Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore gave his keynote speech to Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham. He talked about the rugby world cup, for too long for my liking, but never mind, and then outlined what the Coalition has already done for Scotland and what it will do in the months and years to come.
He’s talking about presenting a positive view of how Scotland gains from the Union. Having just been away for 4 days, I wonder if my family have realised that I might actually be of more benefit to them than they think. I’m just about to head to the shops to replenish the empty food cupboards. I haven’t checked the laundry basket yet but I suspect I’ll meet its contents half way down the stairs. How many of us on a daily basis think about what the other members of our families or loved ones contribute to our lives? Certainly not as much as we should, I suspect.
He needs to develop that positive theme over the next few months and, I think, develop it down to a very practical level so people can see how it relates to them.
There’s some good economic stuff in here – including the creation of a Scottish Board of Trade and Growth, too.
For me, it’s the nature of the society rather than whether it’s independent or not. Liberty, equality and community are neither guaranteed by separation or independence – you could have them or not under either constitutional set up. We need to get the colouring pencils out and show that we can create as pretty a picture as Alex Salmond can about our ideas on Scotland’s constitutional future. The speech in full is below.
As you know, a lot is happening north of the border right now, and many serious questions are being asked.
But the biggest is not the West Lothian question, or indeed the date of the referendum.
It’s who will win the struggle in Auckland when Scotland play England in the rugby World Cup.
On this, there is no Cabinet line.
No collective responsibility.
Not even a Lib Dem position.
But I’m hoping that the majority of you in the hall right now will be up for a big game and rooting for the right result – for Scotland.
OK, so there are a few other things we’re debating with renewed vigour at the moment.
Since May things have changed a bit.
A new Scottish Government, an outright Nationalist majority, the prospect of a referendum on Scottish independence.
There is going to be plenty of debate about the future of our country in the months and years ahead.
And in that debate we – this party, this government – will join with others to make the strong and positive case for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.
Using hard facts, not hysterical language, to argue for a strong Scotland in a modern UK.
And it is right that we should do that.
Those who want to turn their backs on Britain are passionate about their cause.
We must be equal to that passion, but ahead of them in the arguments.
We must show – we will show – that the nations of our country are stronger together and poorer apart.
A big part of that case will rest upon our ability to show that Scotland benefits from being part of the UK.
And that the United Kingdom benefits from Scotland being part of it.
That Scotland has two governments.
One at Holyrood, and one at Westminster.
Separate and distinct but united in their goal – governing in the interests of Scotland.
So, this morning I want to talk about what Liberal Democrats in government are achieving for Scotland.
I want to talk about the changes we are making, the fairness we are bringing and the prosperity that we are building for our country.
Now, I know that’s been a bit of a hard sell so far.
There is no denying that May’s election results were bad for our party.
That we lost some very good friends and colleagues from Holyrood.
And that the Parliament has lost some exceptional people.
And equally there is no denying that progress towards rebuilding our fortunes will require hard graft and unity of purpose from all parts of the Scottish party.
Our new group of MSPs is critical to that.
And they are five very able people.
One of them is our former leader, Tavish Scott.
And I want to pay special tribute to the energy, determination and passion with which Tavish led the Scottish party up to the election.
Tavish is a true liberal and a great friend who continues to play an important role at Holyrood.
And our new leader, Willie Rennie, is off to a flying start, ahead of the game, and making the case for a more liberal Scotland.
He has led the attack on the SNP’s “bulldozer” approach to Scotland’s police forces.
He has stood up to the Scottish Government’s bullying of our independent judiciary.
And he has pushed the First Minister again and again to come clean on the true costs of independence.
He is a strong liberal voice holding the SNP to account at Holyrood.
And at Westminster we have strong liberal voices in government working for Scotland.
Shaping a fairer Scotland, for our future, in the toughest of times.
That means prioritising.
When you inherit a deficit of 155 billion pounds you must cut your cloth according to your means.
And it becomes all the more important to ensure that money goes where it is needed most.
Of course there have been tough decisions to take.
But let’s look at the difference we have already made in Scotland.
91,000 low income Scots coming out of income tax altogether.
One million Scottish pensioners benefiting from increased pensions.
Two million increased cold weather payments going to thousands of Scottish households.
Each of these realities is a direct result of Liberal Democrats in government.
Our values – fairness, justice, compassion – these thread through the decisions made by this government, in Scotland’s interests.
Let me give you some examples.
On freedom and liberty, Liberal Democrats in government are reasserting individual rights.
We all remember what it was like until May of last year.
The rise of the database state with expensive and intrusive identity cards.
The undermining of habeas corpus with constant attempts to expand detention without charge.
The casual disregard for compassionate justice with asylum-seekers’ children languishing behind barbed wire.
So many of our freedoms were taken from us by a government that arrested people for reading out the names of the war dead at the Cenotaph.
In government, Liberal Democrats are changing that.
We’ve scrapped ID cards and smashed the identity database.
We’ve abolished twenty eight days detention and refocused anti-terror laws.
And we have ended child detention as we know it, with not a single child held at Dungavel – now or ever again.
On the environment, Liberal Democrats in government are shaping the green future we believe in.
You know, my daughter Ella is now two. And yes, she’s very cute, if a little bossy. But being a father makes you think about the future.
And, for me, it makes turning a blind eye to climate change just unthinkable.
Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, the growing threat to our way of life.
For too long, these have been met with second-rate responses.
In government, Liberal Democrats are changing that.
We’re creating a coastal communities fund with Crown Estate profits to allow local people to invest in their areas and explore new green ideas.
We’re seeking reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy to support Scottish hill farmers and lead to good green practice.
And through the Green Investment Bank and other initiatives we’re paving the way to investment in marine technology, renewable energy and a generation of new green jobs.
That’s the green perspective that Liberal Democrats bring to Scotland.
And we’ll also deliver a stronger economy.
Labour’s legacy was a debt-laden, risk-ridden, lop-sided system that served a few but short-changed the many.
In government, Liberal Democrats are changing that.
We’re rebuilding, rebalancing and reshaping the economy and creating the conditions for growth.
Acting fast to get the deficit down to stabilise our finances.
Cutting corporation tax to give our companies a competitive edge.
Ensuring that our banks lend to business to keep people in work.
All of these actions will benefit Scotland’s economy.
In doing so, they will also benefit Scotland’s people – people who need help in these tough times.
And while we’re on that subject, let’s be clear:
The priority must be to keep raising the point at which people start paying tax towards £10,000.
Not axing a 50p rate on our country’s highest earners.
But Scotland’s government at Westminster is also taking specific action to boost the economy north of the border.
By investing £70 million in superfast broadband for our rural communities.
By Danny’s work with the European Commission to cut the cost of fuel in the isles.
And by providing Scotland with the money it needs for new enterprise zones.
That’s Liberal Democrats in government, creating a fairer economy for Scotland.
But we can go further still.
The UK Government is now in the second phase of our Growth Review, identifying ideas to expand our economy and to remove the barriers that hold it back.
But just as we have taken specific steps to boost the Scottish economy, so we should recognise the real challenges it faces in the twenty first century.
I want to see Scottish exports reach unparalleled levels.
I want to see Scotland leading the way in trading with emerging economies like, Brazil, Russia, India and China.
And I want to see Scotland’s financial sector return to strength in the context of responsible business and a rebalanced economy.
There is no reason why this should not happen.
And every reason to work together so that it can.
So today I am glad to announce that the Scotland Office is establishing a Scottish Trade and Growth Board.
To add – and to feed into – the Growth Review at UK level.
It will bring together representatives from key sectors in the Scottish economy.
And its work will draw from expertise within government, with support from the Treasury, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
But the Board will not be inward looking: it will be outward facing.
It will receive independent economic advice and it will reach out, far and wide to Scottish businesses, including small and medium-sized companies.
Because it is they who know business best.
So we will listen, engage and innovate.
We will identify the barriers to Scotland’s success and we will tear them down.
Of course, in all of these things, the Scottish Government has a role to play too.
And it is in Scotland’s interests that we work together within the framework of a modern UK.
Liberal Democrats played a key role drawing up the plans for a Scottish Parliament and campaigning for a yes vote in the referendum fourteen years ago.
Now, in government, we are delivering the next phase of devolution.
The Scotland Bill – with cross-party support – will deliver the single largest transfer of financial powers from London since the creation of the United Kingdom.
New powers on tax and borrowing will empower the Scottish Parliament and make it more accountable to the Scottish people.
Poll after poll has shown that Scots want to see devolution strengthened within the borders of our country.
That is what Liberal Democrats believe in.
And that is what the Scotland Bill delivers.
Earlier this month the Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords – where none other than my good friend and colleague Jim Wallace is guiding it through.
By Spring it should be law.
But only by consensus.
The Scotland Bill is not only going through Westminster it is also going before the Scottish Parliament – for a second time.
On the first occasion, the Parliament endorsed the principles of the Bill, with support from all sides of the chamber.
But now the new Nationalist government wants changes made.
We are not unreasonable.
We are engaging with their six proposals.
But any changes must meet three key tests.
They must be detailed in nature, making substantive improvements to the Bill.
They must maintain the cross-party consensus on which the Bill is based.
And they must be without prejudice to the broader interests of the UK.
It is only fair and reasonable that any changes proposed at this late stage meet those high standards.
We will not agree now to rush through proposals that would shatter political consensus or damage the interests of our country.
It is not acceptable to cut corners or play fast and loose with the constitution.
Governing is about answering hard questions and taking responsibility.
But that is something the SNP has still to accept.
The Nationalists want to have it both ways.
They want to be in government but act like an opposition.
In the past few weeks they have launched personal attacks on Scotland’s top judges.
They’ve played politics with public sector pensions.
And they’ve threatened to oppose new powers for the Scottish Parliament for which they themselves voted just six months ago.
But the SNP has always used conflict and grievance to distract from their failure to set out a detailed case for independence.
They have always used the politics of assertion as a substitute for the detail of policy.
If the SNP wants further powers in the Scotland Bill, the case is theirs to prove and the questions are theirs to answer.
And if the SNP wants independence for Scotland, the argument is theirs to make, and the detail is theirs to spell out.
But they don’t.
They dodge the questions and they shout down the questioners.
Three weeks ago I asked six simple questions about the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland.
I asked about bank regulation, pension payments, the national currency, membership of international organisations, Scotland’s defences and the bottom line on costs.
Answers came there none.
But we will continue to ask those questions until they provide the answers.
We – all of us – have a right to know.
Because what the SNP is plotting and scheming behind the doors of St Andrew’s House is to change the very nature – the very fabric – of our country.
So we won’t let them lurk, skulk and shout from the back of the class.
They will have to come to the front, take responsibility and answer the questions.
That’s what governing is about.
Conference, there are many privileges to being Secretary of State.
One of them is the opportunity to get out there, meet people and visit Scotland’s communities.
And I’ve done a fair few laps of the country these past twelve months.
The people I meet have anxieties about the future, that’s true.
But they are also ambitious and optimistic.
They believe that Scotland’s best days are ahead of us.
The challenge for our party is to show that those days will be better with the Liberal Democrats and thanks to this government.
So as we move forward, our message must be clear.
Yes, we’re taking tough decisions.
But in doing so we are shaping the country we believe in.
A Scotland where our people are empowered.
Where our economy is rebalanced. And where our society is free, fair and green.
That’s what we stand for, that’s the reason we’re in government, that’s why the Liberal Democrats are on Scotland’s side.