David Mundell – 2019 Statement on D-Day

Below is the text of the statement made by David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, on 5 June 2019.

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, we should all take time to reflect on the enormous bravery shown by all those who took part. Scottish soldiers and sailors were of vital importance to the UK and international war effort, and Scottish engineers played a key role in building the famous Mulberry harbours which helped make the landings possible. Across Scotland we remember the ingenuity, courage and commitment of all those who were part of such a pivotal moment in modern history. And we remember all of those who didn’t make it home, giving their lives so that we have the freedoms we enjoy today.

David Mundell – 2019 Speech on Devolution

Below is the text of the speech made by David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, on 21 February 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen.

On August 7, 1885, the Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury wrote to the Duke of Richmond to offer him the newly-created post of Scottish Secretary.

He said the work ‘is not heavy’ but warned that expectations were high.

He went on to suggest ‘the effulgence of two dukedoms and the best salmon river in Scotland’ would go a long way to meeting those expectations.

Thankfully, the qualifications for the job have changed since then.

I can boast neither a splendid dukedom nor a salmon river.

I can, however, attest that expectations remain high. So perhaps not everything has changed.

This year marks 20 years since devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

I believe this is a good moment to take stock.

It is a good moment to consider what Scotland’s expectations are today, from a system which gives us two parliaments and two governments.

I don’t intend to provide a detailed chronology of devolution, and certainly not a history of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland.

The key developments over the past 20 years are familiar to us.

A referendum in 1997, the Act in 1998 and a parliament up and running barely six months later.

A further Scotland Act in 2012 gave Holyrood the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax, replace Stamp Duty and borrow more money.

And in 2016 an even more wide-ranging Scotland Act was passed, creating significant new income tax powers and transferring responsibility for a large swathe of welfare provision.

So rather than dwell on the detail, I want to consider how devolution works, how it can be strengthened as we leave the EU, and how relations between our two governments must adapt and develop in future.

But first, let me declare an interest.

I am a passionate supporter of devolution. I was proud to be elected as an MSP in that first intake in May 1999.

As an MP and, by then, a minister in the Scotland Office, I played my part in delivering the 2012 Act. As Secretary of State for Scotland, it was an immense privilege to take the 2016 Act through Parliament.

Two decades on from the first Scotland Act, Holyrood has become one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world. Power and accountability are better balanced than ever before. And, to borrow a word bandied more frequently by my political opponents, devolution has a stronger mandate than ever before.

The vote in 1997 was re-affirmed by our decision in 2014 to remain part of the UK. And in the 2017 general election there was overwhelming support for devolutionist parties:

…Support for a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK.

…Where the UK’s strengths – our internal market, our global reach – are Scotland’s strengths.

…Where decisions affecting only Scotland are taken at Holyrood by MSPs…

…But where decisions affecting the whole UK are taken at Westminster by MPs, including, of course, 59 MPs from Scotland.

Devolution is about striking a balance and I believe the balance now achieved is a good one.

Today, the fiercest debates at Holyrood are about tax decisions; about how to raise money as much as how to spend it. That accountability has to be a good thing.

I do not support the Scottish Government’s decisions on income tax, making Scotland the most highly taxed part of the UK. I’m not impressed by the idea of taxing people £500 to park at work.

But I support Holyrood’s power to make these choices, the accountability it brings and the debate it provokes.

And as the Scottish Government begins to use new welfare powers in the years ahead I look forward to the debate at Holyrood focusing on the difficult decisions that will entail.

That, then, is my starting point.

Devolution has proved itself flexible and responsive – a ‘process not an event’ as Donald Dewar said back in 1999. After 20 years I believe the settlement is strong. And I believe the principles that lie behind it are more widely accepted than ever.

I reject completely the argument put forward by opponents of devolution that it has been crushed by Brexit:

…That the settlement has been undermined by the return of powers from Brussels.

…Even, that Holyrood has been victim of a pernicious ‘power grab’.

Let me tackle these myths head on.

They rest on two misunderstandings – about the 1998 Scotland Act itself and about one of the early conventions that supports it, the Sewel Convention, which says the UK Parliament will not normally pass legislation in a devolved area without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

Firstly, it has been claimed that devolution is broken because the UK’s EU Withdrawal Act 2018 was passed despite legislative consent being withheld by the Scottish Parliament.

It was claimed that the Sewel Convention was breached or, if it hadn’t been breached, it was not fit for purpose and must be changed.

Lord Sewel himself answered the first point, judging clearly that the Convention was adhered to.

And the Scottish Government’s own Brexit minister said “these are not normal times”.

In fact, the Sewel Convention remains an essential element in the devolution settlement.

The UK Government continues to seek legislative consent for Bills that interact with devolution.

We work with the Scottish Government clause by clause in an effort to reach agreement.

I was pleased the Scottish Government agreed to recommend consent for our Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill – legislation which will allow the UK Government to continue to fund healthcare for Scots who have retired to or are working in the EU.

I hope consent for other Brexit-related Bills will also be forthcoming – despite the Scottish Government’s stated position to oppose them.

As things stand, the EU Withdrawal Act is the only piece of legislation in 20 years to be passed at Westminster after consent was withheld at Holyrood.

I believe that is a sign of Sewel’s success and not its failure.

The second myth is that of the ‘power grab’.

Now, to listen to the rhetoric coming from some of my political opponents, you could be forgiven for thinking that Holyrood is being stripped of a whole raft of powers it currently exercises.

It is complete fantasy; an invented grievance.

The reality is that more than 100 powers previously exercised in Brussels will transfer to Edinburgh.

These will transfer directly to the Scottish Parliament on the day we leave the EU.

Some powers will be exercised within new UK-wide frameworks, where the UK Government and devolved administrations agree to do so.

They are in areas such as animal health and welfare, food labelling, and chemical and pesticide regulations. Areas where the UK Government and the devolved administrations have already agreed it makes sense to take a UK approach.

Progress towards establishing these arrangements between the UK and Scottish Governments has been good, as our latest report to Parliament on the issue makes absolutely clear.

To characterise this process as a ‘power grab’ is nonsense. Holyrood is losing none of its existing powers and is gaining significant new powers as a result of Brexit.

What these myths amount to is an attempt to undermine devolution – to sweep away the ’98 settlement – by people who do not support devolution because they want independence. We should not be surprised by that.

We should remain deeply suspicious when opponents of devolution try to present themselves as its champions and protectors.

Now, to be clear, I’m not arguing devolution is perfect or that it should be frozen in time. Devolution’s adaptability is a strength and will remain so in future.

The 2016 powers are already having a positive effect at Holyrood and Brexit will bring further responsibility.

It will also raise fresh questions about intergovernmental relations – how our governments work together.

As we leave the EU, I believe these questions – more so than powers – will become pressing.

In the years ahead, our two governments – and the devolved administrations elsewhere in the UK – will need to work more closely than ever before.

We will need to manage our new UK regulatory frameworks. We will need structures that work – that respect devolution and encourage collaboration.

I’m pleased to say that work on this is underway.

Last year a Joint Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by the First Minister, agreed to commission a review of intergovernmental relations. I’m confident this work can point the way to improved joint working. Not least because we have a lot to build upon.

Sometimes, Scottish Government ministers claim that relations between the UK and Scottish governments are at their lowest ebb. This is simply not true.

(In my experience, they were at their rockiest in 2014, as the Scottish Government’s former Permanent Secretary, Sir Peter Housden, confirmed.)

To date there have been 16 meetings of the JMC (EN), a ministerial forum specially created to shape our approach to leaving the EU, with meetings scheduled monthly. This is a crucial mechanism by which we engage with the DAs. The set of principles that will guide the development of UK frameworks were forged in the JMC (EN).

Behind the scenes, officials from the two governments are working well together on Brexit-related legislation and Brexit preparations on a daily basis.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister took the decision to invite the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales to attend meetings of a key new cabinet sub-committee co-ordinating Brexit preparations.

In addition, our review of intergovernmental relations will look at the principles which should underpin our working relationships; at the machinery of devolution – whether we need new forums or new JMC bodies; and at how we should resolve disputes in future.

It is very much a live issue.

I’m pleased that Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster are conducting their own inquiry into intergovernmental relations:

…even if, so far at least, it seems to have focused on calls for the role Secretary of State for Scotland to be abolished.

As you can imagine, I am looking forward to presenting an alternative perspective when I give evidence in due course.

I actually believe the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland will become more, not less, important, as we enter the post-Brexit devolution world and a more complex era of intergovernmental relations.

The role of promoting the work of the UK Government in Scotland, and giving voice to Scottish concerns around the Cabinet table, will be more critical than ever.

The reasons for that are clear.

Just as Holyrood will need to adapt to the wealth of new powers at its disposal, so the UK Government will have to consider its changing role in the new landscape:

…The UK Government must and will remain prominent in Scotland.

…The UK Government must and will remain central to Scotland’s story.

We must continually re-affirm our support for devolution and demonstrate our contribution to the lives of those represented by our MPs.

Failure to do so would be a failure to deliver on the result of two referendums – the 1997 vote in favour of a Scottish Parliament and 2014 decision to reject independence.

When our opponents try to talk the UK down we should remind them of the things Scots value:

…The pooling and sharing of resources which support our public services;

…The finest armed forces in the world. Including a Royal Navy filling the Clyde’s order book until 2030.

…Pensions they can rely upon.

…A record on international aid that any country in the world should be proud of.

The list goes on.

But the UK Government can and should be doing even more.

In an important speech in Glasgow, the Prime Minister called a halt to what she described as a process of ‘devolve and forget’.

…The idea that because health, say, or education, or culture in Scotland are devolved to the Scottish Government, the UK Government no longer cares about them.

The Prime Minister was very clear. As Prime Minister for the whole of the UK, she said the educational attainment of 10-year-olds in Dundee was as important to her as that of their peers in Doncaster.

Predictably, this was deliberately misinterpreted in some quarters as another kind of power grab. It was nothing of sort. It was an appeal for more collaboration, for better joint working, for learning from each other. In other words, for more effective devolution.

I believe she was right to assert the UK Government’s interest in all parts of people’s lives in Scotland.

And I believe now is the time to build on that. We are already seeing this happen in the UK Government’s £1billion-plus Growth Deal programme in Scotland.

UK investment is mostly spent in the reserved sphere, on things like research and development. But not exclusively so. Cultural projects, such as Edinburgh’s exciting new concert hall development or Stirling’s national tartan centre, will also benefit from UK Government investment.

There are already examples of areas where devolved policy areas interact with reserved matters – in foreign trade, for example – where the Scottish Government’s agency Scottish Development International works alongside the UK Government’s Department for International Trade.

Or, in overseas aid, where Scottish Government support for projects in Malawi augments the UK effort.

Going forward, I want to see Scotland’s two governments working closely together for the benefit of people in Scotland.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which will fill the space left by EU structural funds post-Brexit – should provide an opportunity for both governments to collaborate on transformational projects across Scotland, from the Borders to the Highlands and Islands.

Scotland would be ill-served if one government could not add to the work being done by another. The time is right for this. Scots expect their two governments to work together and politicians on all sides accept the need to work together.

Twenty years on, devolution is indeed the settled will of the people of Scotland.

The settlement has proved itself adaptable and is strong.

Our system of two governments and two parliaments has held up to scrutiny – endorsed by one and then a second referendum.

The people who claim Brexit has broken devolution are the people who WANT Brexit to break devolution;

…Who see Brexit not in terms of securing the right deal for Scotland but as an opportunity to tear Scotland out of the UK.

…A position, of course, that has been rejected by not one but two referendums.

I do not believe Brexit will damage devolution.

I want it to strengthen devolution, and I believe that can and will happen.

Leaving the EU will bring new powers to Holyrood and new responsibilities to the Scottish Government.

But the UK Government is also being challenged to adapt to the new, post-Brexit era of devolution.

I’m confident we WILL meet the challenge;

…That we WILL foster a relationship of mutual respect between Westminster and Holyrood.

…That we WILL find ourselves using new ways to improve the daily lives of those we serve.

We’ll do it because, like the majority of Scots, we believe in devolution. And we have a duty to deliver all that it offers for Scotland.

David Mundell – 2011 Speech on the Big Society in Scotland

Below is the text of the speech made by David Mundell on 28th October 2011.

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak this morning.

This conference is dedicated to examining the Big Society and assessing whether it can work in Scotland.

I believe it can and it will.

It’s an opportunity, not a threat, to charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

This morning I want to share my thoughts with you on the Big Society in greater detail; before updating the conference on welfare reform and the Scotland Bill – 2 issues I know you are interested in.

The Big Society: the big picture

Representing Scotland on the UK Ministerial Group advancing the Big Society agenda, I am determined that our voice and interests are heard.

However, I am not wedded to titles such as the Big Society. Indeed, some have suggested that in Scotland it would be the ‘Wee Society’.

But for the purposes of this discussion, I’ll use Big Society as this has partially led so many people to show a significant interest here today.

There are 3 pillars to this agenda:

– community empowerment

– reforming and opening up our public services and

– encouraging greater social action

These 3 pillars are vital.

But most important is what is happening on the ground and acknowledging those who are doing it.

The Big Society is not another government programme.

In fact, the Big Society is quite the opposite.

It’s about giving power back to individuals, families, communities and groups.

It’s about turning government upside down – so that society, not the state, is in the driving seat.

Community empowerment

Some of our critics have said that government cannot create a Big Society on our own. They’re right.

But there is no need for such a magic wand solution.

Because we are not starting from scratch.

Scotland already does the Big Society or whatever we call it. I want us to do more of it.

We are building on the long-standing tradition of community engagement and social action in Scotland.

The grass roots are there. Many of you are the manifestation of movements already out there – helping Scots nationwide.

The UK government’s role is to play an enabling role in the Big Society and it will focus on ensuring that all parts of society are able to play their part and thrive.

The Scottish government will also have a part to play and I hope they will engage, whether they formally acknowledge the Big Society concept or not or not.

Sometimes it will mean that the state, in all its forms, pulling back when it has overreached and acknowledging that it doesn’t have all the answers to local issues.

I want our vision to interact with the work that so many Scots are already doing.

I believe that this is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the excellent work done by local groups across the country.

The UK government has opened up a dialogue on taking forward the Big Society in Scotland.

It is already proving a rewarding conversation.

Stakeholders across the country have given me a flavour of what they are doing and the good practice they are encouraging.

It’s an ongoing process.

There are more Scotland Office events in the pipeline, culminating with a Scotland-wide forum.

Empowerment stands at the forefront of our vision of a Big Society.

It is about freeing people and communities to make the decisions which affect them.

It marks a radical and welcome break from the tired old view that civil servants in London and Edinburgh, or dare I say local authorities, always know what is best for you and your community.

Reforming and opening up public services

Some of our critics claim that the Big Society is geared to providing public services on the cheap. I don’t agree.

I view the Big Society as more about working with, and improving, existing services rather than replacing them.

However, not all answers and services need to be provided by officials, councils or government.

Tough times also demand innovative thinking.

There is no escaping the need to tackle the deficit – the challenge we face in terms of public finances cannot be ignored.

So our detractors also characterise the Big Society as a shorthand for cuts.

That’s both wrong and unfair.

The Big Society is a positive, proactive agenda developed before the recession to achieve a better quality of outcomes with limited resources.

Our priority must be to seek the best value provider of public services.

That’s the right answer for service users and taxpayers.

Greater social action

And I want to see people and communities across Scotland feeling both free and powerful enough to help themselves and transform their neighbourhoods.

So in many ways the Big Society is a challenge to achieve even greater social action:

– to think and act differently

– to consider the personal and social consequences of your actions

– to take ownership of an area and find ways of to transform it for the better

And it poses the question to the state, ‘why can this not be done by individuals themselves, by voluntary, community or social enterprises?’

We’ve seen the success of the National Citizens Service pilot south of the border.

It’s designed to build a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society by bringing together 16 year olds from different backgrounds for a programme of activity and service during the summer.

It gives these young people an introduction to community action.

It shows them the positive differences they can make in their localities and beyond.

We are planning to expand the service to offer 90,000 places by 2014.

I hope that over time, the Scottish government will look at what we’re doing and want to take part.

This renewed commitment to a stronger sense of society, where taking a more active role will be both expected and recognised, can only benefit us all.

But I recognise that we need to make it simpler for individuals and organisations who offer their time and knowledge to benefit their communities.

Good intentions must not be deterred by the burdens of bureaucracy.

That’s why we are examining ways of reducing regulation and red tape faced by charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

It’s not for government to tell Scots how they can best support their communities.

But government can provide support when society is restricted – such as by removing the red tape which can hinder community groups from forming.

Local people and local bodies know their communities better than anyone. Charities, churches and co-operatives have the unique grassroots knowledge to drive social action at local level.

We want to make it easier for you to do what you do best.

It’s self-evident that most of the specific policy areas within the Big Society are devolved to the Scottish government and not all the major Westminster Big Society projects have exact equivalents in Scotland.

That’s why it’s imperative that Scotland’s 2 governments work together and co-operation is central to our approach.

I’m keen to engage on the issue and have had useful discussions with both John Swinney and Alex Neil; and my Cabinet Office colleague Nick Hurd will be in Scotland soon to share experiences from elsewhere in the UK.

Big Society Bank

I know you will also be interested to hear about the Big Society Bank.

We have delivered on our commitment to set it up, although it is no longer being called a bank.

It has been renamed the Big Society Capital Group, in case people are confused into thinking there is a new high street bank on the scene.

Most importantly, it’s open for business in Scotland.

Big Society Capital will invest in social investment intermediary organisations across the UK, such as Charity Bank and the Key Project.

And these intermediaries will bring together bodies that need capital and bodies that have capital and want to invest it.

Big Society Capital will not make grants to individual organisations or charities.

Your organisations should be able to gain access to capital at a more competitive rate than you would be able to secure from a high street lender.

Big Society Capital will act independently of government to support social enterprise through intermediaries.

I want organisations in Scotland to benefit from the very favourable terms it will offer.

Encouraging charitable giving

The UK government is also committed to helping charities in these challenging economic times.

We understand that charity law and charity reform straddles reserved and devolved policy areas.

A key focus in the UK government’s Giving White Paper is on encouraging charitable giving.

Innovative schemes can make it easier to give – at the cash point, at the till, by text or by phone app.

Government is committed to incentivising giving.

We want to grow and raise the profile of payroll giving and are sponsoring the National Payroll Giving Awards to encourage this activity.

Similarly, inheritance tax will be cut for those who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity.

Finally, in the 2011 Budget we announced a number of significant tax incentives and the removal of red tape for gift aid donations up to £5,000.

These are sensible, practical measures geared to making it easier for charities to raise more money.

The Big Society also has responsibility at its heart.

It offers the opportunity for individuals, businesses and organisations to step forward to help address the social issues in their communities and help shape the future direction.

People like you are already giving significant amounts of your time for the benefit of your communities.

Businesses are seeing the benefits of supporting volunteering and encouraging their staff to do the same.

Individuals and groups are improving communities across Scotland.

On recent visits I have seen how volunteers at Peterhead Projects are raising funds in their town by recycling furniture, running a gift shop and holding car boot sales.

Or how Cambuslang and Rutherglen Community Health Initiative is promoting better health locally.

Our aim is that volunteering becomes a social norm and is considered by all the responsible thing to do.

There are 2 more issues I want to touch on – 2 significant issues for this sector – welfare reform and the Scotland Bill.

Welfare reform

Fairness is a pivotal part of the Coalition’s approach.

We are committed to helping the vulnerable.

We will take over 90,000 Scots out of tax altogether by April 2012.

We have helped one million older Scots by re-establishing the link between pensions and earnings after a gap of 30 years.

We have maintained Winter Fuel Allowance payments for Scottish pensioners.

While last year’s Spending Review turned the temporary increase in Cold Weather Payments into a permanent increase.

They are geared to reforming the benefit system to make it fairer, more affordable and better able to tackle poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency.

The introduction of Universal Credit in 2013 will radically simplify the system – and make work pay.

We are determined to remove the barriers to work and to ensure that work pays more than benefits.

Our back-to-work initiatives will pay a crucial part in supporting employment in Scotland.

As part of our reforms, the Work Programme went live in June.

We know that one size cannot fit all.

That’s why the Work Programme is built around the needs of individuals – providing the personalised support people need, when they need it – so they have the right support to move into employment.

The UK government’s ‘Get Britain Working’ measures like work experience are geared to this end.

In the Youth Unemployment Seminars, hosted by the Scotland Office across the country, we are hearing about the benefits of work experience with local employers.

Some Scottish employers see young people, particularly inexperienced young people, as high risk.

So giving young Scots greater work experience enhances their readiness for work by developing the skills which are essential for the workplace.

We need to work side by side on this – to collaborate more effectively to support our young people into work.

As with the Big Society, Scotland’s 2 governments must work together, alongside our key partners to address the labour market challenges we face.

Scotland Bill

One of the Coalition’s key commitments is to improve the devolution settlement and strengthen the accountability of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scotland Bill delivers this pledge.

This Bill has real economic teeth.

It signifies the largest transfer of financial powers out of London since the creation of the UK.

It will give the Scottish Parliament new levers over the Scottish economy and strengthens its accountability and responsibility to the people of Scotland.

The First Minister has told us about other areas he thinks should be devolved to Scotland in the Scotland Bill.

We have made clear that we will consider all proposals for amendments to the Bill on their merits.

Any amendments must meet the three tests set out by the Secretary of State for Scotland. They must:

– be based on detailed and well evidenced proposals

– maintain the cross-party consensus on which the Bill is based

– demonstrate that they would benefit Scotland, without prejudice to the UK as a whole

The Scottish government has made their set of demands as a package and we will respond as a package at the appropriate time.

The UK government will also fight to maintain the United Kingdom in any independence referendum.

We will not place obstacles in the way of a referendum but we believe strongly that more powers for the Scottish Parliament – through the Scotland Bill – is the right constitutional route for Scotland.

That’s why we will oppose separatism in any guise whenever the referendum takes place.

Conclusion

Alongside our commitments to more tailored welfare and improved devolution we are also determined to build a bigger and stronger society.

In the coming months and years we aim to build on the deep-rooted foundations we have in Scotland to achieve this goal.

Government can be an enabler but it cannot be expected to deliver the Big Society alone.

We all have an important role to play.

We want to support a thriving market in charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

I support and admire what so many public-spirited Scots are doing in their communities.

I look forward to working with you to realise the benefits of the Big Society in Scotland.

David Mundell — 2011 Speech at Scottish Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by David Mundell at the 2011 Scottish Conservative Party Conference on 2nd October 2011.

Scottish Politics is never dull, Scottish Conservative politics particularly.

It’s been a busy year already with a parliamentary election and a referendum 2011. I want to thank all our candidates and activists across Scotland for their hard work in May.

Before I speak about the future of our party and the challenges the Coalition Government faces in Scotland, I also want to pay tribute to our outgoing leader, Annabel Goldie.

Its may be trite to say but it is true – Annabel Goldie is not just one of the best known but best loved figures in Scottish politics with a long and distinguished service to the voluntary party.

Annabel was elected to the Scottish parliament in 1999.

She became leader of the MSP group in 2005.

Her skirmishes with Alex Salmond at the First Ministers Questions have become a feature of the Scottish political scene.

During the last Scottish Parliament Annabel was acknowledged as the only leader to hold Mr Salmond to account and to be willing to take tough decisions and tell people like it is.

Well-respected across the political spectrum in Scotland, Annabel has become a national figure and her wit and good sense more widely known through her many appearances on Question Time and Any Questions.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I know you will all join me in wishing her well in the future, but also in sharing my hope that she still has much to give to our party and to public service.

Of course, the future of the Conservative party in Scotland, which Annabel has been so proud to represent, is going to be debated at an event at this conference and indeed the length and breadth of Scotland at leadership hustings.

The contest to date can, I think, be rightly characterised as being about change.

I don’t think anyone within or outside our party in Scotland would disagree with the statement that the party must change, and in particular, we must attract more, and younger people to vote for us across Scotland as a whole.

We must be clearly identifiable as the first choice for those want to vote for a sensible centre right party of the sort that exists (and commands support in) virtually every other European country.

And in so doing, we must be able to demonstrate that we are relevant and make a difference to the lives of people in Scotland if they vote for us at Council, Scottish Parliament, Westminster and European Elections.

That is why I want to see the leadership election underway focus on policy, leadership qualities and on the campaigning style our party will have in Scotland to take us forward.

As our only Member of Parliament in Scotland, I have clearly set out my own personal views this morning.

But of course it will be for members in Scotland to decide.

But during the period of this leadership election, we must continue to focus on the issues which really matter to real people; the economy, growth and jobs remain the government’s top priorities.

The difficult financial decisions we have been forced to make have brought confidence and stability to the UK economy: record low-interest rates for our borrowing, our triple A credit rating assured and, in the first six months of this year, the UK economy growing at a faster rate than America’s.

And we are taking action to promote growth: not least by cutting corporation tax to 26% this year, and 23% by 2014, making it the lowest rate in the G7, the fifth lowest in the G20.

We’ve singled out corporation tax because we know it is the most growth inhibiting tax that there is.

Alex Salmond says he would cut it too, but the facts speak for themselves.

He already has power over business rates and yet he is increasing them by £850m by 2015, undermining the very support we are providing businesses through our cuts in corporation tax.

Alex Salmond’s “Big Plan McB” is political junkfood.

When it comes to getting the economy moving, the only B we should be interested in is Business – helping it, promoting it.

In Scotland there are positive signs, with unemployment below the national average and falling last month.

And in the Scotland Office we are doing our bit to get Scottish enterprise motoring.

Not only are we proceeding with the Scotland Bill and its significant transfer of financial powers, we have set up a Trade and Economic Growth Board, made up of leading Scottish business figures, to advise on global opportunities and to act as ambassadors for the Scottish business community to make clear that Scotland is open for business.

Now if you listen to Alex Salmond you’ll hear him take the credit for any good economic news, and pass the blame to Westminster for any bad news.

When the sun comes out it is thanks to the SNP and is a boost to the case for independence and when it starts to rain it’s all the fault of the London-based parties.

Conference, people are seeing through this.

Just because the Scottish people rejected Iain Gray and Scottish Labour in May does not mean they voted for independence.

And just as the Scottish people rejected AV overwhelmingly, when the time comes I believe they will see through Alex Salmond’s narrow, nationalistic separatism.

However, we mustn’t be complacent. I welcome the Prime Minister’s reaffirmation this weekend of his commitment to keep Scotland in Britain.

Nothing must get in the way of that and it must be the priority in months ahead for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist party.

Thank you.