Monday, 14 March 2011

Voting the SNP Back into Government

Nicola Sturgeon addresses SNP conference

Addressing the SNP Conference in Glasgow today the Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon MSP said that more than ever the SNP needs to win the election for the sake of future generations of Scots who have a right to grow up in a country that does not doubt its ability to be independent.
Ms Sturgeon said:
"Fellow nationalists,

"It's an honour to be speaking to you here in the great city of Glasgow. The city that I am proud to represent.

"Four years ago, we also met here in Glasgow, just across the river in Govan.

"A few weeks later, we won Govan - our first ever General Election victory in the city of Glasgow.

"At this election, the Govan name disappears and a new constituency, Glasgow Southside takes its place.

"But let me promise you this. The constituency's name might change but its colour on the electoral map is going to stay the same - because I intend to win it, again, for the SNP.

"And let me send this message to our opponents. Our aim in Glasgow at this election is not just to hold what we have. We aim to win more votes and more seats. And where better to start than here in this constituency of Glasgow Kelvin. We need a swing here of just 2%.

"Victory is well within our grasp. So let us wish Sandra White every success as she seeks to paint more bright yellow on the map of Glasgow.


"The SNP is good for Glasgow. I am proud of what we have achieved.

"Under Labour, the M74 extension was the road to nowhere. It is now being completed by our SNP government.

"We've provided more investment in housing in Glasgow than Labour did.

"And we are building a new Southern General hospital, the biggest hospital building project in the UK - and we are funding it, not by the rip-off PFI so loved by Labour, but 100% from public funds.

"Yes, our government has delivered for Glasgow. But there is so much more to do.

"When we took office, we set ourselves the task of improving the life chances of children in their very earliest years.

"That is the key to breaking the cycle of deprivation.

"For the last couple of years we have been piloting an innovative approach pioneered in the United States. Family Nurse Partnerships provide young mothers and fathers with intensive nursing support for the six months before their baby is born and for the two years after. Its aim is to equip these young parents with the right skills to bring their children up well and to help them as parents get back into education or employment."

"It is a scheme that has been proven to work.

"Today I can announce that we are planning to fund Family Nurse Partnerships here in Glasgow. We will invest an extra £1m to help young parents and their babies get the best start in life.

"Investing in Scotland's future - that is what the SNP is all about.


"Our government has been good for Glasgow and it has been good for Scotland.

"We have faced many challenges over these past four years. The attack on Glasgow airport, a flu pandemic, a global recession that has taken its toll at home. Even the weather has tested our mettle!

"But as a government we have stood up to these challenges. We have shown leadership, competence, the humility to learn lessons, and the ability to take the right decisions to get our country through tough times.

"The action we have taken has made a real difference to hundreds of thousands of lives in Scotland.

"It is easy, sometimes, just to take for granted all that we have achieved.

"But the simple truth is that none of it would have happened if four years ago the people of Scotland hadn't placed their trust in the SNP.

"And delegates, make no mistake, the only way - the only way - for Scotland to protect that progress now is to vote SNP again at this election.

"Let us think just for a moment of just some of those achievements and what they mean to people all over our country.

"John Swinney has frozen the council tax for four years. Families who saw their bills rise by 100% under the Tories and Labour have saved more than £300.

"And, delegates, we will freeze the council tax again. That is a very good reason to re-elect an SNP government

"Kenny MacAskill has put 1,000 more police on our streets and reduced crime to a 32 year low.

"And we will keep those extra bobbies on the beat. Another good reason to re-elect an SNP government.

"Mike Russell has ensured that in Scotland access to university is based on your ability to learn, not on your ability to pay. Your first SNP government abolished the Labour/Liberal tuition fee. So let this guarantee ring out from our conference today - a re-elected SNP government will keep education free.

"And Richard Lochhead has stood up for our farmers and fisherman, refusing to let Scotland be sidelined in Europe and making sure - for the very first time - that our voice is heard.

"And, delegates, in our next term of office, we intend to have that independence referendum, to give the Scottish people the right to choose their own future and make sure that our ministers can sit at the top tables of Europe as representatives of an independent Scottish government.

"Delegates, these are all very good reasons to re-elect our SNP government.

"And they are not the only ones.

"I am proud to be part of a government that has delivered the lowest NHS waiting times on record. A government that has more than halved the rate of infections in our hospitals.

"A government that on the 1st of April this year will abolish prescription charges and herald in a new era of health care free at the point of need.


"The memory will live with me forever of the day I knew, beyond any doubt, that prescription charges should be abolished. It was when I spoke to a woman here in Glasgow with Parkinson's Disease and she told of the times she'd had to choose between paying for her medicines and putting food on the table.

"Friends, that is not the Scotland we want to live in.  Even in these tough times, we are a rich country. Abolishing prescription charges will make us a richer society.

"And that is why it is the right thing to do.

"And on the NHS let me make this promise too.

"An SNP government will always protect our National Health Service. We will protect it's budget. Our commitment to no compulsory redundancies will protect NHS staff. And we will protect our health service from the Tory privatisation that is about to do it so much damage south of the border.

"So mark my words, with the SNP, the Scottish NHS will always be a public service.


"I am proud to be part of a government that has made so much progress.

"And I am very proud to be in a government led by a First Minister who is quite simply head and shoulders above any of the other contenders for that job.

"In these last four years, Alex Salmond has led Scotland with passion and with skill.

"He has put our nation on the map as a world leader in green energy and he has championed our interests at home and abroad.

"Alex Salmond is a leader worthy of the name. A leader with ambition for Scotland written into his DNA.

"So I know I speak for every one of you when I say that it will be an honour to ask the people of Scotland to re-elect Alex Salmond as First Minister.

"Delegates, we have every reason to look forward to this election with confidence.

"In the past, Labour would say we lacked the experience to govern.

"Well, not any more. That has changed forever.

"In fact, the roles have now reversed.

"Over these last four years, we have proven our ability to govern.

"What is in doubt is whether Labour is up to the job. Time and again, it is Labour's fitness to govern that has been called into question.

"And nothing - nothing - demonstrated that more than their disgraceful conduct over minimum pricing for alcohol.

"Alcohol misuse holds us back. 3000 deaths a year, 40,000 hospital admissions. Countless alcohol-related crimes in communities up and down this country. We all pay the price.

"Faced with the enormity of that challenge, we acted like a government should. We put the national interest before party politics.

"We won the backing of doctors, nurses, the police, children's charities, churches, publicans - all of those who work on the frontline and see day and daily the damage cheap booze is doing to our country.

"But Labour - even though they knew it was the right thing to do - voted it down.

"The party of the smoking ban ducked the alcohol challenge.

"Labour put party politics before the public health of our country and they should be ashamed of themselves.

"But, delegates, minimum pricing is the right thing to do. Other countries are now taking the action that the opposition here in Scotland blocked. Just this week, the Northern Ireland government announced plans to introduce minimum pricing there.

"We cannot afford to let Scotland lag behind.

"So, I can announce today that a re-elected SNP government will, in our first legislative programme, re-introduce a Minimum Pricing Bill.


"Labour simply hasn't earned the right to govern.

"It is our job to make sure they don't get the chance.

"We will do that by campaigning on the quality of our team and the strength of our record.

"And we will do it by having the right ideas to take Scotland forward.

"Our achievements in government are many and we ask the Scottish people to re-elect us so that we can build on them.

"In the NHS, one of the achievements I am proud of is our success in reducing waiting times for cancer patients.

"In 2001, Labour set a target for cancer patients to start their treatment within 62 days of being referred by their GP.

"During their six remaining years in office, Labour never once met that target. They didn't even come close.

"Our government, within 18 months of taking office, did meet that target and we have never failed to meet it since.

"In fact, we went further and set a new 31 day target. We met that a year ahead of schedule.

"Delegates, when it comes to cancer waiting times, Labour failed - the SNP has delivered.

"But we need to be raise our game even further and so today I am signalling a major new front in our battle against cancer.

"Just like the rest of the UK, Scotland still lags behind other European countries in cancer survival.

"That is because too many people are already in the advanced stages of the disease before they even see a doctor.

"So I can announce today that a re-elected SNP government will keep waiting times down, but we will also launch a national initiative to improve the early detection of cancer.

"The 'Detect Cancer Early' initiative will be backed by £30m from the extra £1billion we have already committed to the health budget over the next four years.

"By raising cancer awareness and significantly increasing diagnostic capacity in the NHS, we plan to increase by 25% the number of Scots diagnosed in the first stage of cancer.

"We will start with the three big cancers - lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

"And let me spell out what that means.

"If successful, this initiative can save more than 300 lives every year.


"That is a prize worth striving for.


"We have the team, we have the record and we have the policies to win this election.

"And best of all, we have a compelling vision for our country's future.

"At the heart of that vision is our commitment to fairness and social justice.

"We live in tough times - everybody knows that.

"But they also know we can get through these tough times if we all pull together.

"The other parties have abandoned the fairness agenda.

"The Liberals  - they abandoned fairness the minute they decided to put the Tories into government and do the polar opposite of what they had promised in opposition and they will not be forgiven.

"Labour opposed the council tax freeze. And when we proposed a small levy on the biggest retail businesses to help protect public services, Labour ganged up with the Tories to block it.

"And we know the Tories have never cared much for fairness. We saw that again this week as they squared up for an assault on the pensions of ordinary workers while shamefully allowing bankers to waltz off with multi-million pound bonuses.


"The SNP commitment to fairness runs deep and it runs strong.

"Fairness drives our determination to ensure that we don't let future generations pay the price of recession. 50,000 apprenticeships and training places will help to give young people the start they deserve.

"Fairness drives our help for small businesses as well. The small business bonus has helped level the playing field for 80,000 small businesses and protect thousands of jobs. We will invest £450m to keep the small business bonus because, delegates, we are on the side of the small enterprises that drive our economy forward.

"It is our belief in fairness that says that older people - those who laid the foundations that we build on today - deserve dignity and peace of mind in old age. And that is why our government will continue to protect free personal care for the elderly.

"And, delegates, it is our commitment to fairness, justice and equality that drives our belief in independence for Scotland.

"We are ambitious for this country of ours. We won't accept second best. We are determined to take down the barriers that hold us back so that we can, as individuals, families, communities and, as a nation, fulfil our potential.

"The other parties talk down Scotland's potential.

"But we know that whether you are a big country or a small one, whether you live in good times or in bad, it is always better to be in the driving seat of your own destiny than to be dependent on decisions taken elsewhere.

"You simply cannot imagine anyone in Norway agreeing to swap their oil fund for a swindle that sees the UK Treasury take their oil revenues and impose some of the highest fuel costs in Europe in return. That is a scandal.

"Fairness, justice and equality - these principles are the very essence of independence and that is why we are determined to win it for our country.


"Four years ago, when we met here in Glasgow, we were working hard to win, we wanted to win, we believed we could win.

"But we had never won a national election before. So we didn't KNOW we could win.

"We do now. And that makes all the difference.

"My message to you as we leave this conference today is this. Be proud of this first SNP Government.

"We are a Government of achievement. We have helped individuals and families the length and breath of Scotland. We are a hard working, competent government that has put all of our hapless predecessors to shame. We are a government that has put principle and hope ahead of cynicism and despair.

"The question for us today is do we have the will to win this election and get our government re-elected. And the answer is yes we do.

"And let me tell you what gives us that will to win. The energy to always knock one more door, stuff one more envelope, deliver one more leaflet.

"It is the knowledge that we don't do it for its own sake. I look at Labour today and they clearly want to win. They want the trappings of office. But I have no idea what they want to do with the power that winning would bring. I know what they are against but I don't know what Labour stands for.


"We are so very different to that. Winning power for us is always - must always - be for a purpose.

"We need to win this election for Scotland's sake.

"We need to do it for the pensioner who is scared stiff of council tax going up again.

"For the cancer sufferer who doesn't want to go back to paying prescription charges.

"For the communities all over Scotland who want the extra police officers to stay on their streets.

"We need to do it for the students from ordinary families who know they wouldn't stand a chance of fulfilling their dream of university if they had to pay tuition fees.

"And, more than ever, we need to win this election for the sake of future generations of Scots who have a right to grow up in a country that does not doubt its ability to be independent.

"A country that has the confidence and the freedom to make decisions for itself. That doesn't have to worry about the size of the handout from London. A country that makes its own luck and earns its own wealth.

"A Scotland that can stand tall with the best of the rest and say 'we are equal'.

"Fellow nationalists, we need to win this election to keep our nation moving forward. To keep us on the right track. To keep Scotland on the road to independence.

"That is what is at stake.

"So let us go out there, let us campaign like we have never campaigned before and and let us win this election for Scotland."

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