Westminster Group Leader Ian Blackford’s speech to SNP conference

Below is Westminster Group Leader Ian Blackford’s speech to SNP conference in Glasgow.

Good morning Conference, it is a pleasure to be with you here in vibrant city of Glasgow. It is great to see the SNP here in such numbers of the back of the march in Edinburgh.

Conference gathers today at one of the darkest periods in UK politics. The chaos, the uncertainty and the instability that engulfs politics in Westminster, threatens to inflict serious and lasting harm on the lives of people across Scotland and the other parts of the UK.

Conference, we gather here today to re-energise and recommit ourselves to our ambition of building a stronger Scotland.

While politics across the UK is consumed with uncertainty, at Holyrood we have been getting on with the job of governing – and at Westminster, we stand up for Scotland’s interests.

The SNP is growing our achievements in government;

Working harder than ever to boost skills and prosperity.

Working to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Working to increase living standards, to offer opportunity and hope.

While the Tories and Labour are obsessed with infighting – we are getting on with the day job. We are building a new Scotland – with new opportunities, ambition and hope for the future.

Conference, you can trust that on our watch the SNP will never, not ever, let Scotland be silenced or sidelined by this or any other UK Government. But there is much work to be done.

Despite the meaningless mutterings from the Prime Minister at the Tory conference that austerity is over – we know that the pain and punishment of 8 years of billions of brutal cuts continues to hit families right across the UK.

The Prime Minister’s rhetoric is out of step with reality.

Conference, a decade after labour delivered economic collapse, the Tory party is now compounding it.

Not content with failing to rebuild the economy, the Tories now threaten to deepen that hardship by delivering an economically non-sensical Brexit.

Make no mistake the Tories are on a reckless mission to trash our economy.

Their self-destructive policies on Brexit, austerity and immigration threaten serious and lasting harm.

An extreme Brexit threatens:

£2,300 lost from every person in Scotland.

80,000 Scottish jobs destroyed.

The door shut to talented EU workers.

Our economy smaller, weaker and poorer.

The people of Scotland didn’t vote for this Tory government, they didn’t vote to have a referendum on leaving the EU, they didn’t vote for Brexit, they didn’t vote for a hard Brexit and they certainly didn’t vote to come crashing out of the EU with no deal.

Time and time again, the SNP and others have fought to ensure that Scotland’s remain vote is respected in the EU negotiations – but the Tory Cabinet is completely in thrall to the hardline Brexiteers who could not care less about jobs, living standards and public services in Scotland.

People in Scotland are sick of the Tory government telling them what to do.  And yet the Prime Minister thinks she can dish out threats – it is her way or the highway.

And expects us to write her a blank cheque for a blind Brexit. Well I have a message for the Prime Minister, we are not the Labour Party, the SNP will not be threatened by a Tory Government so incapable of governing their own political party – never mind governing the country.

We will not dance to her tune.

Conference, we have been constructive every step of the way. We have proved willing to work to find solutions with Westminster. We have warned the Prime Minister of the turmoil and terrifying damage her Brexit will bring to the people of Scotland. We have been clear, the unprecedented economic damage can only be prevented by staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

But the Prime Minister continues to duck and dive her responsibilities. The Prime Minister prefers to hide behind rhetoric rather than face reality.

Conference, the Prime Minister is running out of road.

As Theresa May attempts to play a dangerous game of Russian roulette with Scotland’s future - the SNP will not let her.

The Prime Minister needs to accept that Chequers has bounced.

Conference, let me be very clear – the SNP will not cave to ultimatums from the Prime Minister. We will not follow the Tories through any lobby that leads to economic destruction for citizens across Scotland and the UK. We will not sit back and allow Scotland to be dragged out of the single market and customs union against its will.

We will not be complicit in a blind – or a no deal Brexit.

When the time comes to vote on the Brexit deal, the only deal we will accept is one that keeps Scotland in the single market and the customs union. Any other deal will sell us short.

I put the Prime Minister on notice here today – we will not support any deal that threatens Scottish jobs and living standards.

At Westminster we have certainly proved that we stick to our word when it comes to standing up for Scotland. Despite the fact that the Tories haven’t won an election in Scotland for over 60 years – they continue to disrespect and discount the will of the Scottish people with their blatant power grab.

In Westminster, the UK Government showed utter contempt for the devolved parliaments as the EU Withdrawal Bill was pushed through without a single thought to the views of the devolved parliaments.

Despite the fact that the Scottish Parliament had voted overwhelmingly, by 93 votes to 30, to refuse legislative consent – the Tories still decided to ignore our Parliament.

The Tory power grab has now ripped up the Sewel Convention and plunged us into constitutional crisis.

Dismantling our devolution settlement, undermining the will of our parliament and our people.

Clawing back powers that should be in Scotland’s hands will see billions of pounds worth of funding that should come directly to Scotland – instead controlled by Westminster.

If that is what the extreme Brexiteers in the Conservative Party call – “taking back control” let them heed this warning – not on our watch.

The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it. Well, Conference they cannot.

Thousands of people joined us the day the SNP walked out of Westminster to show the Prime Minister we will not have our Parliament, our people and our country disrespected.

Scotland will not be treated as a second class nation.

We must act to protect our Parliament and Scotland’s voice. In Westminster your SNP MPs will do all that we can to protect devolution.

Let those in Westminster hear this – if contempt continues to be shown to the people of Scotland and our Parliament – SNP MPs will not hesitate in causing maximum disruption to this Tory Government’s agenda when and where Scotland needs us to.

The Tories promised Scotland a union of equals but have instead have downgraded the devolution and discounted the sovereign will of the Scottish people.

Conference, the SNP will work constructively, we will work for solutions and we will support any initiative that protects the people of Scotland.

But we will not engage in a game of risk – A game that risks our economy, toys with our devolution settlement, and plays with the hard won rights and freedoms of the Scottish people.

Conference, this is the last chance for the Tories to listen and stand up for Scotland.

While we remain tied to Westminster – the SNP will always do all that we can to address the failures of the London Government to protect the people of Scotland.

Conference we know how ambitious we are for our nation. We know that politics is not about accepting the cards your are dealt, but delivering change and for us conference it is about building a Scotland for all.

That is why it is the SNP is the only effective opposition at Westminster. While young workers continue to be penalised by low and unfair pay – it is the SNP’s David Linden who is campaigning to scrap minimum wage bands discriminating against young people.

As our newest and one of our youngest MPs – David is standing up for the young people of Scotland by calling for the UK Government to change the law so that all workers are entitled to a real living wage. That conference is building a country that works for all.

Across all parts of the UK we know that workers are being let down. We know that the other parties don’t share our ambition for fair work for all.

Conference, this was exposed when Stewart McDonald introduced his private members bill to ban unpaid trial shifts.

This bill would have helped protect the lowest paid and lowest skilled people from exploitation. Surely, something we can all agree on. Yet the conservative party talked it out and denied it a vote.

For us conference - the right to fair work and fair pay must be an absolute right for all.

Our efforts to challenge the UK Government’s narrow vision for a fairer society are limitless.

Chris Stephen MP embodies that ambition – championing the case for workers across the UK, Chris has introduced a Bill to bring some clarity to the definition of “worker” – to safeguard the the rights of workers across the UK.

Conference – it is the SNP in Scotland who are delivering on the fair work agenda and it is the SNP in Westminster who are leading the charge for radical reform to deepen workers rights and boost living standards.

Only through increased wages, better working conditions and innovation can we increase productivity, enhance our economy and engender opportunities. And it is only by tackling the Tories head on with credible and deliverable alternatives can we deliver a fairer society.

Conference – at Westminster be assured we are doing just that.

While the Tories push ahead with their draconian welfare cuts agenda, demonising the sick and punishing the disadvantaged – the SNP are fighting against this cruel and ideologically driven agenda.

With Philippa Whitford tackling head on the unfair universal credit system by seeking to introduce single split payments ensuring that those who are financially vulnerable such as victims of domestic abuse – are protected and able to access their money.

With Alison Thewliss –  containing the fight to scrap the vile and repugnant Rape Clause. Standing up for victims in stark contrast to the utterly shameful support Ruth Davidson and her Tory MPs have given to the regressive policy by refusing to denounce it.

Conference, I couldn’t be prouder of our team.

Our MPs are driven by a deep desire to better our society and to improve the lives of people across Scotland but also other parts of the UK. And conference, even when it can be so personally difficult our MPs don’t let us down.

This week marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, a time that is hard for many. Since she has been elected Patricia Gibson, whose baby was stillborn at full term is campaigning for a bill to ensure bereaved parents have the legal right to paid time off. Despite her own tragic circumstances, bravely Patricia is standing up for others. Conference, Patricia is a credit to us.

While the UK Government seeks to shut out talented individuals from other shores who can contribute, sustain and enhance our economy – they will be met with the most robust opposition from the SNP.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that her failed immigration policy is set to continue – ignoring the huge economic benefits immigration brings to our economy.

Conference, it nearly is unimaginable to envisage further narrowing of the immigration system. The unfair immigration policies of the UKGovernment have seen families torn apart and the vulnerable left in despair.

Conference that is not the country we want to be. Your SNP MPs will always – always – fight against the Tories’ desire of a hostile environment for people who want to make their home in Scotland. Like Drew Hendry, who campaigned against the Home Office who sought to deport Russell and Ellen Felber. Drew won that case, and because of that the Felber’s will make a contribution to Scotland.

The discriminatory immigration policy of the Tory party is based on arbitrary figures to keep the hardliners in the Tory party happy - not to protect our economy or our future.

Conference, our ambition for our nation is to build a Scotland that is an open country that looks outwards, and encourages the best and brightest from Europe, and around the world, to make Scotland their home. That means Scotland needs an immigration policy suited to our specific circumstances and needs.

Therefore, Conference it is our duty as your MPs to continue the fight to secure the devolution of immigration powers to Scotland – to protect, enhance and enrich our wonderful country.

Conference – but we must not stop there. More power in Scotland’s hands is our ambition. We are already delivering a stronger Scotland with more people in work than when the recession hit, unemployment is at a near historic low, our economy is growing faster than the UK as a whole.

But to lead and build that better future, conference we have to go much further.

That’s why we are hungry for the full economic powers of an independent country.

Powers that will enable us to strengthen workers rights, end poverty pay, grow our population,  build a fairer social security and transform our nation – and most importantly transform the lives of the people of Scotland for the better.

Conference, the SNP is already leading an inclusive, national debate on how we can deliver our vision of a future of greater prosperity and higher living standards for this and future generations. And conference – it is for all of us, not just MPs, MSPs, Councillors and Cabinet Secretaries – but each of us as members of this Party to lead and shape that debate.

Because it is our ambition to lead the future.

And conference, now more than ever is that debate needed. At one of the most critical times, both the Tories and Labour have proved they are not up for the job of delivering for Scotland.

Embroiled in division and in fighting – Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have no ambition for Scotland. Distracted and divided Labour and the Tories continue to silence Scotland.

Conference, we know we can do better, because we deserve better, because Scotland is not a second class nation.

The democratic outrage of Brexit is crystallising the case for Scotland having the full control over its own affairs – no wonder that polls are showing support for independence at record high levels.

Frankly, Scotland deserves better than this shambles from Westminster. The SNP is the only party offering a vision of hope in the face of Westminster despair.

Conference – we are working harder than ever to boost skills and prosperity; working to protect the most vulnerable in our society; working to increase living standards, to offer opportunity and hope.

But with the full powers of independence we can ensure that Scotland’s enormous human and natural resources can make Scotland the fair and prosperous nation that it deserves to be.

So it is with credibility, with competency and with compassion your SNP MPs will take on the fight in the corridors of Westminster to stand up for Scotland.

And it is with all the ambition and energy in this room conference, that when we are ready – we will take that fight to every person in Scotland.

Conference, Scotland will be an independent nation in Europe.

Our task is to take the hand of the Scottish people and ask them to come with us and complete our journey.

Our vision is to build on the powers of the Scottish parliament, to build on our record of achievement in Government but also to show people we can do more with the powers of independence.

Our obligation is to show that Scotland will be a destination in Europe. A country that will deliver sustainable growth and fairness.

It is our duty, it is our ambition and it is our vision to build an independent Scotland – a Scotland that works for all.