Donald Dewar – 2000 Speech to TUC Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Donald Dewar to the 2000 TUC Conference.

Thank you very much indeed. I am certainly feeling very well but I perhaps should just say to you that I have never claimed to be fit in my life and if I did, no one would believe me! I am just delighted to be here. I am delighted to welcome you to this great City of Glasgow. I feel very much among friends. You may remember that Ernie Bevin said that the Labour Party emerged from the bowels of the TUC and the trade union Movement. It is an interesting and eloquent vision, not one I necessarily endorse in all its particulars, but what I do know is that we have in this hall, and within the wider Movement and Party outside, a great deal in common for which we campaign and work.

Glasgow was a great Victorian City, built upon skills, built upon talent, trade, industry and plain hard work. It is now transforming itself into a successful modern city and we are honoured to have the TUC here in Glasgow. There will be the warmest of welcomes, not just from the politicians but from the people.

Your last visit, as you have just been reminded, was in 1991. Then we had high hopes which were to be cruelly disappointed, indeed shattered, in the 1992 elections. We all worked very hard in 1991 and 1992 but the record in the intervening years gave a special edge, a particular energy, to the big push in 1997.

Let me recall very briefly some of the figures from 1991, the reforms we sought, the hopes we had. Glasgow in 1991 had over 42,000 people out of work and in the dole queues. Today the comparable claimant count is just over 20,000. In Scotland as a whole the figure is 113,000, the lowest for 24 years.

There was a lady on the BBC this morning who told me that we were squeezing the life out of manufacturing industry, and I would be the first to recognise the problems of the euro and the pound, but can I just perhaps, as a corrective, remind you that when the Bank of Scotland’s monthly report came out recently for August they were recording the 18th month consecutively in which manufacturing output in Scotland had risen, and they recorded also that the pace was accelerating. In the service sector it was 22 months in a row.

In 1991 we were hoping for and working for what we saw as essential – a statutory minimum wage, a right to recognition in the workplace, strengthened maternity rights, parental rights, the Social Chapter signed and honoured. Because of the disappointment of that 1992 election we had to wait six long years, but every one of these hopes has been realised.

Argument will continue, argument about how we implement, how we build, but let us not forget the very real progress that has been made. We wanted a Government then that would create steady growth, control inflation and fight for ordinary working families, and that is why we now have the Working Families Tax Credit, the 10p tax band, the New Deal which has reduced youth unemployment in this City by nearly 70%, giving hope, creating opportunity for those who were forgotten in the Tory years.

We wanted a Government determined to invest in the industries that reached out to the future and sustained those who have been traditionally with us. That is why, six years later, there are 300 software firms in this City of Glasgow. We needed, above all, a Government that was committed to public services and prepared to build the economic base which allowed progress that could be sustained.

In the next three years the Scottish Executive will have, in broad terms, £ 1 billion, £ 2 billion and £ 3 billion added cumulatively to this year’s baseline. That will make a difference: it will make a difference to the unions, it will make a difference to their members and to those who depend on that vital service.

I do not hide from you that there will be difficult choices even in that situation. I notice that over the last day or two the City Council here, very understandably, has been pressing for a very important extension of the motorway box in Glasgow – seven miles, £ 300 million. At the same time they are asking for a general lift in services; at the same time they are pointing understandably to the concern about pay. We understand these problems. We will have to take those hard choices but I can tell you that we will do it always with the interests of those who depend upon services, those who provide those services, very much in mind.

We are not parties, for example, to pay negotiations but we are interested in the future. We want to look carefully at how we can help in the future and, of course, this expenditure round starts in the year 2001/2. We want to encourage stability. We want, in fact, to encourage it if we can, by introducing 3-year budgets, opportunities for planning ahead to the advantage of both the workforce who deliver the services and the Council who finance and plan them, and we want help with the modernisation of local government and its methods.

Our wish will be to help support and expand essential services, choices again I say to be made, opportunities for children, working families. We have obviously to pay attention and to remember the pensioners. The minimum income guarantee has helped some of the poorest pensioners in this land, it has perhaps been undervalued, but there is a great deal more to be done. We need to support people in the community. We must give them the ability to keep in touch with family and friends, but I say to you that when we look at expenditure the test will be how we can raise the standard of service for those in care, how we can help across the range those in need of that help as a result of the advancing years.

In 1991 we wanted, above all, a Scottish Parliament. Now it is in place, playing its part and strengthening democracy in this country. The unions here in Scotland, but also in the rest of the United Kingdom, argued and fought for that. I am grateful for that support. I am very conscious of the price that would be paid if we in any way distanced ourselves from the market that matters to the working people of Scotland, and that market is the rest of the United Kingdom where we sell more of our goods and services than we do to the rest of the world.

Probably not all of you will be aware of the fact that the Nationalists, the SNP, are holding a leadership contest at the moment. There was an opinion poll this week which suggested a clear majority of Scots had no opinion, no view, as to who should win that particular contest. A majority of SNP voters expressed the view that they would not see an independent Scotland in their lifetime. It is, I tell you, a Party that is now based on opportunism, which will promise anything to anyone.

In a short time – and I do not need to remind anyone in this hall – we will face another Westminster election, another challenge. I look forward to it. There will be fundamental issues, great questions to settle. The Tories, in a sense, have been honest. They have made it absolutely clear that they will cut back dramatically, given a chance, the programme announced by Gordon Brown for the next three years of public spending. You can argue on the edges over the figures, but it is certain now that the cuts outlined by Mr Hague would be deep, painful, damaging, job-destroying. Fortunately, I do not believe for a moment that he will have a chance to implement these. Some of you may remember, or have read at some point, of Austin Chamberlain. Austin Chamberlain is the only person to have led the Conservative Party in the House of Commons and never been Prime Minister. I can predict, I think with some confidence, that Mr Hague will deprive him of that particular distinction.

Under the Tories, unemployment and interest rates were high, job creation and business confidence were at all-time lows, and our country was viewed around the world as facing a future of economic decline – pensioners and lone parents struggling and failing to keep pace with ever-mounting inflation, ever-rising prices, working families doing their best to make ends meet and finding it difficult, youngsters unable to secure work and trade unions under seige and treated as the enemy within Government. All of that is now changing and we must make sure that it continues to change as we build for a tolerant and successful community.

There is still much to be done, the Party knows it – and so I suspect does everyone in this hall – but we must not forget what has been achieved, and achieved by standing together, working together in a common cause.

As the Labour First Minister in a Labour-led administration, I welcome you to the City. I wish you every success this week and, equally important, every success in the future. As a Glaswegian I hope, and indeed know, that you will enjoy your time in this great City. Thank you.

Donald Dewar – 1999 Speech at Opening of the Scottish Parliament


Below is the text of the speech made by Donald Dewar on the Opening of the new Scottish Parliament on 1st July 1999.

Your Majesty, on behalf of the people of Scotland, I thank you for the gift of the Mace.

This is a symbol of the great democratic tradition from which we draw our inspiration and our strength. At its head are inscribed the opening words of our founding statute: `There shall be a Scottish Parliament’.

Through long years, those words were first a hope, then a belief, then a promise. Now they are a reality.

This is indeed a moment anchored in our history. Today, we reach back through the long haul to win this Parliament, to the struggles of those who brought democracy to Scotland, to that other Parliament dissolved in controversy over 300 years ago.

Today, we look forward to the time when this moment will be seen as a turning point: the day when democracy was renewed in Scotland, when we revitalised our place in this our United Kingdom.

This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.

In the quiet moments today, we might hear some echoes from the past: the shouts of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyard; the speak of the Mearns, rooted in the land; the discourse of the Enlightenment, when Edinburgh and Glasgow were a light held to the intellectual light of Europe; the wild cry of the Great Pipe; and back to the distant noise of the battles of the days of Bruce and Wallace.

The past is part of us, part of every one of us and we respect that, but today there is a new voice in the land, the voice of a democratic Parliament. A voice to shape Scotland, a voice above all for the future.

Walter Scott wrote that only a man with soul so dead could have no sense, no feel for his native land. For me, and I suspect also for every Scot, today is a proud moment: a new stage of the journey begun long ago and which has no end. This is a proud day for all of us.

A Scottish Parliament, not an end: a means to greater ends. And those, too, are part of our Mace. Woven into its symbolic thistles are these four words: `Wisdom. Justice. Compassion. Integrity’.

Burns would have understood that. We have just heard – beautifully sung – one of his most enduring works. And that half of the song is a very Scottish conviction: that honesty and simple dignity are priceless virtues, not imparted by rank or birth or privilege but part of the soul.

Burns believed that sense and worth ultimately prevail. He believed that was the core of politics and that without it, our profession is inevitably impoverished.

Wisdom, justice, compassion, integrity; timeless values. Honourable aspirations for this new forum of democracy born on the cusp of a new century.

We are fallible, we all know that. We will make mistakes. But I hope and I believe we will never lose sight of what brought us here: the striving to do right by the people of Scotland; to respect their priorities; to better their lot; and to contribute to the common weal.

I look forward to the days ahead and I know there will be many of them when this chamber will sound with debate, argument and passion. When men and women from all over Scotland will meet to work together for a future built on the first principles of social justice.

But today, we pause and reflect. It is a rare privilege in an old nation to open a new Parliament. Today is and must be a celebration of the principles, the traditions, the democratic imperative which has brought us to this point and will sustain us in the future.

Donald Dewar – 1999 Speech after Winning Glasgow Anniesland


Below is the text of the speech made by Donald Dewar after winning the seat of Glasgow Anniesland in the Scottish Parliament on 6th May 1999.

I wish to thank the Returning Officer, members of his staff, stewards, police and the emergency services. I want to thank them for the long hours put in tonight, for the smoothness and efficiency of the count.

It’s been a long night, an historic night in many ways, but this important stage in our country’s story also depends on the work that these services do, and I thank them.

Counting not one but two ballots seems to me, perhaps, to be a cruel and unnatural punishment but I, of course, also recognise there is more in store tomorrow, so I do thank them for their good temper, and for their skill and expertise.

I also want to thank my opponents who fought a very – I was going to say tolerant, but they might resent that – but very civilised contest in the Anniesland seat.

But especially I want to thank my constituents in Anniesland, they have given me great support over the years, they have become friends in that period and I’m very, very grateful.

I also want to thank my election agent John Robertson and his team, and all the Labour party workers. It’s always difficult conducting a campaign, maintaining momentum, maintaining enthusiasm when the candidate inevitably is away for very lengthy periods of time in other parts of Scotland. They did it magnificently, and I must say from all accounts from all the people who have spoken to me, they did an absolutely first class job.

We are starting to see the emergence, ladies and gentleman, a picture of the new Scotland. But it would be premature for me to speculate about its final form – we will need to wait a bit longer and into the morning.

The first six words of the Scotland Act read simply: There shall be a Scottish Parliament – and with those six simple words, Scottish politics are forever changed.

I am proud that my party – and I am proud personally – to be associated with that change. Because of those six simple words voted for tonight, Scotland is a very different place.

Let’s look at this night and see it as a key point in the democratic renewal of the British constitution and its civil institutions, that began with the election of a Labour government in May 1997.

I want to pay tribute to Tony Blair, whose unstinting support was an enormously important part of the process of achieving that Parliament and delivering that Parliament.

I also want to remember my friend, the late John Smith. I think he would have been very proud to see this happening now, see this Parliament elected safely tonight and he would have realised that indeed the central will of the Scottish people was being achieved.

We are on our way to building the sort of new Scotland we have always wanted, for the sort of new Britain we have also wanted.

So let all of us in Scotland begin this morning, after a time for rest and perhaps a time for calculation, and maybe even a time for counting, let us start building the new Scotland – remembering on all sides that civility is not a sign of weakness.

Let us together work for those who have placed their trust in us, the Scottish people.

This is our first democratic Parliament in Scotland for some 300 years, our people have waited for it, our people deserve it, we must give them what they want, we must struggle to deliver their legitimate ambitions, their hopes

I pledge myself to do so and I look forward immensely to the period that lies ahead. Thank you very much for your support, thank you the people of Anniesland.

Donald Dewar – 1966 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons


Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Donald Dewar in the House of Commons on 4th May 1966.

It is with some trepidation that I find myself on my feet at this early stage. Many of my hon. Friends counselled a longer wait, but a maiden speech is an ordeal which does not improve with contemplation and I decided to take my courage in both hands and rely on the traditional tolerance of the Committee.

I am the first Member of the Labour Party to be returned for South Aberdeen, and I suppose it is fair to ask why the people in that area have decided to turn their backs on a well-entrenched Conservative tradition which has been energetically represented for 20 years by my distinguished and in some ways rather formidable predecessor, Lady Tweedsmuir.

I think that the answer is fairly clear. It is that in South Aberdeen, as in many other parts of the country, they were impressed by the priorities and programmes of the last Labour Administration, and particularly in my area by an Administration which could deal energetically with a serious financial crisis and at the same time manage to reduce unemployment and so eliminate that endemic plague, the unemployment spiral dictated by external balance of payments difficulties. It is that in particular which ensured the return to Parliament of myself and many of my hon. Friends with increased majorities. It is because I think that the Budget will continue these sensible and flexible policies which have brought about this increase in prosperity and stability in my part of the world that I welcome the Budget.

I think it is only fair and right that the basis of the taxation system should be broadened. I think it is right that the imbalance which allowed the non-manufacturing sections of the economy to escape their fair share of the burden of taxation should be put right. It is equally right and convenient that the Chancellor’s catchment area should be increased. It is difficult to quarrel with any of these things.

I am impressed with the general engineering of the tax which will bring about a desirable switch in the deployment of labour in this country. I do not think that it will be dramatic, but it will be a trend which we can all welcome. I am very clear in my own mind that the objections coming fierce and fast from the Opposition benches on the subject of hoarding of labour are misplaced and wildly exaggerated. We know that in British industry there are many firms with old-fashioned ideas. We know that there are people who are not interested in the desirable movement towards capital-intensive as distinct from labour-intensive firms, and we all accept that there are people with the old-fashioned idea that one cannot install a machine until the plant it replaces has been written off at a rate of depreciation which is often arbitrary and ill-advised. All these things we accept, but it is a long step from saying this to saying that a marginal supplement for the employment of labour in manufacturing industry will radically encourage this state of affairs. Taking the tax overall, and looking at the employment picture, and the Government’s policy on, say, investment incentives, there is no doubt that the merits of the measure far outweigh what is a very marginal argument against it.

I enjoyed my first Budget, because when I arrived at the House I got the impression that many hon. Members opposite were coming to gloat. They were looking forward to hearing a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer having the unfortunate experience of having once more to flog the old pack horses of the economy, to increase direct taxation, to “have a go” at tobacco, beer, and so on. I got the impression that their smugness—I think that that is a fair term to use—began to turn to dismay as the proceedings wore on and they realised that that was not happening, and their minds were being asked to grapple with something which was new, something which was modern, and which they began dimly to realise was tailor-made to meet the requirements of the British economy.

At the end they were bemused, and some of them have not recovered from the attack and are using the same arguments and the same slogans which they have shouted against every Labour Budget for many years, and the tragedy is that as the ground has shifted, and as the arguments are different, their old slogans are even less appropriate than in the past.

Having said that I welcome the Budget, I must make it clear that as the Member for South Aberdeen I have certain reservations about specific facets of it which it is only fair openly to express. Some of the reservations have been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I accept them to some extent, but only to some extent. I am one of the representatives of a city of 180,000 people which is almost entirely dependent on administration and service industries connected with a considerable agricultural hinterland, and although we have two important, though small, shipyards—important in the local sense—whose future we watch over anxiously, and certain pockets of machine tools and paper manufacturing industries in the area, it is basically true that the number of employers who will get the premium can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and it is therefore fair to concede that this tax will be initially unpopular and much misunderstood in my constituency.

The second great pillar and prop of South Aberdeen is tourism, and already we have heard sounds of grumbling discontent from the tourist industry which has been excluded from the Government’s incentives, and I have no doubt that in the near future the discontent and grumbling will increase and will be a considerable embarrassment to Members like myself.

With this I sympathise and must say that I am worried about the tourist industry. In a city like Aberdeen, there will be a temptation to pass on to the customer the increases due to this taxation. If that is done this tourist trade which basically depends on internal tourism with people coming from other parts of Britain to Aberdeen, will become even more vulnerable to the ever-increasing plethora of cheap Continental holidays. I hope that the people in the industry will realise that it is in their interests to try to absorb most of these costs. But, on the other hand, I hope that the Chancellor will be receptive to what I know will be a great deal of pressure from both sides of the House to try to do something to help the tourist trade, particularly in areas like this.

Again, the service industries may also be tempted to pass on the increased costs. I hope that they will not do so, because thanks to the efforts of a Labour Government, the real problem in Aberdeen is not unemployment. The real problem is uncompetitive rewards, and a man in the North-East knows that he can get half as much again for the same job, and the same hours, by going to the Midlands or to the prosperous south of England. The result is that we are an open society in the sense that we can be raided, and are being raided by foraging parties for labour which drain off on enormous amount of the skilled manpower in our part of the country. I.C.I. and Stewarts and Lloyds are two recent examples, and I am worried that people, by unthinkingly passing on these increases in the service industries, will raise costs, even if nothing like as spectacularly as people say, but still significantly so, with the result that the level of wages will be even more uncompetitive.

There is a further danger that employers will use this as an excuse for keeping down the level of wages. If there is one section of the Aberdeen community which deserves criticism it is the industrial and commercial community, which has for too long been willing to accept comfortably low labour costs at the price of continuing local stagnation and emigration. I hope that local employers who will be affected by this tax will carefully examine their profit margins and the situation in which they find themselves before they glibly victimise their customers and ultimately themselves by just raising prices.

It has been said that the answer is to attract manufacturing industries to areas like Aberdeen. This is easily said, and I pay tribute to the great success of the Labour Administration in this field. The fact that I am here is a tribute to that success. The First Secretary reeled off a very lengthy list of such measures this afternoon, and I do not wish to repeat it, because it is familiar to us all. But I feel this will inevitably be a long-term business. It is by no means hopeless to talk about diversifying industry in Aberdeen. We can do it ultimately, but the basic shape of our economy will remain unmodified for a considerable time. Because of that we cannot look for a quick change, and we must face the possibility that this tax will have some unfortunate repercussions in the short term.

This will sound like special pleading, and so it is, but it will be heard not only from people in the north-east of Scotland but in the Highlands, in the Scottish Borders and probably in many parts of England from areas with similar problems. I hope that these pleas will be listened to carefully by the Chancellor. There are the real difficulties for the tourist and also the fishing industry, the status of which I believe is still a matter of discussion in relation to the new tax. I hope that the Chancellor will look at the whole problem of regional development. This new and imaginative tax—this novel weapon in the Chancellor’s armoury—is a great improvement on the old rigid deflationary machinery in terms of flexibility, and it is used at the moment to favour manufacturing as against service industries. It could be used to encourage regional development as against the over-eager growth in more geographically favoured parts of Britain.

The point to grasp is that these two objectives are not incompatible, and it is wrong to try to pretend that we cannot achieve both. I hope that in the near future the Chancellor will listen with sympathy to the plea of the development areas, and see whether he cannot make this kind of concession. We have made enormous progress in areas where there has been traditionally little Labour support, because we have been able to convince the electorate that we stand for a controlled steady and all embracing growth which will benefit all sections of the population. We have an enormous record of achievement in this respect.

While I welcome this enlightened and important tax, which will do something to increase mobility of labour, stimulate productivity and bring economic sanity to this country, I hope that my right hon. Friend will slant it in such a way that it will not interfere with the general trend of Labour policy, which has been to help regions like mine. My right hon. Friend has an enormous amount to his credit. He can increase this by a few minor adjustments in this Budget. I hope he will make the effort and continue to aid, encourage and inspire growth and effort in areas for which he has so rightly done so much in the last two years.