,
 
The difference between the Scottish and Westminster governments is this:
 
They are retreating to the fringes of Europe: we intend to stay at its very heart – where Scotland belongs.
 
Conference,
 
Inclusive economic growth underpins our entire economic strategy.
 
The Queensferry Crossing - our new bridge across the Forth - has been our country's most important infrastructure project in a generation.
 
In fact, this week, it entered the Guinness Book of Records.
 
The central tower of the bridge is the biggest freestanding structure of its kind anywhere in the world.
 
What an amazing feat of engineering.
 
But the most important infrastructure investment of the next few years will be different. It will be childcare.
 
Over this parliament, we will double the amount of state funded early years education and childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and for the most disadvantaged 2 year olds.
 
Not a bridge over a river.
 
But a bridge to a better future for our children.
 
And today I can announce a new phase in this childcare revolution.
 
Just now it is local authorities who decide what childcare places are offered to parents.
 
Councils work hard to be flexible - but often the places offered to parents are not where and when they need them.
 
So today we are launching a national parent consultation on how to do things differently.
 
It proposes radical new approaches prioritising choice and flexibility.
 
First, we will propose that parents can choose a nursery or childminder that best suits their needs and - as long as the provider meets agreed standards - ask the local authority to fund it.
 
In other words, the funding will follow the child - not the other way round.
 
Second, as suggested by Children in Scotland’s Childcare Commission we will propose that parents can opt to receive funding in a childcare account and then use it to purchase a suitable place directly.
 
Quality, choice, flexibility - these will be the watchwords of a policy to transform the working lives of families and the life chances of our children.
 
And I'm proud that it's an SNP government that will deliver it.
 
Conference,
 
There's another policy for our youngest children that I will be proud to deliver.
 
In the election, we promised a Baby Box of essential items for all newborns. It's a policy borrowed from Finland – where it has contributed to one of the lowest levels of child mortality in the world.
 
So, I am delighted to give you an update on our plans to introduce it here.
 
Next month, we'll launch a competition - in partnership with the V&A in Dundee - for the design of the box.
 
The first boxes will be delivered to babies born in pilot areas on New Year's Day.
 
Now, I don't know about you, but as a first foot offering, I think that beats a lump of coal!
 
And, then next summer, every new born baby across the country will receive a baby box full of clothes, nappies, bedding, books and toiletries.
 
Friends,
 
The baby box is a powerful symbol of our belief that all children should start life on a level playing field.
 
That's what inclusion means in practice.
 
In our schools, raising the bar for all and closing the attainment gap -  opening up opportunity for every child – is the number one priority of my government.
 
It is my personal defining mission.
 
That's why we are directing more funding to areas of greatest need.
 
It's why we've announced our intention to reform school governance - to put parents, head-teachers and classroom teachers at the centre of decisions about children’s learning.
 
It's why are working with teachers to reduce workload.
 
And it’s why we are bringing greater transparency to school performance - so that we can measure the attainment gap accurately and set clear targets to close it.
 
But if we are to live up to our ambition we have a very particular duty to those most in need.
 
We have to get it right for every child.
 
Recently, I've been spending some time with young people who have grown up in care.
 
Some of them are here today.
 
We welcome them to our conference.
 
Their stories have moved me deeply.
 
These young people have challenged me to accept Who Cares? Scotland’s pledge to listen to 1000 care experienced young people over the next two years.
 
And then to use what they tell me to help make their lives better.
 
I've accepted that challenge.
 
Don't get me wrong. Many young people who grow up in care go on to do great things.
 
And the staff and foster carers who work with looked-after kids do an amazing job.
 
Let us thank them, publicly, today.
 
Real progress is being made. School exclusions are down. The number of children living in permanent rather than temporary placements is up.
 
But we can't ignore the reality for too many children in care.
 
Only six per cent go to university.
 
Nearly half will suffer mental health issues.
 
 
Half of the adult prison population are people who lived in care when they were growing up.
 
And worst of all - and this breaks my heart - a young person who has been in care is twenty times - twenty times - more likely to be dead by the time they are 25 than a young person who hasn't.
 
Conference,
 
This simply has to change.
 
And I am determined that it will change.
 
So, I am going to do what these young people have asked me to do.
 
I am announcing today that we will launch an independent, root and branch review of the care system.
 
It will look at the underpinning legislation, practices, culture and ethos.
 
And it will be driven by those who have experience of care.
 
Conference,
 
This is not something that any other country has ever done before.
 
We will do it here in Scotland first.
 
You know, the young people who speak to me make a simple but powerful point.
 
They say the system feels like it is designed only to stop things happening.
 
And, of course, it must have safeguards and protections.
 
But children don't need a system that just stops things happening to them - they need one that makes things happen for them.
 
A system that supports them to become the people they can be. One that gives them a sense of family. Of belonging. Of love.
 
My view is simple: every young person deserves to be loved.
 
So let’s come together and make this commitment: to love our most vulnerable children and give them the childhood they deserve.
 
That's what inclusion means in practice.
 
Conference, 
 
If there is one institution in our country that embodies the values of inclusion and compassion more than any other it is our precious national health service.
 
Today, there are more staff working in the health service than ever before.
 
Our doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and all of our other health professionals are helping to deliver some of the lowest waiting times – and some of the highest satisfaction levels – ever recorded in Scotland.
 
So I will never tire of saying this.
 
Our NHS staff, our heroes - each and every one of them, no matter where they were born - deserve our deepest gratitude for the work that they do.
 
Over this parliament, we will increase health spending by almost £2 billion.
 
That's a necessary commitment but it is not sufficient.
 
To make our NHS fit for the future we must reform as well as invest.
 
That will involve tough decisions - but the challenge of an ageing population demands it.
 
It's why our government has integrated health and social care - a challenge ducked by every single administration before us.
 
And it's why we are expanding standalone elective capacity through five new treatment centres.
 
But we must go further.
 
The NHS of the future must be built on a real shift from acute care to primary and community care.
 
So the commitment I am announcing today is a landmark one.
 
By the end of this parliament, we will increase spending on primary care services to 11% of the frontline NHS budget.
 
That's what doctors have said is needed.
 
And it is what we will deliver.
 
And let me be clear what that means. By 2021, an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres.
 
And it means, for the first time ever, that half of the health budget will be spent, not in acute hospitals, but in the community - delivering primary, community and social care.
 
Building an NHS that delivers today and for generations to come - that is what our government is determined to do.
 
Friends,
 
Today I have set out our determination to build an inclusive Scotland.
 
I've talked about our ambitions for our NHS, our economy, our education system and our children in care.
 
I've talked about our hopes for the next generation and for the generations that come after that.
 
Hopes and ambitions that are shared by men and women the length and breadth of Scotland.
 
So as we prepare to take the next steps in our nation's journey - whatever they might be - let us always remember this.
 
There is more - much more - that unites us as a country than will ever divide us.
 
Yes voters and No voters. Remainers and Leavers.
 
All of us care deeply and passionately about the future of this nation.
 
So whatever our disagreements, let us always treat each other with respect.
 
And let's work harder to understand each other's point of view.
 
You know, in a strange sort of way, the events of the last few months might help us do just that.
 
I know how upset I was on the morning of 24 June as I came to terms with the result of the EU referendum. I felt as if part of my identity was being taken away.
 
And I don't mind admitting that it gave me a new insight into how those who voted No might have felt if 2014 had gone the other way.
 
Likewise, there are many No voters now looking at the Brexit vote with real dismay and wondering if independence might be the best option for Scotland after all.
 
Let's build on that common ground.
 
Let's decide that whatever decisions we face in the years ahead, we will take them together - respecting each other every step of the way.
 
And let us in the SNP lead by example.
 
Friends,
 
This year marks 30 years since I first joined this party of ours.
 
I know what you're thinking - how is that even possible when she's still only 25?
 
Or maybe that's just what I'd like you to be thinking.
 
In all those 30 years, I have never doubted that Scotland will one day become an independent country.
 
And I believe it today more strongly than I ever have before.
 
But I've always known that it will happen only when a majority of our fellow citizens believe that becoming independent is the best way to build a better future, together.
 
So we need to understand why, in 2014, that wasn't the case.
 
Some who voted No believed that staying in the UK offered greater economic security, a stronger voice in the world and a guaranteed place in the EU.
 
Back then it even seemed possible that there might be a Westminster Labour government at some point in the next 20 years!
 
But the future looks very different today.
 
And make no mistake - it is the opponents of independence, those on the right of the Tory party, intent on a hard Brexit, who have caused the insecurity and uncertainty.
 
So it falls to us, the advocates of independence, to offer solutions to the problems they have created.
 
Of course independence would bring its own challenges - that is true for every independent nation on earth.
 
But with independence, the solutions will lie in our own hands.
 
It will be up to us to chart our own course and be the country we want to be - not the country that an increasingly right wing Tory government wants us to be.
 
I promised at the start of our conference that we will seek to protect Scotland's interests in every way that we can.
 
And we will.
 
We will work with others across the political divide to try to save the UK as a whole from the fate of a hard Brexit.
 
We will propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the single market even if the UK leaves.
 
But if the Tory government rejects these efforts -
 
If it insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country -
 
Then be in no doubt.
 
Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future.
 
And I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance.
 
And let us be clear about this too.
 
If that moment does arise, it will not be because the 2014 result hasn't been respected.
 
It will be because the promises made to Scotland in 2014 have been broken.
 
Above all, it will be because our country decides, together, that being independent is the best way to build a better, stronger, fairer future.
 
Friends,
 
We know what kind of country we want Scotland to be.
 
And I believe it's a vision that unites us.
 
An inclusive, prosperous, socially-just, open, welcoming and outward-looking country.
 
The question now, in this new era, is how best to secure it.
 
Let's resolve as a nation to answer that question together.
 
We have already come so far.
 
Our home rule journey has given us new confidence. 
 
New self-belief.
 
A determination not to be taken backwards, but to finish building tomorrow’s Scotland.
 
Friends,
 
The time is coming to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.
 
Let’s get on with making that case.
 
Let’s get on with building the country we know Scotland can be.
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