SNP Conference Speech October 2013

Friends, it’s a huge privilege for me today to represent the national party of Wales in the Conference of the national party of Scotland.

 Our parties have a deep shared history – and I can assure you that my fellow party members in Wales are following developments in Scotland keenly. Social media means that in Wales we have a minute by minute update on events here.  We fight every tweet and every facebook update with you.  I can assure you comrades that hundreds of my countrymen will be visiting Scotland over the next year to campaign with you.

On a practical level, our parties of course at Westminster operate within a joint group with Caroline Lucas the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.  I’d like to pay tribute to my parliamentary colleagues Angus Robertson, Stuart Hosie, Angus McNeil, Mike Wier, Pete Wishart and Eilidh Whiteford for all the help you have given me as a new MP.  I’ve had cause to work with all of you over the past three years, and I have learnt so much..  You’re a credit to your party and to your nation.

We call the Group the ‘real progressive alliance’ – because in reality we are the real opposition to the Tory Government.  Labour is still obsessed with appealing to Tory voters in middle England marginals which is why it was our parties that led the opposition to the Tory tax cut for millionaires.  It was our parties that stood up to the nasty attacks on the social protection system.  It was our parties which led the opposition to the bedroom tax. It is only our parties that oppose wasting £100 billion pounds on Trident renewal.  And it is only our parties that disagree with Tory austerity.

Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs of course have an added responsibility.  We represent our respective nations in the imperial Parliament!!  When Ministers talk about our respective nations, they don’t address the hordes of Labour MPs.  They know they couldn’t give two hoots about the impact of legislation on Wales and Scotland.  They always look up to the Plaid and SNP benches because they know that only we will challenge their proposals.

The reality of course is that despite devolution being cemented for over a decade, Whitehall just doesn’t get it.  Legislation is far too often drafted without any consideration for the impact on the devolved settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Matters aren’t helped with the asymmetrical devolution settlement.  Even I get confused, and I’m a political anorak.  The reality my friends is that they don’t understand their own system.   Well I’ve got a simple answer for them – devolve everything!

I am glad to report to you seismic developments in Wales.  Two years ago we won a hugely significant referendum where the people of Wales overwhelmingly voted in favour of awarding full sovereignty to the National Assembly in fields that are devolved.  Incredibly before that vote, the Labour party thought it was a good idea that the democratically elected body of Wales had to have the permission of Westminster before legislating in devolved fields.  What an insult – and it say’s everything about the unionist mind set.

What was most eye catching about that referendum was that the vote in favour was consistent across Wales from Blaenau Gwent to Flintshire.

The Silk Commission in the first part of its work has – backed up with strong public support – recommended that Wales achieves an element of fiscal responsibility.  Although far from sufficient, it is a big step forward in increasing the accountability of the Welsh Government, but more importantly incentivising economic growth.  Yet still the Secretary of State for Wales acts as a road block – and incredibly the Labour Government schemes to avoid a tax sharing arrangement in relation to income revenues.

Our First Minister says he will not be able to support the No campaign in Scotland unless the UK Government acts on minor taxes.   Well I’ve got a message for him: the biggest problem is his own side who view any progress on the constitutional development of our country as a concession to nationalism.  It’s the politics of the Neanderthal.  I’ve bought tickets for next year when he can come with me and make the case for a Yes vote!

During the recent finance bill I tabled amendments in the hope of sticking to the timetable outlined by the Commission calling for the immediate devolution of minor taxes such as Airport Duty.  Despite bringing the Welsh national airport into public ownership under the Welsh Government – Labour MPs abstained!  Their lack of ambition is a disgrace.  When the history of our nation is written, they’ll by lucky to make the footnotes.

Silk in the second part of its work is looking at what extra fields of policy should be devolved to our National Parliament.  The most detailed research since devolution is encouraging.  62% want more powers for Wales with only a paltry 20% against.  80% believe the National Assembly defends Welsh interests better than Westminster.  80% want responsibility for energy policy made in Wales.  63% want powers over policing. 58% over broadcasting.  There was a majority for devolving social protection in addition.

20% support devolution of defence and foreign affairs which shows that the support for Welsh independence is far stronger than reported.

Most strikingly is that these returns were the same across all geographical and age groups in Wales.  A clear indication that the despicable unionist tactics of creating false divisions amongst our people has failed.

Unionists remind me of rabbits caught in the headlights – they have no idea how to respond to the growing self confidence of the people of Wales and Scotland.  Their default strategy is to try and undermine that confidence.  We are too poor, too stupid and too small to govern ourselves, they taunt.  We have to have big brother Westminster making decisions for us, they scream.   This is why they will fail in Scotland next year and ultimately in Wales when our turn comes.

Unionism is in crisis.  Your victory in your Parliamentary election in 2011 changed everything.  The cynical unionist veto which denied the people of Scotland a choice on their own future has gone.

The fact that the referendum is happening changes everything.  It was never meant to happen of course, the system was designed to stop it.

So lazy are the unionists they never though they would have to justify to the people of Scotland why your country should be denied political freedom in a vote.  Now it’s not only we patriots who have to justify why we think our respective countries should have a future outside the British state.  The unionists have to for the first time defend the status quo – a status quo that has never worked and never will work in the interests of Wales and Scotland.

Bereft of a positive case for the union, they have resorted to what they openly call ‘project fear’.  As I said last week in Aberystwyth, any campaign that bases its strategy on undermining the confidence of a people in their future deserves to lose.

 If I was a unionist, I would be ashamed of the manner of the campaign being organised by my London bosses.

If I was a unionist, I would want to campaign on a positive vision for the future of the BritishState.  I would want to offer the people of Scotland positive reasons to vote for a future within the union.  I would want to offer a promise to allow greater autonomy for Scotland within the State – and have it on the ballot paper.

The unionists can’t promise it because they can’t agree on what the future of the State should be.  If they can’t offer answers on fundamental questions like where powers should reside within the State in future – why would anyone vote No?  The reality, my friends, is that a No vote offers far more uncertainty for the future of Scotland than a Yes vote.

Being a genuinely nice person I’d like to offer David Cameron and the Tories some positive ideas.  The sort of ideas I’d be promoting if I was in the Wales branch of a unionist party.

As the Treasury spokesperson two developments seem quite clear to me.  Firstly, the Government of Wales will increasingly become fiscally independent.  Secondly with the Eurozone becoming more fiscally integrated – joining that currency is for the moment out of the question.

Unless the Euro implodes then a separate Welsh currency is also unlikely.  Which means that whatever the constitutional future of Wales, we will remain a part of the sterling zone for the foreseeable future – which is why your country’s government has taken the position it has on monetary policy.

In anticipation of the Silk recommendations on fiscal powers being implemented in Wales therefore, the Governor of the Bank of England – Mark Carney- should hold regular meetings with the Welsh economic Minister and be scrutinised by the relevant National Assembly committee.

Why should he only appear before the Treasury Select Committee in the House of Commons and have meetings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Let’s be honest if he is only meeting English economic ministers we are doomed to a monetary policy based on supporting the requirements of the square mile of the city of London – a monetary policy that supports the boom and bust tendencies of the Treasury.

Mr Carney, being a Canadian, should have no difficulty in grasping the political realities over the currency zone he manages.

A partnership of political equals operating within a common currency zone seems a natural conclusion to me of the devolution process.   As we work towards that outcome, the structures of the central bank of that currency zone has to adapt to political developments within component parts.

Westminster doesn’t work for Scotland and Wales, it never has – which is why our respective parties have dedicated their existence to creating and developing our own national political institutions.  When it comes to geographical and individual wealth, the British state is the most unequal member of the European Union by a country mile.

Westminster will never overturn this situation as it is an elitist Parliament that serves the interests of the super rich.  The reality my friends is that despite our best efforts it is unreformable.  The Welsh and Scottish political tradition promotes social justice and fairness – principles which guide every activity of this SNP Scottish Government – a beacon of progressivity of which you should be so proud.

These values will never be promoted in a Westminster government of whatever colour.  In the face of a nasty Tory right wing government, Labour’s response is to say they will adopt their spending priorities – and say they will be tougher than the Tories on the poor and sick of society.  You couldn’t make it up!

With Westminster its Heads you lose Tails you lose.  There is a progressive majority in our countries – and the reality is that it’s only the freedom of independence that will allow our nations to break the Westminster shackles and achieve our aspirations of a more just and prosperous future.

My friends, you have been working your entire political lives to get to this point.  My message to you in closing is this:  Over the course of the next year go out and make history – we in Wales will be with you every step of the way!!

One Response to “SNP Conference Speech October 2013” [latest first]

  1. This speech is so encouraging and positive and its ideas fundamental : no true patriot could gainsay these truths. Little wonder that such speeches are not fully published in the British media….even England would vote for independence !

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