Friends, five years ago I came to this conference, seeking to win the leadership of our party in Scotland. We’d just had our worst ever Scottish election result on the back of two decades of decline. As career moves went, the omens didn’t look exactly ideal. We were being kicked around by our opponents. And the media was calling us a corpse that wouldn’t twitch. And that was on a good day. But conference, you always kept the faith. When I argued we could win again as Conservatives, you granted me the privilege of allowing me to lead. We weren’t being credited with much in the way of prospects but we had our values, we had heart and we had belief. And five years on, I’m here to give you the good news – the Scottish Conservatives are back as a fighting force once again.
More than double our number of MSPs. Leapfrogging Labour and consigning them to 3rd for the first time in six decades. Standing up to the SNP. Being the strong opposition Scotland so desperately needs. From the Borders to Banff, we are showing that there is another way. A better way. One which seeks not to stoke divisions or split our country, but one which knuckles down and gets on with the job.
And we are not done yet. Not by a long shot. Next year every council seat in Scotland is up for grabs and we will deliver the best Conservative result since devolution. We won’t be satisfied until we have a Conservative in and working hard on the ground in every community in Scotland. It’s not leaders that turn results around; it’s teams. And the team we’re building in Scotland makes me so proud to lead it. The torch is being passed to the next generation. In parliament we’ve now got everyone from Olympic athletes to university professors, soldiers, farmers, teachers and third sector workers and we want that same spread – from every walk of life – in our town halls, too. We’re not hiding any more, conference.
We’re out and proud. We are winning support from all parts of Scotland. So I say to those who believe in service, in community, in country; let the Scottish Conservative party be your home.
I am aware how Scottish politics can sometimes look. You see Nicola Sturgeon on the TV most weeks telling you how Scotland is up in arms – again.…threatening the break-up of Britain. Asserting independence is closer now than ever before. Declaring separation is somehow inevitable. Today, speaking to people here from across the UK, I want to make this clear. Don’t believe a word of it. There is nothing inevitable about the break-up of this great nation…and I for one will fight it every inch and so will thousands with me. The SNP doesn’t speak for all of Scotland. And nor does it have the right to. Every nation is bigger than any one party – bigger than any one person. And Scotland is bigger, more varied, more complex than the nation the SNP would like to pretend. So, next time you see Nicola Sturgeon picking a fight, or trying to claim the United Kingdom is over – Remember, she does not speak for the country. And, when she threatens to put yet another divisive referendum back on the table, the nation is not behind her. She’s not speaking for the majority. Because the majority of us want to move on.
The majority have no wish to return to the divisions of the past – we want to seize the opportunities of the future. Most Scots have had enough. And they are telling her – for pity’s sake, First Minister, let – this – go.
The problem, of course, is that the SNP isn’t listening. Instead, they’re determined to keep the divisions over the last few years alive. Now, I’m often accused by those same opponents –those ardent separatists – that I bang on about independence and the Union as much as they do. Well, for so long as the SNP keeps this alive – then so be it. Because the Union matters so much. It matters for the economic stability and jobs that our partnership brings. It matters for the defence and security of our country. It matters because of the common bonds we share right across this United Kingdom. And it matters perhaps even more so now that we are leaving the European Union. Now, you all know where I stood in the referendum in June. But I tell you this: I did not vote Remain to see my vote co-opted into a fresh SNP independence drive. And I can tell you something else: whatever questions Brexit raises, none of them – not a single one – is answered destroying our own union of nations…To read the full speech on the Union, Ruths drive and amazing leadership click below: