Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament
Speech to the Scottish Labour Spring Conference
27 March 2010
One thing and one thing alone matters today, tomorrow, and every day over the next
It is that Labour wins the general election and we win it well.
I do not pretend to you that it will be easy.
These are times of great difficulty economically and politically.
As Bobby Kennedy said “All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil
world, but we don't.” But as he then went on to say “if our times are difficult and
perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity”.
Conference, the challenge we have ahead of us is simply to stand up for all that we
believe in, all that we have already achieved, all that we want to see for the Scotland
that we love in this 21st century.
The opportunity we have ahead of us is to defeat again the Tories and their short
sighted, divisive, misguided policies which would turn the clock back to the worst of the
Eighteen months ago when you elected me leader, times were certainly difficult and
The global banking system was teetering on the edge of the abyss and the global
economy with it.
We were in opposition in Holyrood, on the back foot, without a leader, trailing in every
We had just lost Glasgow East to the SNP.
Hard then to see what the opportunity was.
And yet we had the chance there, and then, in the eye of that storm, to remember who
we are and what we stand for.
To find and hold our nerve.
To rededicate ourselves anew to our core purpose.
To draw together and draw strength from within our movement.
To understand that times of crisis can bring clarity and with it, a unity of purpose.
It was a chance we took.
With that unity of purpose we fought in Glenrothes.
And we won. With that unity of purpose we fought Glasgow North East and we won.
With that unity of purpose we fight the SNP day in and day out in Holyrood, and we are
And I tell you today Conference as we have walked that long road back together, so we
will stand together again, and we will fight the Tories in the general election ahead and
we will win.
Already I have been travelling the country and on the streets people have been telling
me in Dumfries, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee that they are behind us. They trust
Labour because they know they can count on us when life gets hard.
It is Labour and Gordon Brown who’ll get us through the tough times.
It is Labour who will protect our public services.
It is Labour who will create jobs and invest in the economy.
It is Labour who will fight crime in our communities.
You know, here in Scotland we do not have to wonder what happens when you let in an
airbrushed politician with photoshopped policies.
We do not have to wonder what happens when you let in someone who will say
anything anytime to anyone to get elected.
We have Alex Salmond.
Students and ex students would have their loans paid off.
Teachers would all keep their jobs.
Pupils would have smaller class sizes.
First time buyers would get grants.
None of that happened.
The SNP local income tax – not local, not based on income, but certainly a massive tax
on hard working families – turned out to have always been a false and cynical promise.
And what about their Futures Trust.
It was a funding body that would match our school and hospital building programme
brick for brick.
It would raise patriotic bonds to build patriotic bridges.
It would modernise Scotland’s infrastructure.
3 years on
It has cost £30 million.
It has not raised a patriotic penny.
And it has not built a single school or hospital.
What it has done is destroy 30,000 construction jobs.
We don’t have to imagine what will happen if we end up with someone who won't invest
in our vital infrastructure.
The SNP cancelled the Edinburgh airport rail link.
Then they cancelled the Glasgow Rail link. Who supported them? The Tories did.
And if George Osborne gets his way he will cancel Labour's high speed rail link too.
We don’t have to imagine what happens when you have someone in charge who
doesn’t care about Scotland’s defence contracts.
Alex Salmond wants Scotland out of Britain and doesn’t care if that means thousands of
jobs out of Rosyth, Faslane, Kinloss, Lossiemouth, Leuchars and the shipyards of the
George Osborne wants the aircraft carriers out of his budget and all of those Scots
would be out of work.
Too many Scots are out of work thanks to SNP decisions without us having to pay the
price for the Tories too.
Last quarter unemployment went down in Britain by 33,000.
But in Scotland it went up by 16,000. In the last few months two out of every three jobs
lost in Britain were lost right here in Scotland.
That’s the Salmond slump.
Scotland is going backwards under Alex Salmond.
He promised to raise us to the economic levels of Ireland and Iceland.
The way he is going he might just do that.
But never underestimate the sweep of the SNP's arc of prosperity this week they told us
it bends now all the way to New Zealand.
Forget the celtic lion.
Now Alex Salmond is the celtic kiwi.
New Zealand should fear for their economy – the SNP’s track record on picking winners
is not good.
When Alex Salmond is down in London this week to meet the Tories and discuss their
economic plans for Scotland he’ll probably pop into the Commons, to vote with Dave
The SNP vote with the Tories two thirds of the time.
But of all the SNP MPs Alex Salmond votes with the Tories the most often.
He seems to make a special effort to get down to London for that purpose.
You know for a fact.
If Alex Salmond was picking Gordon Brown or David Cameron for PM, his fellow Scot
wouldn't get a look in.
Commentators sometimes try to work out which general election the next one is most
like. Is it 1992 all over again? Or a replay of 1997.
Well for the SNP it is 1979.
Everyone should recall what the SNP did the last time there was a hung parliament.
They ushered Margaret Thatcher into Downing Street and brought about a disaster for
On Thursday Alex Salmond called me Jim Murphy’s placeman.
He was probably up all night crafting that brilliant rapier like riposte.
But it is a bit rich coming from the man who would be David Cameron’s doorman.
When Alex Salmond talks of hanging Westminster on a Scottish rope, the rope he is
talking about is a Tory rope.
It is the same Tory rope which hung our mining steel and shipbuilding industries in the
And it is the same Tory rope which would choke off our recovery this time around.
When Alex Salmond talks about making Westminster dance a Scottish jig, it is a Tory
two step he is talking about.
The last time the Tories danced in Scotland they stamped out the hopes of communities
across our country and the aspirations of a whole generation.
And they would trample Scotland’s future into the ground again.
So what has Labour done in Holyrood while the nationalists and the Tories play out this
We stood up for Scotland’s young people and forced through 8000 apprenticeships.
We stood shoulder to shoulder with Michelle Stewart and the cdiff campaigners until
they got their public inquiry.
We campaigned in the parliament and on the streets with John Muir, Christine
Halley,Glynnis Sangster and far too many others who have lost loved ones to knife
We gathered 30,000 signatures demanding jail sentences for knife criminals.
We have supported parents and teachers standing against cuts in their schools and
alongside kinship carers and the families of disabled children as they demand the
support they were promised.
We’ve campaigned with the workers and trade union colleagues at Alexander Dennis
where they should be building the fleet of new modern clean, green buses Scotland
needs instead of working short time because the SNP won’t back them.
Our Scottish Parliament was not created to debate what kind of parliament it should be
but what kind of Scotland it wants to build.
Our politics are rooted in values not identity.
Our beliefs are the beliefs of the people we seek to represent.
Scottish people believe in education.
They believe that every child should leave school able to read and write.
Scottish Labour believes that too and so we will make the recommendations of our
literacy commission a reality.
Scottish people believe in our NHS.
They believe that when you go to hospital you should get better, not worse.
Scottish labour believes that too.
That is why we will make our plans for clean hospitals a reality.
Scottish people believe that they should be safe in their homes and on their streets.
Scottish Labour believes that too.
That is why we will reverse the SNP's backtracking on antisocial behaviour, and ensure
that knife criminals go to jail.
Scottish people believe that the justice system should support the victims of crime.
Scottish labour believes that too.
That is why we will create a victims commissioner.
Scottish people believe that everyone should have the chance of a job, the opportunity
to build a future for themselves, and their families.
Scottish Labour believes that too.
That is why we will guarantee apprenticeships and training for all our young people.
Scottish people believe that you should be treated fairly at work and receive a decent
wage for a days work.
Scottish Labour has always believed that.
That is why we will protect the minimum wage, rights to paid holidays and maternity and
Despite all that we have done we know it is not enough.
Scottish Labour’s focus on reducing Scotland’s big three killers (cancer, heart disease
and stroke) helped to cut deaths among the under-75s from cancer by 15% between
1997 and 2007.
Despite real progress over the past decade, cancer still casts a dark shadow over
Scotland and we believe more needs to be done to reduce cancers in Scotland.
Cancer patients in Scotland should have free prescriptions now, as they do in England
And we should move quickly to cut test waiting times where we are too far behind other
parts of the country.
That is why Scottish Labour will introduce a new right halving the time from one month
to two weeks to see a cancer specialist and get results.
It is our job, our mission to make a reality of the values that Scotland shares. Values
shared with people across Britain, across Europe, across the world.
Stronger together, weaker apart.
It has always been this way and those values make me proud.
I am proud of our country, proud of our people, proud of our history, proud of our
potential, proud of our place in this world.
I am proudest when we look outwards, defining ourselves by who we want to be rather
than by who we are not.
I am proud of our Labour family, the great Scottish Labour politicians of our past Keir
Hardie, Arthur Henderson, Jimmy Maxton, John Wheatley, Tom Johnston, JP
Mackintosh, John Smith, Donald Dewar.
And conference I am proud of the Scottish Labour politicians of the present who have
led this country through the gravest of economic crises.
When great certainties become vital dilemmas, as our Scottish banks, for centuries
steadfast symbols of Scottish probity did, when all that is solid melts into air we are
reminded that this world is shaped by us, it is how we wish it to be.
If it is not, we should wish harder.
We are reminded that we have those choices before us, that power is in our hands.
When that moment came Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling made the right choices,
took the right action and steered this country on the right course.
And when the credit crunch and the banking crisis was followed by recession Gordon
Brown and Alistair Darling made the right choices, took the right action and steered this
country on the right course.
In the near collapse of our two biggest banks the reputation of Scottish banking may
But in the saving of those banks and all that has followed the reputation of Gordon
Brown and Alistair Darling has grown around the world.
That is why when, here at home, people choose who they want in charge of the
economy they will choose Gordon and Alistair.
They will choose Labour.
We have heard a lot recently about Sarah Brown and Samcam.
And I have to tell you there is a new woman in my life. Lucy. She is only three months
old. My first grandchild. Hard to believe I know.
I suppose this means I can't be one of Jim Murphy’s Facebook generation.
Hard to believe that with luck Lucy will live to see the end of this 21st century and the
start of the 22nd.
This century belongs to her and to all the Lucys of Scotland.
But the shape of that century is in my hands and yours, not yet hers.
It will be forged in the heat of the next few weeks.
We can either mould it to the values of Labour and Gordon Brown or let its contours be
twisted by the politics of the Tories and David Cameron.
Will Lucy have a decent school, the NHS I pray she never needs, a fair chance at
college, university or an apprenticeship?
Will she grow up expecting a job, a guaranteed decent wage, a house of her own when
she needs it, time off to have her own family?
Will her streets be safe and her neighbours kindly.
Will the air she breathes, the water she drinks and the food she eats be wholesome and
Will she have electricity and warmth without seeing the planet she lives on laid waste.
Will she have a fair and equal chance in life as a woman and will there be no excuse
ever anywhere anytime for anyone to abuse or hurt her because she is a woman.
I don’t want her to grow up in a difficult and divided society.
I don’t want her to be limited by lack of work or training or education.
I don’t want her to fear for herself or her own family, in her home or in her street.
If she is in trouble I don’t want her to find no help and if she is ill I do not want her to
suffer a broken NHS.
Lucy’s mother was born in 1979. She grew up knowing nothing but the Tories.
I am damned if I am going to let that happen to another generation of Scots.
What about you?
What is it that will keep you pounding the next street, knocking the next door, delivering
the next leaflet?
You were the sole bulwark for ordinary people against the Tory onslaught for eighteen
years. You went on to build new schools, new nurseries new services for the elderly.
You should be proud.
You created apprenticeships, new homes for Scottish families, free care and free travel
for our elderly, new nursery places for our children, changed the very ownership of this
You should be proud.
You brought in the minimum wage.
Created more jobs than any government ever has.
Delivered record investment for schools and hospitals.
Tripled the contribution we made to poor countries.
Reduced our nuclear arsenal by half but kept our country strong.
You should be proud.
Labour activists, Labour staffers, Labour trade unionists.
You won the elections in 97, 2001, 2005 and in 99 and 2003.
You made this happen.
You should be proud.
You should be proud of your communities, the schools, the parks, the roads, the
All that we take for granted, tended by you, day in, day out.
But this is not the time to sit back with pride in what we have done. This is the moment
to stand up for what we will do next.
To stand up and create the hundreds of thousands of new jobs we need.
To stand up and protect our schools and hospitals and police.
To stand up for the future of every Scot - young and old – for their right to education, to
work, to be cared for when they need it.
Stand up for a fairer future.
Because no one should be held back - no one left behind.
Stand up and stand together.
Because what binds us together is so much more than whatever divides us.
Stand up for Labour because Labour stands for Scotland.