Sunday, 17 October 2010

Alex Salmond - Keynote Speech to Conference

Alex Salmond delivers conference speech - 2006

SNP Leader Alex Salmond MP has delivered his keynote address to the Scottish National Party Conference in Perth. Mr Salmond set out the SNP's ambitions for Scotland as First Minister and why It's Time for an SNP Government.

I was just thinking as I saw Bashir resplendent in the kilt that it is a good job he is not a constituent of Jack Straws.

No Doubt Straw would ask him to remove the kilt as a sign of separateness or perhaps he would feel uncomfortable at the sight of Bashir's knees.

Whoever heard of a Member of Parliament - a Member of Parliament - having the temerity to instruct his constituents on what to wear?

Jack Straw - Alf Garnet without the braces.

There is a deeper point of course. To someone like Straw diversity is a threat. To people like us it is a strength.

Their vision of Britishness is narrow, bland and boring.

Our vision of Scottishness is inclusive, diverse and exciting.

And our Asian community are among the most patriotic Scots in the country. They don't need lectures in dress or in loyalty from the likes of Jack Straw.


Today we ride on the crest of a wave - this time -in our time - there shall be change for Scotland.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Party, the activists, our Council candidates our Parliamentary candidates for all their efforts.

Firstly, however, I would like to acknowledge the ENORMOUS contribution of our political opponents.

I understand that there is a theory abroad, among unionists in Scotland, that a generation ago the SNP planted members in their ranks and now what is happening is that they are all coming out

Now I know this may seem like a conspiracy theory of almost Sheridan proportions but let us consider it - just for a second.

Gordon Brown wants to be British Prime Minister so he tells people to plant a Union Jack in their back garden and that Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland was his favourite football moment.

He's working for us!

Mr McConnell tells STV that there is nothing wrong with independence only the process of getting there. Our leading opponent concedes the fundamental argument of principle.

He's working for us. He's agent McConnell!

Annabelle Goldie says that they - the Tories - would try to prop up a Labour Government in Holyrood. Hey that will send the Tories flocking to the polls!

She must be working for us.

2/3 of Liberals want a referendum on Scottish independence so Nicol Stephen says we can't have one - he is definitely working for us.

Agent Brown, agent McConnell, agent Goldie and agent Stephen - just keep on doing what you are doing.

Our opponents are doing their best but what happens from now on is really up to us.

We have the ability over the next six months to determine the future of a nation.

The signs are good because it has been a great year for the SNP.

We have won 10 out of the 20 local Government by elections with swings big enough to win the Scottish elections - Loanhead, Stirling, Dumbarton, Glasgow and last week the best yet in Markinch.

Right next door to Gordon Brown's seat John Beare won Markinch and Woodside with a swing of 31 per cent.

And I can report that I did not see a single Union Jack flying in the back gardens of Markinch.

Maybe old Gordon should be less concerned about what is happening in peoples' back gardens and more worried about what is happening in his own backyard.

We won the Moray by election and in an unprecedented way for a defending party. Richard Lochhead increased our vote and our majority.

The Tories and Liberals said that they would beat us. We ended up with more votes than they did put together.

The Liberals were caught out by the local paper playing dirty pool and the Tories ah weel the Tories!

The late Donnie Stewart had them sussed. He said the Tories in Scotland were like the American bison.

We might see the occasional one or two dotted about here and there but the great herds are gone forever!

But best of all this year independence is now at a record high in terms of public support. And we are gaining coverts to the cause.

An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. Bitter sweet, Military intelligence, compassionate conservative, Labour socialist - that sort of thing.

How about Tory intellectual?

Well the historian Michael Fry is such a figure. He sets out to write a book on the union as a convinced unionist and finishes it as a converted nationalist.

We should welcome such conversions to the cause just as we should be relieved that Michael is not going to join the SNP. Believe me Michael Fry makes Boris Johnson look like a school prefect!

Winning elections, ahead in the polls, independence at record highs - and all of this seven years into devolution which my old friend Lord George Robertson of NATO once said would kill the SNP stone dead.

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Scottish National Party - alive and kicking, alive, kicking and winning.


We are six months away from a date with destiny and we have a great task in hand.

Today I want to spell out just how we are going to achieve that and how we are going to touch the lives of the thousands of people who are waiting - waiting for change.

I spend a great deal of my time, traveling around Scotland, speaking at meetings, canvassing, visits, talking to people.

I am a part of all that I have experienced.

It gives me a feel for what needs to be done in Scotland, why the country is ready for change, why its time for something different and something better.

Recently in Stornoway I visited a fund raising day at Bethesda.

I met a hugely talented accordionist, John Aleck Shaw.

When I left him, he was playing Rowan Tree for me and for the whole gathering - it was a very happy, sunny day.

John Aleck died a few weeks ago.

And the point of the story. Bethesda is a hospice, it allows people to die with dignity in their own communities. And yet the fundraising for this  wonderful work is being jeopardized by a regulation which will prevent it calling itself a hospice.

Delegates we can change that

A few months back I was in Loanhead.touring all three local primary schools with our candidate Owen Thomson. It was an uplifting experience. Primary three were doing their sums buying stuff from the shop. One lad made a range of purchases and was left with 2 pence.

I said to him you won't get much for 2p - what can you buy with 2 pence these days - he looked up at me and said - a bargain!

Our primary education is superb and could get even better with lower class sizes.

We educate more people at primary to a higher standard than most countries. But when we get to secondary school - in years one and two - statistics tell us that we lose many of them, we lose so much human potential. It's not the fault of the teachers but of a system designed for a by gone age.

So why don't we do something about it?

And I don't mean having an English and Arithmetic leaving certificate at 16. Even the First Minister should have worked out it is far too late by then.

We have to make sure that the first years at secondary capture the imagination of all our youngsters. There is an experiment currently in Bathgate which allows a class teacher for pupils having trouble dealing with secondary school.

That is the sort of initiative which could make a real difference to all our young people. We should apply it across the country to make that difference.

Our education system also should be designed to get the very best from pupils from the whole range of talents. That is why we are considering schools with specialism.

It should be possible, within our state sector, to encourage schools to develop specialisms in languages, or science, sport or technology - we could have Hi-tech Highs in Scotland.

There was a time when Scottish education was the best in the world - when other countries modelled their systems on ours.

It's time to lead on education once again.


I meet people in local campaigns - to save local hospital services, local schools even in my constituency at New Deer, their local bank. The ingenuity, the strength that they show in mobilizing opinion. Some times, a few precious times, they are successful, sometimes not.

However, the question is why can't we have political structures, which allow that human ingenuity to contribute to the political process instead of reacting to decisions made elsewhere, delivered from on high.

For example it strikes me that if health boards were directly elected then their members would be less supine in agreeing to the closure of local hospital services.

We must build a political culture which mobilises and enables the human spirit


We are in the business of hope.

To the nurse struggling in the ward... the fisherman worrying about loosing his boat... the young couple trying to get a foot on the housing ladder... the farmer trying to get a start in the industry... the student struggling with loan debt... the shopkeeper trying to compete with the big  battalions.

To these people, and to many more, the message from this conference is - we have heard you, we're coming, and we are bringing hope and change for Scotland,

Because it is time

Two years ago when Nicola and I came to lead this party I told this conference that I was not here to go through the motions - but back to rid Scotland of small minded managerial administration and to deliver a vision capable of touching the very soul of Scotland.

We are not an ordinary political party our objective is to break the power of the unionist parties over the Scottish people.

Today I am the SNP candidate for Gordon, I am standing for first minister and we are running to win.

It is not too long ago that a spirit of optimism was abroad in this country. It is in fact quite recent history.

In 1999 the MSPs were cheered - that's right cheered -into the first Parliament building.

Seven years later Scotland has been let down.

It is not just the track record of the Executive. It is the total lack of ambition. It is what they have NOT done - as well as where they have failed. This lot have raised mediocrity to an art form.

It is summed up in the First Minister's favourite slogan

"Scotland is the best small country in the world".

This one phrase encapsulates everything that is wrong with the First Minister, with the Executive and with our national tourist agency - the only one in the world named after a web site.

It combines the worst of wha's like us with the worst of an inferiority complex.

We are not the best wee wee country in the world - not by any measurement.

Perhaps we could be but not now.

But why should we think of ourselves as a small country.

Do we not remember McDiarmid's words?

"Scotland Small?
Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?
Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliché corner
To a fool who cries 'Nothing but heather!'

Scotland's only small to those who think small.

It's time to think big.

Today I want to give some examples of the big thinking that Scotland needs now on energy and the environment but first let us contrast the imperative to save the planet with the folly of politicians.

Our political opponents claim they are going green - but actions speak louder than words.

The UK has spent £500 million in the last three years developing alternative energies. Seems like loads of money.

In fact it is but one tenth if the spending in the war in Iraq.

So Mr Blair and Mr Brown care so much about the environment that they spend TEN times as much in a wasteful, illegal war.

What sort of mentality is it that spends ten times as much demolishing Iraq as on saving the planet?

David Blunkett says that Gordon Brown only backed Blair on Iraq to save his job.

Brown says no - that he stood shoulder to shoulder with Blair just as Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with Bush.

Either way he is not fit to be Prime Minister.

We went into Iraq as a political misadventure.

We're still in Iraq -and people are still dying- to save the faces of Labour and Tory politicians.

Today the head of the army - the head of the army - has said that in his professional opinion our continued presence in Iraq exacerbates the security position in Iraq and elsewhere.

Finally the truth.

Surely it is time to bring our brave troops home.

To save lives and to allow us to focus resources on what really matters - the big thinking for this century.

Scotland is better placed than just about any country on earth to pioneer clean green energy systems.

But we have to engage the whole population - and we can.

Near Edinburgh there is a small company producing micro wind generators. The Swift System. In Glasgow a company called Windsave has developed a similar product a generator on your house not much bigger than a satellite dish.

They are world leading and already in production. With mass production the cost of each system will reduce to around £1,500.

And they will generate up to 40 per cent of household electricity.

We don't need 10,000 of such sytems or 100,000.

We need a million because we can think big even on micro generation.

And all the Government has to do is to make sure that the financial package is in place. Mobilising the private sector, intervening to help low income households to place these systems - or insulation, or solar heating - in every Scottish household.

And on every school.

What better way to inspire our children to meet the challenge of global warming than to see in action their own school's contribution generating clean, green sustainable power.

And the first people to benefit in this land of energy plenty should be those who currently struggle with fuel poverty.

For this is not just an energy question but a social challenge - a challenge that the SNP are willing to meet.

Would that not be a real statement of intent - and an infinitely better future for our society than building new and costly, nuclear power stations?


Engaging our people is crucial but we have an array of energy potential.

25 percent of Europe's offshore wind sites - technology already being deployed in the Moray Firth.

25 percent of tidal potential with the Pentland Firth described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power.

However the most immediate and dramatic contribution to reducing carbon emissions can come from carbon capture - locking away CO2 gas back where it came from in oilfields and coalmines.

Right now we have at Peterhead a proposal for the world's first commercial carbon capture, hydrogen power station.

Gas from St Fergus sent to Peterhead, separated into Carbon Dioxide and hydrogen. The hydrogen provides a clean burn power station the CO2 is sent back to the Miller field and produces another 40 million extra barrels of oil.

It is a billion dollar development, planet saving, world leading the first of many. All that is required is a signal from Government that carbon capture will receive the same incentives as onshore wind energy.

We will ensure that Scotland leads the world in carbon capture - it's a big issue, a real development.

But Scotland's potential in clean energy production goes far beyond even those ideas.

30 years ago this country won the natural lottery with the discovery of oil and gas. We still have half of that opportunity left but London has frittered away the benefits of the first generation of oil - and we know from the secret papers released that the process was quite deliberate.

Now we have won the natural lottery again - this time in carbon free energy.

Earlier this year we released an Energy Paper from a team led by Professor Stephen Salter - one of the finest engineers that Scotland has produced.

It shows that in the medium term Scotland could produce up to 5 times our own electricity requirements just as right now we produce 10 times our oil and gas requirements.

To take advantage we will need offshore electricity connections direct to a European Continent desperate for power - a super grid.

I have already raised the prospect with the European Energy Commissioner.

The Scottish Executive hasn't even got to first base.

If we are going to be Europe's clean green energy powerhouse then we need to think big - not act small.

Because Scotland - our infinite Scotland- is not small.


Next month we begin discussions with the civil service on our early programme.

In our first 100 days of Government we will set out a course of action offering opportunity for the young, dignity for the old, and growth in the economy.

We will remove the burden of debt from Scottish resident students and graduates.

We want to re-establish the principle of free education in Scotland but there is an economic reason as well.

Each year 25,000 young people leave Scotland. Recently we have gained many from Poland and the Baltic States and they are very welcome. But inevitably many of them will go home.

Many of our youngsters who leave Scotland don't return which means that we take people through 7 years of primary, 6 years of secondary and often four years of university or college and then lose them...

The financial loss of that river of human potential flowing out of Scotland is measured not in millions but in billions.

And the reason for it. Low growth in Scotland as a result of the deadhand of the British Treasury.

Gordon Brown's proudest boast is that he took the opportunity to gave independence to the bank of England

Delegates our proudest boast is that we will deliver independence and opportunity for the nation of Scotland.

At the very outset of the Parliament every single Party voted to bring in free personal care for the elderly population of Scotland.

Under this Executive that solemn commitment has been turned into a cruel deception with long queues developing before people receive what is meant to be theirs by right and entitlement.

We will introduce an Enquiry into the working of free personal care advised by Professor Stuart Sutherland and we will guarantee full and fair funding.

The SNP are committed to ensuring dignity for our old people.

Opportunity for our young people, dignity for the old and a revitalization of the Scottish economy.

We intend to place the Scottish economy on a path of growth and prosperity.

We intend to reoccupy the town centers of Scotland with thriving new business. That's what our low business rates policy is designed to do.

We intend to give Scottish business a competitive edge. That's what our corporation tax policy is designed to do.

Opportunity for the young, dignity for the old and the revitalisation of the Scottish economy.

And what is this political programme based on - what is the Scotland that we seek.

Our Scottish social democracy is based on three principles.

Firstly that no-one in this world owes Scotland a living. We must have a competitive edge so that we can reap our own harvest and ring our own till.

Under our leadership Scotland will join that arc of prosperity to our east, west and northern shores. Norway, Ireland and Iceland the second, fourth and sixth most prosperous countries in the world, all independent all small, all successful.

Secondly we have to hold society together. In our Scotland everyone will get a square deal, a fair shout and an equal chance, the common weal that is the very essence of Scottishness.

Certainly we will use the power of the market to give Scotland a competitive advantage but we are human beings - we are the masters of markets not their servants.

And our nation shall prosper because we shall be a just nation.

Thirdly we will be a nation which recognizes our international obligations not just to the environment and not least to the world's poorest but also to the rule of law, to humanity and to decency.

We shall reject the hypocrisy of complaining about proliferation while we build up a new generation of nuclear weapons.

We shall not allow our country to be used as a refueling base for bunker busting bombs to kill civilians in the Lebanon or anywhere else.

We shall not engage in illegal conflict and we shall never desert the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament.


We have before us a dramatic six months. The future is ours to mould, ours to build, ours to shape.

I'm told that because of the co-incidence of the Scottish elections with the anniversary of the Treaty of Union that no less than nine books have been written about Scotland's place in the union.

Most even from the most surprising sources are for change but there is one which has been claimed to re-interpret the history of the union.

Apparently the bribes paid were just wee bribes!

The English army at the border was there for purely peacekeeping purposes!

Oh and Robert Burns wasn't really aiming at unionists when he dismissed the parcel of rogues bought and sold for English gold.

By an amazing co-incidence this is the very book from the nine that the BBC has decided to serialize!

Gordon Brown will have it at his bed side beside his copy of "How to be a Prime Minister in Ten Easy Lessons!"

They needn't bother. They can no more stop change in Scotland than Canute stopped the tide in England.

They control only the present, they have little power over the past and none at all over the future.

Or as McDiarmid put it

"For we ha'e faith in Scotland's hidden poo'ers,
The present's theirs, but a' the past and future's oors."

Friends it is time.

Time for change

It's time for Scotland

Now read HERE

No comments: