Tuesday, 21 October 2008

At the Feet of the Master

Alex Salmond's speech to the SNP Conference

Friends – one of the delegates was asking me for the details of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge that we launched the other day.

This is the latest Homecoming event – the final stage of one the world’s great rally events coming to Scotland next November – the first stage of the same event is the Monte Carlo rally! It will attract a MINIMUM of 40,000 people to Stirlingshire and Perthshire next year and stow out just about every guest house and hotel.

Now I launched this on Tuesday with Provost John Hulbert of SNP led Perth and Kinross Council and Provost Fergus Wood of eech at the SNP ConferenceNP led Stirling Council. I said to them that’s a fair number of folk – you know 40,000 people - this is like having 20 SNP Conferences in a single year – so which would you rather have - conferences or rally?

They – John and Fergus - being loyal Party members, totally unflinching in their dedication to the national cause, both immediately said – we’ll have the rally!

Delegates, Homecoming Scotland – the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns - something which by definition only happens once every 250 years – will be a marvellous celebration of all things Scottish – Burns himself, golf whisky, music and dance and Scottish scientific advance and innovation.

AND let us acknowledge that Sandi Thom has dedicated her forthcoming tour to Scotland’s Year of Homecoming.

Sandi comes from Banff in my constituency, and her Homecoming Tour will visit her home town - I merely mention this to secure my ticket!

Delegates, I am delighted that Sandi will be providing the sound track to the 2009 celebrations – with her own version of my favourite song – Dougie McLean’s Caledonia.

And let’s not forget the FITBA, with the Homecoming Scottish Cup. Forty countries will be tuning in when I present the trophy to Heart of Midlothian next year – ok not all of that sentence is absolutely certain to happen!

Scotland’s Year of Homecoming is a chance for Scotland’s international family, and all who feel an affinity with our nation, to come back and reconnect with our heritage while also learning what being Scottish in the 21st century means.

And with a really spectacular programme of 160 national events I am positive that our year long Homecoming celebrations will turn a threatened tourism downturn into a visitor boom.

Let the message ring out from this conference to all of Scotland. Get behind homecoming and make 2009 a year to remember for Scotland.

And so we intend to turn a feared tourist bust into a visitor boom.

Of course I would never be daft enough to proclaim an end to “boom and bust”

And yet that is what the Prime Minister claimed so many, many times. Or as he clarified when tackled on this boast last Saturday, apparently his pledge was not to end “boom and bust” but just to end “Tory boom and bust”.

Ah well that’s all right then. Now we understand. Tory boom and bust is bad but Labour boom and bust is ok?

Delegates maybe we should just describe it as London’s boom and bust.

Delegates, Brown’s Labour bust threatens to break records – and has almost broken our banks.

Under his watch our greatest company has had to be rescued and saddled with 12 per cent preference shares. And our oldest Bank is threatened with disappearing as an independent force.

And the Prime Minister thinks this is an advert for the Union?

I would have thought that the condition of the economy, the fears of our people, the state of the financial sector, are a staggering condemnation of the state of the United Kingdom.

Delegates during the period of financial chaos over the last few weeks we willingly responded to the call to put political differences aside in a national emergency. We did so because we thought it was the right thing to do.

And how did the Prime Minister respond? At his very first opportunity last Tuesday he launched an attack on independence and the SNP.

You know delegates. It is almost as if there was something at the back of his mind, something worrying him – I wonder what that could be – perhaps a by election beginning with G ?

Two days ago in another interview he said he knows how people feel. He feels our pain.

That much is true. He is certainly making a connection. Last month he was frightened of losing his job. Now tens of thousands of people are frightened of losing their jobs.

There was a time when unionists in Scotland concentrated on running down our own country. Now in order to make their case they are forced to run down other countries as well.

Now we are expected to believe that because of the manifest problems of Iceland that Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are all going bust.

Well delegates I have here the latest growth forecasts of the International Monetary Fund published last week. Ireland is in recession but it is and will remain almost 40 per cent per head more prosperous than the UK.

And what do Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have in common? They are among the few countries in Europe still forecast to escape recession.

And as for the UK – the country which had eliminated boom and bust? It is expected to tumble into the economic mire.

Wouldn’t you expect a Prime Minister who is presiding over the biggest economic reverse for a generation to be a little careful about his attacks on the economic records of other countries?

Well conference I say that we should be grateful to the Prime Minister.

It allows us the chance to speak our mind.

Let us start with the TSB Lloyds takeover of HBOS. Four weeks ago it was the only game in town as it was either merger or oblivion and I have not and will not make any criticism of the actions of Lloyds TSB. They have acted perfectly honourably as far as I can see.

But circumstances have changed and now – right now - there are questions to answer. These questions were placed pointedly this week - fairly and directly by some of Scotland’s major business figures.

The Bank recapitalisation gives the UK government a share and a big say in the future of the joint company – as much as 40%.

So let the Prime Minister and the Chancellor answer the questions that have been legitimately put to them.

Before THEY put OUR money into THIS bailout we want to be sure that it is in the public interest and in the interests of jobs and decision making in Scotland.

Is the re-capitalisation available to both banks independently? If not, then why not?

If the future of HBOS has been secured then are we not entitled to ensure that any merger is in the public interest – that the public won’t end up paying for the merger, paying for lost jobs and then paying for the restriction of competition.

Until these questions are satisfactorily answered then there must be no merger.

The Bank of Scotland has been around for 300 years. It is hard wired into the social and economic fabric of Scotland. It does not deserve to be just cast aside as a consequence of the AGE OF IRRESPONSIBILITY.

Of course the Age of Irresponsibility is the Prime Minister’s own phrase - produced as if he had nothing whatsoever to do with it!

Calgacus said of the Romans. They create a desert and call it peace. Gordon Brown has co-authored a calamity and called it a triumph.

Where did this age of irresponsibility come from? Who broke down the barriers in the financial sector? Who presided over the inflation of asset values? Who allowed the spivs and speculators of the £40 TRILLION derivatives markets – the financial weapons of mass destruction - to be totally unregulated? It might just have had something to do with the occupant of 10 and 11 Downing Street over these last eleven years.

And in a wider sense of the age of irresponsibility?

I believe the age of irresponsibility is the proposal to spend £40 billion on building new weapons of mass destruction in Scotland.

I believe the age of irresponsibility is the off balance sheet, credit card finance of the PFI.

I believe the age of irresponsibility is financing and keeping troops in an illegal war in Iraq even after the Iraqi government asks us to leave.

Let the message ring out from this conference. We should have an end to the age of irresponsibility – not just in the financial sector but also in the governance of the country.

Sub prime? More like sub Prime Minister.

Delegates, what we need is a new age – an age of responsibility.

A new time for our nation – when we reap our own harvest and ring our own till.

And what is our role in this new age of responsibility? Our role as a Government and our responsibility as a nation?


July was a highlight month for Scotland – a highlight for obvious reasons in Glasgow East with the election of John Mason, the man who has developed an entire new trademark from the thumbs up sign!

But there was another highlight even more important. Unemployment on the International Labour Organisation measurement reached its lowest ever level in Scotland – 4 per cent.

But behind the figures there was worrying news from the business surveys suggesting the credit crunch was about to bite and that has since happened – and big time.

That is why over the summer the Government set its mind to the action we could take within our current responsibilities to maximise jobs and investment.

We accelerated £100 million of capital spending to provide a much needed boost to our housebuilders this year and next.

Fast-tracked investment to add to the billions being spent today across Scotland on capital projects, big and small, – including new schools in Falkirk, Lanarkshire and West Lothian. Projects the length and breadth of Scotland already approved by this government as part of 250 new and refurbished schools we WILL deliver in our first term.

And hospitals. Coming soon the new Southern General Hospital – the largest project in the history of the Scottish health service. To be built, I am proud to say, every single penny with direct public finance.

What a fitting tribute to the sixtieth anniversary year of our health service.

As Scotland’s government our responsibility is to act now and invest for our future.

That is why today work is underway on a crucial part of our successful Commonwealth Games bid, the SNP delivering after 50 years of talking, the completion of the M74 – bringing 1000 welcome jobs at its peak.

And why we are investing to bring our transport infrastructure into the 21st century – the SNP electrifying the rail network across central Scotland; cutting journey times through this fair city of Perth from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness; £200 million of new rolling stock to transform capacity and comfort on the railways.

Record capital investment, delivering jobs in Scotland today and well into the future. And after the excess of PFI, real value for money through the Scottish Futures Trust.

The right choice for today, and wise choices for our future.

Our role must also be to support Scotland’s wealth creators – the people and the companies that will form the core of our recovery and economic resillience.

Delegates, as a party we have long supported the thousands of small Scottish businesses that form the life blood of our economy.

This year tens of thousands of Scottish business saw their rates bill slashed by the SNP. Next year we will extend it further boosting the high streets and main streets of Scotland.

And we will do more.

Big contracts should not just be for big companies.

We have been determined to open up access to government contracts to our small and medium sized businesses.

This summer we developed an online contracts portal to enable this to happen.

I can now tell conference that no less than 10,000 suppliers have registered and we have advertised £1.5 billion of contracts to date.

The Scottish government - now open for Scotland’s small businesses.

Delegates, this is a government that works with the people and for the people. A government and party that is on Scotland’s side.

We are working to ensure our economy is best placed to weather the financial storm and well positioned for recovery.

And we are also working to protect households across Scotland.

We are the party of the home and the high street.

Already we have, with our local authority partners, delivered a freeze in the Council Tax this year and we are phasing out prescription charges.

Two measures that leave more money in the pockets of families in all parts of our country.

And we are doing more.

John Swinney has confirmed that resources will be available to freeze the Council Tax for the next two years – a measure that will ease the pressure on family budgets on the way to the abolition of the hated council tax.

And today, I can announce new help for hard-pressed homeowners, with an extension of our shared equity scheme for first time buyers. And to allow us to give more young Scots the opportunity of a new, affordable home, we plan to increase the money available for this important initiative by 150% from £24 million to £60 million.

This will help, not only first-time buyers, but also families currently struggling to sell their homes.

It will provide much needed demand in our housing market, jobs, homes and hope.

And, for next year, we will expand the scheme from the current 10 Scottish local authority areas to cover the whole country – bringing in towns and cities from Glasgow and Dundee to Stranraer, Falkirk and Glenrothes.

It is the action of the party of the home and the high street - ready able and willing to help where we can – SNP on your side.

And as Scotland’s party we will continue to demand that Scotland gets the fair deal to which we are entitled.

We have identified £1 billion of Scotland’s money that should be released right now to invest in services and jobs in our country.

A billion pound is a lot of cash, a big number – so let us examine just one part of it - the £120 million of Scottish money from the Fossil Fuel Levy.

Today, this £120 million sits, untouched and untouchable, in an Ofgem bank account in London. Lost investment because of daft accounting rules.

Earlier this week I visited Tullis Russell in Glenrothes, where they will be soon building a new bio-mass plant – an energy source for the company itself, but also a plant that could power every home in Fife. That plant will reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions by some 250,000 tonnes a year AND it will give Tullis Russell a competitive edge in terms of energy supply and energy cost. It is a project that creates new jobs and secures 550. It is a great company, 200 years old, Trust owned and profit shared.

It is exactly this sort of win win win that the Scottish Government is focused on creating across Scotland and we are supporting that project to the tune of £8 million.

The concept of renewable energy applied to major industrial plants is an example of how we can harness the great resources of Scotland to power the future.

We could help finance 15 projects on the scale of Tullis Russell across Scotland from the Ofgem money – giving Scottish companies energy security, a competitive edge, making and protecting jobs and cutting our CO2 emissions.

And this win, win, win for Scotland has been met thus far by a no, no, no from the London exchequer.

Delegates, the reason that the SNP is trusted by the people is that they know in good times and in tough times Scotland’s party puts Scotland first and will not take no for an answer.

We accept our responsibilities and we fight for Scotland’s rights.

But let us be clear what is needed right now from the government in London to avoid our nation being dragged into a deep recession – action from those who currently have responsibility for economic management.

We demand further and deep cuts in interest rates

Lower tax on energy bills over this winter

And a programme of capital investment in expanded public works

Three clear steps – action that if taken today will save families from greater economic pain tomorrow.

And as we cast an eye to the years ahead we have strong foundations here in Scotland to build on.

We have great strengths and many advantages.

As the storm clouds clear – and they will – there is the prospect of a much brighter future.

A summer of uncertainty in the markets was matched by a summer of success for Scotland’s renewables industry – with investment worth £1 billion in the last three months alone.

If this is what we can do in a time of global slowdown, just think what more we can achieve in the months and years to come.

The opportunity is as big as our ambition.

We are proud to have the support of National Geographic on the Saltire Prize – the world’s largest innovation prize for marine renewables.

And when we launched the Saltire Prize at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, they hailed it as a prime example of how “a small country can make a big impact on a global challenge.”

We will be setting out the details of the challenge as part of this year’s celebration of St Andrew’s Day, but I am delighted to announce today that Professor Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has agreed to join the Saltire Prize Committee.

Delegates, Professor Pachauri is a hugely significant figure in the international battle to tackle climate change, and along with the other members of the IPPC, a Nobel Prize winner.

It is an honour that he is part of this nation’s efforts to deliver a step change in renewable energy generation from the waves and the tides, for the benefit of the whole world

We can lead the world in marine renewable energy and not only lead the world but lead IN the world.

As part of our partnership with the nation and people of Malawi, we will be supporting the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute with a £340,000 grant as they work to promote sustainable communities, including the use of ethical bio-fuels.

By supporting the development of renewable energy in Malawi, we are contributing to the wider global battle to tackle climate change and doing so in a way that protects, rather than threatens, people’s food security.

It is in these ways that Scotland can step up to meet the many challenges that face our planet.

In our new Scotland, gone will be the old ways of illegal wars and weapons of mass destruction.

And in its place our new age of responsibility – at home and abroad.

A nation that takes responsibility for our own success and our own future.

And as a nation, our strength is not only in our renewables sector. In the past 6 months Scottish manufacturing companies have won £1.2 billion of major contracts.

In engineering and electronics – aerospace and pharmaceuticals. Companies like Aberdeen’s Wood Group, or Galashiel’s Pro-Strakan, Clyde Blowers or Alexander Dennis – winning contracts in America, Norway, Italy, Ireland, the Gulf and many more.

Scottish companies with global reach and, even in these difficult times, global success stories.

Companies building on Scotland’s comparative advantages.

In life sciences Scottish research is opening up the prospect of cures for even the worst of diseases. In the last three months announced from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

Our Universities are co-operating to provide the critical mass of graduates to attract the mightiest pharmaceutical companies in the world and your Government is facilitating the rapid growth of the sector.

Delegates it is said that Scotland “invented the modern world” – not said by a Scot but by the American Arthur Herman in the book of that name – the innovation that we celebrate in Homecoming.

I am not and have never been a ‘wha’s like us’ sort of person. I am well aware of our nation’s faults and shortcomings – and this administration is tackling one or two of them.

But equally I am well aware of the nation’s abilities, strengths and capacity to imagine the future.

And I will not have this country’s potential traduced by unionist political self interest. People who would sell their country short.

Their position is that the nation which invented the modern world is incapable of governing itself successfully. It is a ludicrous demeaning proposition – out of date and out of time.

Delegates, prosperity will come when we make the most of all these national strengths and assets.

Something the London Government will never do or even allow us to do.

So, in this age of global uncertainty we know where the correct path for Scotland lies.

Across Scotland we see a more confident nation – a nation that is ready to face any challenge.

A nation whose destiny is independence.

The new age of responsibility will usher in that new Scotland.


Al Iguana said...

so when are Welsh politicians going to have the vision and balls to stand up and give such a speech? If anyone even dares criticise London they are branded a racist and holding Wales back. Rubbish. It's time for Welsh politicians to call a spade a spade. Enough of the niceties.

Anonymous said...

Come off it Al. I am anti-devolution and anti-independence and have been invited by devolutionists on a number of occasions to leave my home in Wales and have been deemed to be a racist as I have no wish for an independent Wales.

Pots, kettles, black.

Anonymous said...

P*ss of you unionist scum bag Anonymous 1. Leave Wales then you traitor, go live in f*cking England if that's the country you love so much.

alanindyfed said...

I may agree, but comments like this do not enhance the tone of this blog ;-(

anonymous 1. said...

So now the dark underbelly of Plaid Cymru's Welsh Nationalism shows itself for what it really is.

A clearly racist organisation with an obvious desire to engage in their form of ethnic cleansing and the Balkanisation of Wales.

alanindyfed said...

I may agree, but comments like this do not enhance the tone of this blog ;-(

Anonymous 1. says....

Yes Alan, you may agree but they certainly show the true sub-agenda of your activities.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Welsh people will disagree with you and your anonymous friend.

Many thanks.

alanindyfed said...

What you say is absolute rubbish and you know it. Stop attempting to mislead by your scare-mongering comments.

kerdasi amaq said...

I'd say ignore twits like anonymous 1. What Welsh nationalists need to do is to find ways to build up their country, provide jobs, housing and business opportunities to nationally minded Welsh people, so that English barnacles like anon 1 become an insignificant minority.

nitrotab said...

@ Anon 1,

How any Welshman could favor being controlled and dominated by a larger, bullying and corrupt neighboring country is beyond me.

Why do you (and people like you) dislike your own country, culture and heritage so much?

Just think of what could be if we were unshackled from England.

nitrotab said...

And besides Anon 1, who's to say that Plaid Cymru would stay in power forever if Wales were to become independent? Other political parties would form, maybe even ones that you would be in favor of perhaps?