Richard Lochhead – 2011 Speech to SNP Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Richard Lochhead to the 2011 SNP Party conference in October 2011.

Delegates,

It is great to be back in my favourite Conference location.

I only say that of course because it’s the closest to beautiful Moray, an area that I am hugely honoured to represent in Parliament.

And oh boy! Parliament looks different today!

Conference, when I have trouble sleeping, I used to count sheep

I can assure you, we have a lot.

But I have a new game since May – I count SNP constituencies!

Though sometimes this has the wrong effect, and I have to ask my wife if I’m already dreaming.

Our stunning success is of course perfectly real.

And I see faces in this hall who have been fighting our cause for much longer than I.

On your hard work, and that of others before you, we can now build something great.

We are here, not because of individuals, but because we are a team and we have a positive vision for our nation’s future.

Delegates, I was immensely proud of our election campaign.

The other parties talked about what Scotland’s can’t do, about what our people can’t achieve.

In contrast, we talked of a future rich in possibilities.

And now Labour’s post-election debate is all about how to beat the SNP and return to office.

They think the solution is to modernise their internal structures and regulations.

CONFERENCE, PERHAPS THEY SHOULD START BY MODERNISING THEIR ATTITUDE TO SCOTLAND.

Our debates at this Conference are, and always will be, not about our own future but about our nation’s future.

CONFERENCE, THIS PARTY’S OBJECTIVE IS TO SERVE SCOTLAND, NOT TO BE SELF-SERVING.

That’s why we won such a resounding mandate in May.

Whether it was the streets of Glasgow or the crofting townships of the Western Isles, we fought for every acre, and earned every vote.

And rural Scotland is now a sea of yellow.

And we thank our rural communities for placing their trust in the SNP – and we will not let them down.

In Government, we are continuing to build a better society and working for all of Scotland.

Because that’s our vision.

I cannot even begin to describe my pride and honour for being a member of the Referendum Cabinet.

Not because of one day in our lives, sometime in the near future.

But because of all the days that will follow, and the future we will bequeath our children

Our nation is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and a talented people.

And that combination can deliver a bright future for future generations.

But to secure a better future, we need to act today.

Yet, today, I can see a Parliament and Government in Scotland that takes decisions that are good for Scotland and has the support of the people.

But I see a Parliament and a Government in London that is holding us back and has no popular mandate.

And Conference, that has become clearer than ever before to communities here in the north of Scotland who want to protect our seas.

Because the Tory Government is dismantling our maritime rescue services.

And there are doing this with the backing of their Scottish henchmen – known in these parts as the Liberal Democrats!

So now our emergency tugs are being removed from Scottish waters.

It does not stop there – the same UK Government are also downgrading our coastguard.

We are a maritime nation being governed by metropolitan penny-pinchers.

The UK takes many billions from our oil resources but will not spare the few millions to make our seas safe.

Conference, a Scottish Government would never undermine the services that protect life at sea and precious marine environment.

Our emergency tugs should stay – our coastguard stations should be saved – our waters should remain safe!

Responsibility for maritime safety should lie with the Scottish Parliament.

Have the Lib Dems already forgotten about the heavy price they paid at the elections for betraying Scotland’s trust.

And Conference, their betrayal on the Crown Estate is unforgivable.

It has been an article of faith that the Liberal party in Scotland wished to put control of the Crown Estate in the hands of the people.

That body belongs to a by-gone age and should now be made accountable to Scotland and our communities.

So Michael Moore, stop doing the Tory Party’s dirty working north of the border –

SUPPORT OUR CALL FOR THE SCOTLAND BILL TO GIVE CONTROL OVER THE CROWN ESTATE TO OUR PARLIAMENT.

Conference, we face serious issues, which require serious politicians who can help us prepare for the big challenges of the 21 st century.

You know yesterday I joined local MSP Dave Thomson is visiting the Scottish Ploughing Championships taking place in the Black Isle.

Watching so many of our farmers using the skills passed down by their forefathers, which they in turn will teach their sons, reminded me of the vital role played by our food producers.

Be they the men and women who plough, sow and harvest our land,

Or who grow, or catch, the seafood for our plates.

The growing world population brings billions more mouths to feed, at a time when climate change means there is less productive land available.

But in Scotland, we are blessed with an abundance of natural resources that allows us to produce some of the world’s best food.

So our challenge is to safeguard our natural resources but make the most of our advantages.

And we need to support the industries that can help us to do that.

I’ve just returned from EU talks in Luxembourg where negotiations got underway on Europe’s new farming policy.

UK Ministers tell us we need them to deliver a good deal for Scotland.

Yet, successive Tory and Labour UK Governments left Scotland stuck at the bottom of Europe’s league for rural development funding.

And with the fourth lowest level of farming payments in the whole of the EU!

Conference, that’s the real cost of letting London speak for Scotland.

But now the EU is proposing to help countries that have received poor financial deals in the past close the gap in the future.

Delegates, do you know that if Scotland were an independent member state that could mean over 1 billion pounds extra for our farmers over the course of the next few years?

Now that’s what I call a substantial independence dividend for Scotland!

THAT’S WHAT I CALL A GOOD REASON FOR SCOTLAND HAVING OUR OWN PLACE AT THE TOP TABLE IN EUROPE!

And as the referendum approaches, our opponents tell us that we are better off being part of a large member state.

WELL, WE SAY, WE’LL BE MUCH BETTER OFF BEING A MEMBER STATE IN OUR OWN RIGHT, PROMOTING SCOTLAND’S INTERESTS IN EUROPE ON THE GLOBAL STAGE,

RATHER THAN BEING PART OF A LARGER MEMBER STATE THAT ACTS AGAINST SCOTLAND’S INTERESTS.

When Scotland is a member state, we can negotiate in our own right, influence the agenda, pursue our priorities, and work with European colleagues to the big issues of the day.

You know this is now my fifth year of attending EU meetings to represent Scotland.

And I can tell you there is much warmth and affection for Scotland.

Delegates, Europe will welcome with open arms an independent Scotland to the top table.

BUT MICHAEL MOORE IS IN THE NEWS TODAY CLAIMING THAT INDEPENDENCE WOULD DIMINISH OUR PRESENCE ON THE GLOBAL STAGE.

WHAT A JOKE!

IN FOUR YEARS, OUR FIRST MINISTER ALEX SALMOND HAS DONE MORE TO ENHANCE SCOTLAND’S INTERNATIONAL PROFILE THAT THE COMBINED EFFORTS OF EVERY UK MINISTER IN THE LAST FOUR DECADES!

And we need that international voice to represent our fishermen as well as our farmers.

Our fishermen, who have been beaten up, but not unbowed, by the despised Common Fisheries Policy.

A new fishing policy is at long last being renegotiated in the coming months.

But despite having the bulk of the UK fishing fleet, we are not allowed to speak for these men and their families in Europe

Let me tell you that last week I requested to speak at the Fisheries Council where the topics under discussion had far more relevance to Scotland than any other part of the UK.

And guess what, once again, the UK Government said no!

It’s a silly policy defended by a silly coalition that puts pettiness before principle.

So, we say to David Cameron, enough of your rhetoric and empty promises, drop the paranoia, and give Scotland our rightful place in these vital negotiations that lie ahead. But we will continue to devote all our energies to persuade Europe to rip up the worst aspects of its fishing policy.

A policy that:

– has wrecked livelihoods and decimated communities

– forces fishermen to discard valuable fish stocks in the name of conservation.

– delivers micro-management in Brussels when we need local management in Scotland.

CONFERENCE, WE WILL STRAIN EVERY SINEW TO RETURN FISHING POLICY TO SCOTLAND – WHERE IT BELONGS.

Conference, our food producers need our support and we need them to put food on our tables.

Scotland’s larder is in great demand at home and abroad and is outperforming the rest of the UK.

Sales of our produce across these islands are up by a third since we took office.

Food exports have exceeded £1bn for the first time, up by 50% since 2007.

Scotch Whisky exports are rocketing and now sit at £3.5bn.

That’s success supported by SNP policies.

And to keep up the momentum, we not only protected our food and drink budget against a background of Westminster cuts, we more than doubled it to over £14m.

Because we need to encourage success.

There is not one model, but a thousand.

Like stars in the sky, our land should be dotted with points of light.

Places where individuals and communities have forged their own success.

And we can build success on the natural resources our planet has gifted to Scotland.

Our land, water, wind and waves.

We need to safeguard them.

That’s one reason why we need to tackle climate change.

And can I say that I am delighted to work alongside Stewart Stevenson , our Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.

We are already two thirds of the way to our 2020 target of reducing emissions by 42% and Stewart is the right man to drive forward our ambitious agenda.

And one way we are doing this is through our successful Climate Challenge Fund which we are funding to the tune of over £31m in the next there years.

345 communities have now received support.

So empowering our communities to take control of their own destinies is what we want to achieve in Government.

Conference, we have to consider how we will harness our resources for our children and grandchildren

I am proud of the progress Holyrood has made – from the Land Reform Bill of 2001 to the boom in renewables in 2011

But we are far from finished.

We need to seize this day, this moment in history, and ensure we are masters of our fate.

Not passer-bys as one of the richest environments in the world is exploited by others.

So we are going to take steps to ensure that the people of Scotland enjoy the benefits of the wealth of natural resources on their own doorstep.

At the heart of our rural development policy will be measures to help communities own more of these resources and benefit directly from their use.

We want to build resilient and self-sufficient communities.

And ensure our communities lead our efforts to tackle some of the big challenges that lie ahead:

Energy, water, and food security, biodiversity and climate change.

Land and water are more than just resources – if you have access to neither, you are denied your fundamental rights

SO I LET ME ASSURE YOU TODAY THAT WE WILL OPEN THE NEXT CHAPTER IN LAND REFORM – THE UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF SCOTLAND.

We will do what it takes to release land for communities for economic development.

And that’s we took the decision to establish a New Land Fund to help communities take ownership of their own land.

And we will do much more.

Our people deserve to gain more from every turn of the turbine blade and the hum of the power cable and we will bring forward proposals to achieve that as well.

CONFERENCE, NATURE HAS BEEN GOOD TO SCOTLAND BUT WE MUST SECURE THE BENEFITS FOR THE PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND.

Delegates, we are building a new Scotland, fit for the future.

Where Scotland is thriving.

With a growing rural economy, people of all ages living and working in the countryside, creating low carbon businesses.

There’ll be a boom in remote-working, taking advantage of new investment in broadband.

Communities will be more self-sufficient, getting clear benefits from their local assets, whether land, people, skills or energy.

A Scotland where we grow and eat more of our own food, where we breathe clean air, enjoy our spectacular environment, are surrounded by pristine, rich seas contributing to our good health and happiness.

The message from this Conference is that independence makes economic sense, democratic sense and common sense.

We have worked hard to get to where we are today but now we have to redouble our efforts in the run up to the referendum.

Delegates, all of you, our Party and all our supporters today and those of the future:

We are all history makers.

Conference, let’s work to make our dreams reality.