Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell once again called on Nicola Sturgeon to take the threat of independence off the table as he spoke at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Mr Mundell, who took to the stage as Secretary of State for Scotland also used his speech to call on the UK and Scottish Governments to work together in order to achieve the best Brexit deal.
The full text is below:
“Good morning, conference.
It’s a pleasure to be back at conference, in this great powerhouse city of Manchester.
Every conference is a chance to share ideas, reflect on our achievements and look ahead.
That’s the main business of conference, and there will be lots to say this week.
But it’s also a chance to renew acquaintances and catch up with old friends.
I hope to be doing some of that too.
I’m glad to say conference has never been a lonely time for me - though, as Scotland’s only Conservative MP for more years than I care to mention, it could have been.
You all know the old joke (and thanks for reminding us yesterday, Ruth…)
“There are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs.”
Now, quite why a Chinese bear should have been adopted as the unit of measurement for Conservative success in Scotland, I’m at a loss to explain.
But it stuck. And I had to grin and bear it.
No more, conference.
That gag has well and truly been consigned to the dustbin of comedy history.
Hopefully, along with Alex Salmond’s one man Edinburgh Festival Fringe show.
How Nicola Sturgeon must wish she could dump Alex’s Benny Hill impressions in the same trash can.
Ditching a worn out old joke is a great feeling, Nicola. I can heartily recommend it.
The election on June 8 saw the election of 12 more Scottish Conservative MPs.
It has been a great pleasure to see so many talented new colleagues take their place at Westminster.
I congratulate you all – you fought tooth and nail for those seats and I was so proud to see you win.
For that, there are three thank yous.
First, of course, to all of you here – and to the many activists in Scotland who couldn’t join us.
These last 20 years have seen some dark times for us as a Party in Scotland.
But you put in the hours, knocked on the doors, dropped the leaflets – often for no return at all.
You have kept me in my seat.
You have kept us in the game, even when we couldn’t field a full team.
And our success in the last few years has only been possible because of your steadfast support.
So on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, let me say a sincere thank you.
Second, of course, I need to thank our Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Let’s remember, back in March, Nicola Sturgeon was determined to plunge our country into another damaging and divisive independence referendum.
But faced with her unwanted demand, Theresa said simply and firmly: “Now is not the time.”
Without that clear decision, Scotland would be facing the prospect of an independence referendum as early as a year from now.
Just imagine that.
The Prime Minister’s message was exactly what we all wanted to hear.
It was the message most Scots wanted to hear.
It was the message that won us 12 more seats in Scotland and secured our comeback.
And I also have to thank Ruth Davidson.
We don’t have an “Oh, Ruth Davidson” song. But maybe we should…
Her tireless energy and fearless determination have driven us on to our best General Election result for 35 years.
We are now the dominant party in the North East of Scotland and across the South.
But let me tell you today – this is just the start.
Our come back doesn’t stop here.
Our MSPs are working hard to build the policies and the platform for even greater success in the Scottish Parliament elections of 2021.
And our new MPs have set to work in London to show the value of sending Conservatives down south.
Ruth’s speech yesterday was inspiring.
She spoke passionately about our remarkable Union (and I know it’s a theme our excellent Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, will pick up later in this session.)
It’s something we all agree on, something that goes to the heart of what makes us Conservatives.
But Ruth also showed a way forward for Scotland – on education, housing, the economy and more.
People are asking if we have reached “peak Ruth” in Scotland.
All I can say is this: the people asking that don’t know Ruth as well as we do.
So watch out, Nicola.
People are weary of the SNP: their obsession with the tired arguments of the past, their neglect of the day job.
Let us send out a message across Scotland loud and clear.
WE are focused on the day job.
WE have the ideas.
WE are the party of the future.
The arrival of a dozen new Scottish Conservative MPs not only buried a long-running joke, it confirmed something Ruth has been saying for a long time now.
Scotland is NOT the SNP.
The myth was all too easy for the nationalists to peddle when they held 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.
But no longer.
It was never true and the election proved it.
Indeed, the election showed just how badly out of touch Nicola Sturgeon is with public opinion.
Scotland’s First Minister…
Instead of addressing the declining standards in Scotland’s schools…
Instead of tackling the pressures and missed targets that dog Scotland’s NHS…
Instead of building our way out of Scotland’s growing housing crisis…
Instead of doing all those things…
…Nicola Sturgeon subjected Scotland to a year of political game-playing as she sought to turn the EU referendum into an excuse for a second independence poll.
I’m glad the election result finally forced her to put her constitutional campaign on hold.
But for how long?
Nicola Sturgeon is already saying she “doesn’t know” when she wants to hold another referendum.
Not if. When.
And Pete Wishart has started offering advice. (You know you are in trouble when that happens.)
Last week, the Honourable Member for Twitter urged her to delay until after the 2021 Holyrood election – only to deny that’s what he meant.
The truth is this.
For the SNP, it will always be about securing another independence referendum.
But we’ve had one - only three years ago.
It was a tough campaign but both sides respected the democratic process and agreed to respect the result.
Most Scots do not want to return to the old arguments they settled in 2014.
It’s time Nicola Sturgeon ruled out a second independence referendum - clearly and unambiguously - so Scotland can get on with what really matters.
I hope she takes the opportunity to do so at her party’s conference in a few days’ time.
If she won’t, we will.
Week in week out we see Scottish Labour flip-flopping on the constitution.
The way to guarantee the threat of a second independence referendum is taken off the table once and for all is to install Ruth Davidson as Scotland’s First Minister.
Conference, I’m very pleased to be addressing this session on the economy.
Because improving Scotland’s economic performance is at the heart of addressing the issues that really matter to people.
There have been encouraging signs.
In August, employment reached a record high while unemployment remained close to a historic low.
But we face real challenges, and it serves no-one to brush them under the carpet.
Growth lags behinds the UK as a whole, with the Scottish economy expanding by just 0.7 per cent over the past year, compared with 2.0 per cent for the UK as a whole.
And the Scottish Government’s latest annual Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland figures have revealed a deficit of £13.3billion, or 8.3 per cent of GDP – more than three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent.
These issues cannot be ignored.
Indeed, with Holyrood now responsible for raising half the money it spends, it is more important than ever that we see higher growth and healthier tax revenues.
We want to build a Scotland that works for everyone.
We want a Scotland that is a fairer place to live and work.
To achieve that, the reality is that Scotland’s two governments must work together.
Across the UK, we are taking a balanced approach to our economy.
We are dealing with our debts to keep the economy strong, while investing in key public services and keeping taxes low.
But the Scottish Government’s powers over tax, economic development, infrastructure, education, and training mean they too hold many key levers for driving growth.
It makes sense for us to pull in the same direction and we’ve evidence of what we can achieve when we do.
Our UK City Deals, backed by more than £1billion of new UK Government spending, have now been agreed or committed to for all of Scotland’s seven cities.
They are genuine partnerships between the UK and Scottish governments, local authorities and the business community - and they promise to transform our regional economies over the next few years.
From rolling out broadband and investing in our Armed Forces…
…to backing business with low taxes and developing a modern, UK-wide Industrial Strategy…
…WE are using the levers we have to support jobs and help businesses grow.
But I would urge the Scottish Government to use their powers more effectively.
Making Scotland the most highly taxed part of the UK – and hinting of widening the gap even further – cannot be the right approach.
They must do more to provide the homes our young people need…
…to restore our education system to its once proud position among the world’s best…
…and to improve our transport links.
We also need to work together to make Scotland Brexit-ready.
We have put forward a common sense approach to leaving the EU.
We know businesses and individuals need certainty and stability.
Our laws, rules and regulations must function on the day after Brexit just as they do now.
We will need common frameworks - just as we have now - to protect our vitally important UK internal market.
But we will also add to Holyrood’s responsibilities, as decision-making powers return from Brussels.
That’s what our approach will deliver – and I urge the Scottish Government to continue to work with us on these issues.
Now is not the time for conjuring constitutional grievances.
Now is the time for working together, constructively, as the people of Scotland expect from their two governments.
It is time, too, for the Scottish Government to lift their eyes above and beyond the Brexit process and consider future opportunities.
I have just returned from a visit to Paraguay and Argentina.
I was there to bang the drum for Scottish exports – and not just whisky.
Paraguayans may be the biggest whisky drinkers in the world - but I had the honour of launching a beer there, Innis & Gunn, brewed in Edinburgh.
In Argentina I met with oil executives who were keenly aware of the expertise we have in Aberdeen.
I visited the HQ of Aggreko, based in Glasgow, and with a major operation in South America.
On the wall of their control centre is a row of clocks showing the time in the main territories where they operate.
Not labelled London, New York, Paris…
…but Buenos Aires, Dubai – and Glasgow.
It was a powerful symbol of the links we already have and the potential to do more.
These are countries that are open for business and which have deep historical ties to Scotland.
I learned, for example, that football was first played in Argentina in 1838 at the St Andrew’s Scottish School in Buenos Aires, still one of the country’s leading schools.
That’s quite an export.
I was disappointed the SNP chose to criticise my visit, so my message to them today is this:
For the good of the country we both govern - enough of the point scoring.
We have to work together, Scotland’s two governments, on getting Scotland Brexit-ready.
The people of Scotland sent a clear message in June.
They do not want the divisive, grievance-fuelled constitutional politics of the past.
They want politicians who are 100 per cent focused on the day job, pulling together and delivering for Scotland on the biggest challenges we face in the future:
Working together, strengthening the economy and preparing to seize the opportunities ahead.
Those are our priorities.
That is our focus.
Delivering for communities.
Delivering for businesses.
Delivering for families.
That’s the job we were elected to do.
That’s the job we’ll get on with.
Scottish Conservatives – delivering for Scotland.”