Local MP addresses Conservative Party Conference

Thank you very much.

It is a huge pleasure to address you today as the first Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland for 18 years…

…proud to serve in a majority Conservative Government.

The Prime Minister made his intention for this Government clear right from the start:

…to reclaim the mantle of One Nation, one United Kingdom.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: four proud nations, but stronger and safer together as partners in our United Kingdom.

And that is what over two million Scots voted for, just over a year ago.

To keep our family of nations together.

It was a clear message: No thanks to independence.

Here is a fact you might not know.

More people in Scotland voted to keep the United Kingdom together than have voted for any party, in any election at any time in Scottish history.

And our Party was in the vanguard of that campaign.

The Conservative and Unionist Party truly lived up to its name.

As the fabled ‘Labour election machine’ was revealed to be a busted flush…

…it was Scottish Conservatives who were setting the pace.

Out knocking on doors, manning street stalls and fighting to keep our country together.

We were standing up for what we believe in – heart and soul.

People saw that and respected it.

We were the clearest voice of the silent majority in Scotland.

One year on, we’re proud of what Scotland achieved.

But we know that we cannot be complacent.

The SNP’s success in turning 45% for Yes into 56 seats in the general election…

…shows that championing the United Kingdom must be a full time job.

Those who want to break up Britain will never stop trying to achieve that, even after Scots decisively rejected it.

They told us before the referendum that the vote was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

We didn’t realise they meant the life-time of the infamous Scottish midge – or as some people call them, nats.

The ballot boxes had hardly been put away before SNP leaders started muttering threats of a second referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond committed themselves to respect the outcome of the referendum.

But because they didn’t get the outcome they wanted – they’ve just set it aside.

That disrespects the views of 2 million voters.

People in Scotland don’t want a never-endum.

We had the debate. We had the vote. The result was clear.

In fact, the benefits of membership of the United Kingdom have only got clearer since last September.

The SNP’s economic case for independence looked thin at the time…

…but it has been on a crash diet in the twelve months since.

As part of the bigger economy of the United Kingdom, the shock of the oil price fall has been cushioned.

Just as Scotland shared the rewards when the oil price was high…

…the rest of the UK shares the risk when the oil price falls low.

We all know it would have been a different story if Scotland had been on its own.

Now, SNP leaders might blame the press, the BBC, the ‘Vow’…

…and for all I know the weather and Mystic Meg…

..for the fact they lost the referendum.

Why can’t they just accept that it was their total failure to present a credible economic case to the people of Scotland that led undecided voters to reject separation?

The plan on offer simply did not add up, and nothing has changed in the last year to alter that fact.

The priority now for Scotland’s two governments…

…the UK Government led by David Cameron…

…and the Scottish Government led by the SNP…

…should be to deliver on our commitments and govern in the interests of everyone in our country.

Conservatives committed before the election to pass new powers to the Scottish Parliament…

…and we are delivering on that in the Scotland Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

The new powers coming to Scotland were the result of careful thought and preparation.

Many of the ideas originated in our own Party’s Strathclyde Commission report.

The Scottish Conservatives are now the Party of devolution in Scotland, as we are the party of devolution across the UK.

A strong Scottish Parliament within a strong United Kingdom.

But real devolution does not mean hoarding power in Edinburgh – it means empowering local communities.

Like we are doing with City Deals. We have already delivered one for Glasgow.

Now Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee and Edinburgh have set out down the road to greater devolution too – and I welcome that.

In the Scotland Bill, the heart of the devolution package is the transfer of income tax powers to Holyrood.

For the first time, the Scottish Parliament will become responsible for raising most of the money it spends.

That will mean the Scottish Government will have no-where to hide.

Today, any difficult decision the SNP government faces they blame on ‘Westminster cuts’.

With control of income tax, they will have the means to increase their budget if they want to.

Public spending can rise, but taxes will have to rise to pay for it.

We’ve always said we want to see the new powers devolved as speedily as possible, and we’ve met every deadline along the way to achieve that.

Because we know that the new tax powers are at the heart of the devolution package in the Scotland Bill…

…we want them to come on-stream as soon as possible.

I would like that to be in 2017.

The final date for the transfer will be agreed between both of Scotland’s governments as part of the Fiscal Framework negotiations, which are on-going.

But we think 2017 is an achievable and desirable time for these new powers to take effect.

It would mean that the Scottish Government elected next year would have to include plans for these new powers in its first budget.

So when people in Scotland go to the polls next year, the parties will need to present their plans for income tax.

And they'll need to be honest about what they will mean for Scottish taxpayers.

The Scottish Conservatives have been clear – under us, Scots will never pay more tax than our neighbours in the rest of the UK.

Scottish Labour – remember them? – have also been clear.

They plan to put taxes up.

So now we need to hear from the SNP.

Instead of constant gripes about detail and process, why can’t they tell us straight?

What do you plan to do with powers coming to Scotland – and who in Scotland is going to pay for it?

One reason the SNP are reluctant to tell us what they plan to do with the significant powers coming their way…

…is their dismal record of using the powers they’ve already got.

And after eight years of SNP government in Holyrood, they’ve no one to blame for their failures but themselves.

In education, an attainment gap that won’t budge.

In policing, Scotland’s local forces abolished…

…and serious question marks over the accountability and performance of the centralised Police Scotland.

In health, spending increasing at a lower rate than in England.

The highest density of wind farms in Europe, and local objections to them over-ruled.

Slashing college places for working class kids, to pay for free university for the wealthiest.

Free prescriptions for millionaires, but a crisis in GP provision.

It’s no wonder they’re desperate to turn the next election into a referendum on yet another referendum. 

It’s a distraction from their record of failure in government.

Thankfully, the SNP are at last starting to get the scrutiny they deserve, thanks to my friend and colleague, Ruth Davidson.

Ruth is the real opposition to the Nationalists in the Scottish Parliament.

She is the person who can stand toe-to-toe with Nicola Sturgeon and take the battle to the SNP.

And with Ruth as our leader, we will always stand fully behind the United Kingdom and Scotland’s place in it.

While other political parties are in chaos and looking to their own self-interests, we stand squarely on the common ground.

And it is from the common ground that this Conservative Government is delivering policies to benefit everyone across the United Kingdom.

Turning our economy around from the mess we inherited from Labour.

Fixing the welfare system, and helping 175,000 more Scots into work.

Capping welfare, so that it always pays to be in work.

100% commitment to our nuclear deterrent.

Increasing the Personal Allowance.

A tax-free minimum wage.

A National Living Wage on the way.

Conservative achievements for the whole United Kingdom.

A record in office to be proud of.

So as we approach next year’s Scottish Parliament elections…

…we can do so with pride and confidence in our achievements.

Economic security for families.

Our national security assured.

And our Union – backed by the majority of Scots – cherished and defended for the future.

Thank you.”