Saturday, 30 November 2019 14:33

First Minister on St Andrews day, speech

Many thanks for joining me here in St Andrews - on St Andrews Day.

Our thoughts today of course are very much with those affected by yesterday’s horrific terrorist attack in London.

We think of all those who sustained injury and, especially, of the families of those who lost their lives. There are no words that can ease the pain that they are feeling.

We also pay tribute to the bravery of ordinary members of the public who risked their own lives to protect others - demonstrating in the process all that is good and decent in humanity.

And we thank the emergency services whose professionalism and courage is a source of constant inspiration.

Obviously, in the aftermath of an atrocity like this, our minds and hearts are first and foremost with those whose lives have been shattered.

But we should also remember that terrorists want to make us scared and undermine the democracy we cherish.

So, especially now and even as we grieve, we must resolve to show democracy’s strength and resilience.

Everyone here will be familiar with the Declaration of Arbroath – one of the most famous statements of self-determination ever written.

The declaration said the people of Scotland would be under the protection of “the most gentle St Andrew” as “their patron forever”.

Next year will be the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and of St Andrew officially becoming Scotland’s patron saint.

Wouldn’t it be fitting for modern Scotland to declare our wish to join the independent countries of the world during that 700th anniversary.

But today I have a more immediate date in mind.

It is now less than two weeks until the general election on December 12.

All elections are important – but this one really matters.

The future of Scotland is on the line.

At stake are the opportunities and life chances of this and future generations.

In this election people in Scotland are being asked a fundamental question.

Who should decide our future – the people who live here or Boris Johnson?

The answer to that question will have long-term consequences for the kind of country we will be.

It seems right that on this, the day of Scotland’s patron saint, we ask ourselves how we can build that better, fairer Scotland that we know is possible.

So today I want to talk about the SNP’s vision for Scotland and the practical action we are taking to improve people’s lives – and contrast that with the future the Conservatives have in store for us.

We have right now a Westminster system that leads to Tory governments we in Scotland don’t vote for - imposing policies, like Brexit, that do us harm.

A vote for the SNP in this election is a vote to escape Brexit.

It is a vote to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.

Brexit is just the latest - albeit extreme example - of Westminster Tory governments damaging jobs, living standards and public services.

The effect on the health service will be particularly severe.

The ideals of the NHS are a demonstration of the kind of country we aspire to be – collective care and compassion for one another.

A sense of solidarity and contributing to something bigger than ourselves.

And a statement that everyone is entitled to health treatment free at the point of use.

All health services are facing pressures.

Scotland is no different.

In government the SNP is investing record amounts.

Despite cuts from Westminster, we’re spending £136 per head more than England on front-line health services.

We’ve made prescriptions free.

And there are more consultants and more nurses than when we took office.

In all this, we’ve protected Scotland’s NHS from the creeping privatisation we’ve seen the Tories impose south of the border.

But make no mistake - Brexit is the biggest threat to Scotland’s NHS since it was founded just over 70 years ago.

It is a real and present danger to our precious, publicly run health service.

Brexit will make it harder to attract NHS staff from Europe.

The economy will slow-down, putting increased pressure on NHS budgets.

Compared with EU membership the deal Boris Johnson wants could cut Scotland’s national income by £9 billion by the end of the next decade.

And if Scotland and the UK is taken out of the EU with no trade deal at all next year – which is looking increasingly likely – the cost could be £12.7 billion.

That’s the equivalent of around £2,300 per person in Scotland.

US drugs firms want “full market access” to the NHS in any Tory-Trump trade deal – raising the prices the health service has to pay.

The Foreign Secretary has even complained that Scotland has too many nurses and ambulance staff compared with the rest of the UK.

This all adds up to a sustained Tory assault on Scotland’s health service.

The NHS will never be safe in Tory hands.

In Scotland the SNP is the challenger to the Tories in all 13 seats they hold.

So in Scotland only a vote for the SNP can lock the Tories out of office and protect our NHS from Boris Johnson.

On December the 12 those who want a hard Brexit must be stopped before they do lasting harm to Scotland.

And that can only happen by voting for the SNP.

The SNP will work with other parties to introduce an NHS Protection Act.

This would stop any UK Government from selling off the NHS.

It would ensure that any goods or services that are procured by the NHS couldn’t be subject to any future ‘investment protection mechanisms’ or ‘investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms.

As a result, the new law would force any future UK government to have these explicit protections and exemptions on the face of any future trade agreements.

Any proposed agreements without these protections could not be considered for approval by either the UK government or UK parliament.

And there will be a double-lock to protect Scotland’s NHS.

The NHS Protection Act will also require the explicit consent of the Scottish Parliament before any new trade deal can be ratified.

So, as always, the SNP will do all we can for Scotland.

But people in Scotland know from bitter experience that Westminster cannot be trusted.

In this election we in Scotland can do our bit to defeat the Tories and deny them the majority they crave.

But as so often in the past, after December 12 Scotland could once again be facing a dangerous Tory government we did not vote for.

It will be a Tory government unlike any we have seen before.

It won’t just be a threat to the NHS.

It will put our economy, jobs and living standards at risk.

In no sense will Brexit be done.

The whole future relationship on trade, security, migration, fishing and a host of other issues has still to be negotiated.

The Westminster chaos will continue.

But the difference is that the ultra-Brexiteers will feel free to put into practice their right-wing vision.

They look to Donald Trump’s America, not Europe’s social model, as their inspiration.

Outside the EU they will feel free to tear up workers’ rights, environmental and food standards.

Let’s never forget that the leading Brexit supporter, Lord Lawson, hailed the result of the EU referendum as a historic opportunity to finish the job Margaret Thatcher started.

On our national patron saint’s day we owe it to the people of Scotland to set out a different vision for Scotland.

It is of a country where everyone can grow up believing in a sense of possibility.

That means a more prosperous and a more equal Scotland.

In government the SNP is working hard to bring about that better Scotland.

We’ve already abolished tuition fees.

We’ve set up a genuinely progressive tax system, which helps low paid and middle- income earners.

We’re setting up a National Investment Bank.

We’ve kept the water industry in public hands.

While the Tories have been cutting police numbers in England, we’ve increased the number of police officers by more than 1,000.

We’ve massively out-stripped the rest of the UK in social and council house building.

And we are helping with the cost of living.

The SNP is investing in a huge expansion of early learning and childcare for vulnerable 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.

This will be introduced in full next year, saving families up to £4,500 per child, per year.

With limited powers we have also established a social security system with dignity and fairness at its heart.

We’re introducing a new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment for low income households by the end of next year - it will lift 30,000 children out of poverty when fully implemented.

In this election we’ve set out what we will demand on behalf of the people if the SNP holds the balance of power.

An end to austerity.

A £4 billion boost for Scotland’s NHS.

Greatly enhanced maternity and parental leave.

More action on climate change.

The end of the two child cap on tax credits and associated rape clause.

These, and a range of other measures, are practical benefits to people’s lives that the SNP will seek to deliver through a progressive alliance.

But they also speak to our values and demonstrate the kind of country we are seeking to build.

It is a country where first and foremost the decisions about Scotland’s future should be taken by the people who care most about Scotland - and that’s the people who live here.

That is the fundamental point of independence – the ability to take our own decisions to build a better Scotland.

And by that, I mean decisions taken by everyone who lives here, wherever they come from.

Scotland urgently needs the powers to implement a migration policy tailored to our needs.

All of the increase in Scotland’s population over the next 25 years is predicted to come from migration.

We need to keep attracting people to Scotland, and to keep providing opportunities for people born here, in order to grow our economy, provide staffing for our public services and to raise the tax revenue needed for the NHS and other services.

It’s essential to maintain our world-class universities – such as St Andrews.

If we are forced out of the EU with the end of freedom of movement that job will
become so much harder.

But this isn’t just a matter of economics or public services – vital though those are.

It is about who we are as a country.

People who have come to Scotland – from elsewhere in the UK, from Europe and further afield have enriched our society in so many ways.

Those who have chosen Scotland as their home honour us and we must do everything we can to ensure the message that Scotland is a welcoming country continues to be heard by our fellow EU citizens.

In an independent Scotland control over Scotland’s migration policy will rest with the Scottish Parliament – not Westminster.

The Scottish Parliament will also control all of Scotland’s tax policy – so we can continue the work of building a fairer and more prosperous society.

People in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament will control social security policy.

That means we can stop spending hundreds of millions of pounds mitigating Tory policies that Scotland never voted for and which forces children and others into poverty.

Scotland will have control over our own resources, which means we can create a Net Zero Fund, to help pay for the clean energy transition through investment in areas such as renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture.

We’ll have control over employment policy so we can protect worker’s rights.

We’ll make our own decisions on our European future.

As a member of the EU, Single Market and Customs Union our businesses will be part of the world’s largest trading block.

And as an independent country we will always get the governments we vote for.

Never again could we be subjected to a Tory Westminster government with no mandate in Scotland.

And of course, Boris Johnson will never be Prime Minister of an independent Scotland.

As an independent country we can build that better Scotland we know is possible.

People in Scotland are facing two very different futures.

A future in which Westminster is in control of our lives.

Where a Tory government in the grip of ultra-Brexiteers seeks to impose an ever more unequal society.

Or a future as an independent country in which the people of Scotland are in charge.

A country that offers a fresh start – free from the Westminster chaos and the dangers of right-wing anti-European governments we don’t vote for.

Never have those different futures for Scotland been so stark.

So never has it been so important for people in Scotland to have the opportunity to choose between them.

And that’s why it is so vital for people in this election to protect their right to decide their own future.

The way to protect that right is to vote SNP.

So in these final days of the campaign Scotland’s future really is on the line.

For SNP members and supporters there has never been a more important time to make your voices heard and to campaign.

We need to take our message of hope to every community in Scotland.

Talk to your friends and neighbours and explain what is at stake.

Work as if we are in the early days of a better nation.

This election is Scotland’s opportunity.

It is Scotland’s opportunity to escape Brexit.

To lock the Tories out of government.

To stop Boris Johnson.

And to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.

For the sake of this and of future generations let’s grasp that opportunity.

On December 12, vote SNP.

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