Ruth Davidson – 2017 Speech at Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, at the Conservative Party conference held in Manchester on 2 October 2017.

Thank you conference.

It’s great to be here in Manchester. Or as I call it, the Southern powerhouse.

I want to talk to you about the general election. In fact, I want to talk to you about two of them.

The first one – two years ago.

And for us in Scotland, the same old story.

Knocking our pans in.

Hitting countless doors, delivering thousands of leaflets, too many conversations to count, another pair of boots ruined.

And at the end of it all?

We started with one MP. We ended with one MP.

We’d survived the SNP tsunami, but were no further forward than when we began.

…we were still outgunned by those sodding pandas.

But, two years later, we had a second election – this June.

Back on the stump.

Back knocking those same doors, delivering more leaflets, having thousands more conversations and – yes – by the end of it, another pair of boots totalled.

But this time, it was different. This time people were looking for a serious alternative to a nationalism that had let down our schools and was more concerned with division than delivery.

And we went from one MP to 13. Our best result in decades.

After years of heroically holding the line on his own, suddenly David Mundell got some company.

The pandas are going to have to go some, to catch up now…

It’s been quite a ride, conference.

And we’re not done yet – far from it.

But, conference, we didn’t turn things around in one seven-week campaign.

We did it through grafting hard between elections. By organising. By making and remaking the argument.

And I have watched. With incredulity, the response to the Labour party conference this week.

Commentators, who should know better, declaring Jeremy Corbyn as a shoo-in to number 10, just because Glastonbury chanted his name to the White Stripes. Folks, he hasnae even won a raffle.

Well, conference I have been here before and I can tell you how this story ends.

I have watched as Nicola Sturgeon sold out rock venues. As she released a line of signature clothing. As she sold foam fingers to the faithful so they could point at the sky as she flew in a helicopter she’d slapped her face on, over their heads.

I’ve read the commentary that said her momentum was irresistible, that everything would be swept before her.

And all the other parties in Scotland should just pack up, and go home.

Well, conference, I don’t like anyone telling me where to go.

Politics is not for faint hearts. It’s not about what’s in fashion or who is the absolute boy.

It’s about making the case for what you believe in.

It’s about service and duty and getting the job done. Delivering for others. And giving everyone the chance to get on.

And, just as the SNP came crashing down to earth. Just as they lost 40 per cent of their seats in June. Just as half a million Scots chose to take their vote away. So too can the Corbyn bubble burst, but only if we work hard to make it so.

Because, you know what? People tire of being offered free unicorns. Of easy promises that don’t add up.

They want serious solutions to the issues facing their world.

They want opportunities to make their own lives better.

A good school so their children can do anything they set their mind to.

A strong economy so they’ll always have the security of work.

Well-funded public services to look after their needs

And to keep more of their own money because they make better decisions for their family’s future than the state makes for them.

That’s what we offer. That’s what Theresa May offers.

A belief in country, duty, service and the power of people.

And that’s what we fight for.

Always. We fight.


We may have five years, but I tell you – we need to get to work right now.

Because the in-tray is full.

Firstly. Brexit.

It’s time to get the best deal we can.

And you know what?

It’s time we in this party made it clear – that we’re not Leavers or Remainers anymore – we’re just Brits.

People who were asked to make a decision. Did. And now want to deliver that decision in the best way possible. Who now must unite behind our leader to get the best deal for us and the right deal for Europe as well.

Next we’ve got to deliver that strong economy and world-class public services.

Ten years of tough times since the crash – it’s time to show working families right across the UK – from a tenement in Glasgow, to a one-bed in Grantham – that we’ve got their back.

Yes, we’ve got record employment in the UK today – but we also need to recognise the pressures faced by the job-juggling generation, where two or even three jobs are needed to make ends meet.

The sheer effort that takes – just to keep going.

The strain it puts on relationships.

The stress of not knowing if you’re going to make your rent.

And what will happen if you can’t.

These people are looking to us for answers – and for action to make their lives easier.

It’s our duty to deliver.

Also, to make our country fairer.

To make it clear: this party isn’t there for those at the top of the ladder – this party IS a ladder.

It’s what we’re about: to help people move up and get on.

To be the party of home-building.

The party that enshrines excellence in education – no matter the school.

The party that will take action on the low wage economy and help lift living standards.

Further, to be a beacon in the world. To help those that are hurting and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. To go into bat for our friends and allies.

To be able to say when you go abroad that despite the financial hit of the last few years – that my country, our country, kept its commitments to the world’s poor and will continue to do so.

And finally, conference, to stay united.

To stay one United Kingdom.

By being a nation that realises the ambitions of everyone in this country. That seeks to be a home for all who live here.

And I mean everyone.

From the people who voted to leave the UK, to the majority who voted to stay…

From the people who voted to remain in the EU to the people who voted to leave.

From the people who can trace their ancestors back through generations, to people who’ve settled here from somewhere else.

…who pursued that innate Conservative instinct to better themselves and their families and build a new life in a new land.

We need to stand together, Not defensive in this diversity and our sometime disagreement – but to be confident in our ability to embrace difference and debate.

And to have the courage to confront not just our strengths but our weaknesses too.

We are a remarkable Union, conference.

Because of the leadership of this party – our Union is known the world over as a Union of choice, not of force.

A Union that, three years ago, put our democratic right to choose whether to leave before its very survival.

That’s not nothing. In fact, the more time passes, the more remarkable it becomes.

And let’s say it loud and proud – that this is a Union that that does not hoard power to the centre, but has sought to push it out.

And again, did so thanks to a Conservative party which – as Edinburgh, as Cardiff, Manchester and Teeside will attest – is now THE party of devolution.

Not Labour, certainly not the LibDems. Us.

And a party that now wants to use Brexit to go further – to ensure that the power surge that will hit Britain when we leave the EU is felt in Edinburgh, in Cardiff Bay and in Stormont too.

I’m proud of that, conference. I’m proud of all we’ve done in the last few years to keep this country together and move forward as one.

But we should recognise that these huge changes to our nation pose challenges too.

Devolution of power has transformed our nation for the better. It has put power closer to people.

But – at the same time – while we’ve built vigorous new devolved structures, we’ve not done enough to nurture that which binds us.

As the Prime Minister said in Scotland earlier this year, all too often, Whitehall devolves and forgets.

And the danger is that we become a country that stays together, but lives apart.

With the cracks exploited by those who would pull us apart for good.

So let me make a plea today.

Yes – let’s absolutely press on with more devolution. But it’s time for a bit more Union too.

More Union right across Britain.

More Union in all parts of our nation – benefiting us all.

More Union spread evenly– and not just based in London.

Now let me make this clear: conference, I love London.

No plans to move there myself, but great to visit.

And it’s wonderful that our small island nation plays host to the capital of the world.

But the truth is: for all the devolution of power in the last twenty years, our Union continues to be far too London-centric.

Compare us to our friends around the world. New York’s global status doesn’t diminish Washington’s political clout, or LA’s creativity, or Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurialism. Instead, America has a cluster of great global cities.

Or look at Germany – where Berlin’s political heft is balanced by the financial hub of Frankfurt and the industry of Munich.

We’re the odd one out – in fact, among major global capitals, only Moscow accounts for a greater share of national product than London.

And this imbalance is getting crazy.

We live in a country where the property values of London’s top 10 boroughs are worth more than all of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales combined.

Where you can sell a three bed semi in Ilford, and buy half of Sutherland.

Where, in a capital city already zooming forward on the jet fuel of high finance, the economy is further boosted by enough civil servants to fill Wembley.

It is time for change – to fulfil the plans we set out at the election this year…
…to give Britain a shake and spread more of our Union outside the capital.

To see our great metropolitan cities have a larger share in the government of our country.

To ensure that – if our civil service and cultural bodies are to claim to be UK institutions – they must be present across our whole United Kingdom.

To move more of the infrastructure, the people and the administration of our country out of the capital and into the country.

It is happening to a degree already of course.

More civil service jobs coming to my constituency in central Edinburgh.

The fantastic new V+A museum rising up in Dundee, ready to show the best of Scottish and British design.

And here in Manchester, the Northern Powerhouse now showing the way ahead.

But I want to see more. We need to see more.

The government’s industrial strategy is designed to boost growth in places across all four nations of the United Kingdom.

And it’s reviewing the various agencies based in London to see which ones could be ready for a move.

So I want us to seize the opportunity to ensure more of them come to Scotland.

Conference, here’s the bottom line.

The success of our Union cannot and should not be measured by the fact the alternative has failed.

That separation is a busted flush.

No – our success must be measured by our determination to always improve.

By going the extra mile. By refusing to accept the status quo as a given. And being restless for change.

By recognising that thousands of our fellow countrymen and women no longer see this country as theirs.

By seeking not to shun them, or dismiss their complaints – but to answer them with action.

And that must be our task as we go forward from conference this week.

In Government, across the United Kingdom, united behind our Prime Minister, determined to face the challenges of the future.

To tackle injustice.

To be the ladder.

To create real social cohesion.

And – in opposition in Scotland – we must be ready to change, and to win.

Because, I don’t know about you, but after ten years of SNP Government, it seems to me like it’s time for a new broom.

It’s not going to be Scottish Labour, by the way.

They swap leaders so often that Trump’s communications director feels sorry for them.

But us? We’re serious.

…serious about restoring Scotland’s reputation as the education capital of the world.

….serious about boosting our productivity – to get Scotland’s economy firing once again.

And serious about running a government in Scotland that just gets on with the job for once.

A government you can trust to focus on the tough choices.

To dump the tedious grievance politics and the petty complaints.

Instead, to act as a grown-up partner within a reformed United Kingdom – eager not just to better Scotland but – in so doing – to better our wider nation too.

As a party that, in Scotland, is re-engaging with our roots.

A party as Teddy Taylor once put it, isn’t just there for the people in the ‘big hooses’.

But for those who clean their tenement step as well.

That’s the party we are building in Scotland and across the United Kingdom.

A party that speaks to the hopes of our nation as a whole.

From car production lines in Coventry to contact centre staff in Cardiff.

From ship workers in Glasgow to software designers in Dundee.

A party that reaches out to every corner of our country with a level head, but also an open heart.

And with a clear set of values.

…That strong families are the foundation of a stable society.

…A good education is the key to a lifetime of opportunity.

…That everybody should have a safe and secure home.

…That there should be a job for everyone who wants to work – and that pay should be fair.

These are the things I believe in – and I know you believe in them too.

So it’s time for us – all of us – to unite and fight.

Unite and fight for the union of our nation

…For the security people want.

…For the prosperity families need.

…For the future our young people deserve.

Unite and fight for this country we are proud to serve.

Ruth Davidson – 2013 Conservative Conference Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Ruth Davidson to the 2013 Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Good morning.

Friends, I hope you’re enjoying conference.

And, as you enjoy it, I want you to reflect that this could be your last ever UK party conference.

Because by this time next year the people of Scotland will have voted in a referendum which will decide not just if Scotland should be in or out of the UK, but will decide whether the UK will exist at all.

It is a huge decision.

Touching every one of our great British institutions

Affecting our businesses and our prosperity, our services and our security, our allies and our place in the world.

A decision made by people now, on behalf of generations still to come.

Because this decision isn’t the same as election.

If we don’t like the result, we can’t just come back in 5 years’ time and vote again.

It is a choice that is vital and is binding.

And while everybody understands why this matters to Scotland, I want to talk to you this morning about its importance to the rest of the UK. And why, as Conservatives, we are leading the fight to keep our country together.

Firstly, we are unselfconscious in the love of our country. We have worked and strived for generations to build a Britain that we can be proud of.

In the good times, we have shared our prosperity and our expertise.

In darker days, we have stood shoulder to shoulder with our allies; and with each other.

The Union is in our DNA.

But don’t take my word for it.

Research conducted last month showed how party voters would cast their ballot.

Only two thirds – 68% – of SNP voters would actually support independence.

75% of Labour and 80% of Lib Dems were Backing Britain.

But 98% of Conservatives said they wanted to keep our Kingdom United.

And friends, d’you know what I want? I want the names and numbers of the other 2%

Because, as a party, we rejoice in our nation’s success, appreciate our proud history and strive to make Britain better still.

Our Conservative values – freedom for the individual, success based on hard work, horizons limited only by ambition – they reflect our national character.

We’re a party that says it doesn’t matter if you’re a grocer’s daughter, or a working class boy from Brixton – you can be Prime Minister.

A country that says it doesn’t matter where you were born, if you make Britain your home and don the Team GB jersey, win or lose, we will cheer you around the Olympic track.

A society which says it doesn’t matter if you are Welsh first. Or Scottish, English or Northern Irish. You are British too.

And we are all equal under the Union flag.

And that flag is a sign, a symbol of how our nation can be a force for good in this world.

And let me tell you how I know that – because I’ve seen its power at work.

Before I was elected, I was a journalist and broadcaster.

And as young reporter, I was sent to Kosovo, to see the work our troops were doing there.

I was with the Black Watch regiment, and saw lads younger than me patrolling the streets and protecting schoolchildren from attack.

Clearing bombs and dealing with bullets aimed at those who came from a different ethnic background.

And they did all of that with a patch on their arm – the Union Flag.

They did it because they believed in something, and I believe in it too.

I know that the world is a safer place for Kosovars, ethnic Serbs and Albanians because of the service men and women of our country.

Not just the Black Watch, but the Royal Regiment of Wales, who served alongside them in Pristina; the Royal Irish Regiment, the Household cavalry, the parachute regiment, the Royal engineers, the marines, the RAF and others.

The UK has the most professional fighting force in the world.

And when Scotland’s First minister, Alex Salmond, says – as he did – that our troops should never have been there, that stopping genocide and ethnic cleansing on Europe’s shores was in his words ‘unpardonable folly’ I say no, Alex.

That was an unpardonable slur.

We are a responsible nation in the world and we are not afraid to help shoulder the burden of a persecuted people.

And we’re only able to do so because we have the integrated armed forces we do – pulling together from every part of the UK to keep our people safe at home and to work for peace abroad.

Can you imagine this time next year if there’s a ‘yes’ vote; trying to pick apart different divisions, splitting up regiments, dividing our nation’s military hardware…

…Our frigates and fighter jets, arms and artillery like a feuding couple dividing up their furniture?

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

We are stronger together, safer together, at our very best together.

And, while we can make these arguments of the heart; of our dual identity, of our shared history, of the common endeavour to build and develop the most successful political, economic and cultural union in the modern world….

…As Conservatives, we are a practical people too, and look also for the arguments of the head.

Everyone in the UK benefits from our borderless Union.

Scotland exports more to the rest of the UK than it does to the rest of the world combined.

And – in return – we buy back too.

In fact, we import more than twice as many goods by value from the rest of Britain than the rest of the globe.

Tens of billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on our shared market and cross border flow.

And it’s not just goods and finance criss-crossing north and south. It’s people too.

Labour migration is estimated to be up to 75% higher within an integrated UK – allowing us to share skills and knowledge.

And it works. More than 800,000 Scots live and work in other parts of the UK.

And 400,000 people in Scotland were born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Over the years we have worked together and fought together. We have mixed our families together.

We are not easily separated by those who now seek to divide us.

And we work hard for each other.

Nearly 200,000 financial services jobs in Scotland rely on companies selling pensions, mortgages and insurance to the rest of the UK.

More likely than not, the financial products which secure your home and support you in old age are looked after in Scotland – as nine out of ten of these customers live in the rest of the UK.

In defence – right now 5,000 people in Scotland are hard at work constructing the next generation of vessels for the Royal Navy.

And, In fact, every lens of every periscope of every submarine which has ever served – now or in history – under the white ensign has been constructed by the same specialist company in Scotland.

I know, because they’re in my constituency in Glasgow.

And in medical research.

It’s not just Dolly the sheep.

Because of the UK’s support structure, nine out of ten women and eight out of ten men are now surviving skin cancer, thanks in part to the work being done at Dundee University.

Scottish expertise, UK support, worldwide benefits. Achieved Together.

Now Conference, in Scotland, issues around the referendum are reported every single day.

I know that’s not the case elsewhere – at least, not yet.

And when you do get a news report, down south, more likely than not you’ll be hearing from Alex Salmond.

He’s the one talking Britain down and saying that Scots are desperate to leave.

Well, I’m telling you now. Don’t believe it.

When it comes to this issue, Alex Salmond doesn’t speak for a majority of Scots. In fact, he never has.

Time after time, poll after poll, people in Scotland say they want to stay.

But we’re not complacent.

In the months ahead we have a lot of work to do to hammer home to people just how much Scotland gains from being part of the UK and how much the United Kingdom benefits from Scotland as a member.

As a nation, we know we are greater than the sum of our parts.

And I think Scotland’s First Minister has cottoned on to that recognition.

Because he’s opened up a new tack in recent months.

Not content, to just make promises about everything that would stay the same under independence – Keep the Queen, Keep the pound, Keep the Bank of England – whether it is in his gift or not.

Not content, just to make assertions about a separate Scotland’s place in the world. – Automatic membership of NATO and the EU – against expert advice.

But his new tack is the last refuge of every shameless populist in history staring down the barrel of defeat.

It’s to promise things for free.

A quick tally shows – with 11 months still to go – at least £32 billion pounds of uncosted promises.

Under his independent utopia Alex Salmond promises to:

– Increase overseas aid

– Reverse benefit reforms

– Underwrite oil decommissioning

– Set up a Scottish Spy service

– Subsidise more windfarms

– And renationalise the Royal Mail.

– By polling day, I’m expecting free beer with every vote.

All of these promises made to people in Scotland.

None of them with any explanation of how they would be paid for.

In fact, a secret leaked document from Scotland’s Finance secretary shows his projection that – far from being able to offer unlimited bonuses – Scotland would be worse off than the rest of the UK by 2016-17 and would start under independence laden with a debt and debt interest we’d struggle to pay.

That’s not me saying Scotland couldn’t be a separate country – of course we could.

But why would we want to when we gain so much as part of the UK?

And the man in charge of the sums for breaking up Britain – when even he – admits we’d be worse off as a nation?

Friends, it is this ‘say anything’, ‘do anything’, ‘promise anything’ approach to breaking up Britain that we are fighting.

And it is a fight.

And I’m asking you to join me in it.

I know that many of you living in other parts of the UK won’t have a vote – but we all have a stake in the result, and we can all play a part in securing our country for the future.

When Quebec went to the polls to decide whether to leave Canada in 1995, the result was exceptionally close.

The secessionists were ahead until the day itself.

There was just a 1% margin of victory.

And the single fact credited with making the difference between staying and going, between uniting the country or dividing the nation – was that the rest of Canada said ‘We want you to stay’.

So, over the next year, when Alex Salmond comes on your television, saying things designed to get right up your nose.

Know that he’s doing it on purpose, and that he doesn’t speak for the majority of Scots.

Know too, that while this is the most important decision in Scotland’s history – it also affects each and every one you, no matter where you live.

In three hundred years we have built our nation together, fought together, traded together, lived, loved, settled together.

Shared our countries risks.

Benefitted from its rewards.

We walk taller, shout louder and stand stronger together.

I am proud of the Britain that we’ve built together

And I will fight heart, mind, body and soul to keep it together.


Over the next 11 months, we have a huge fight to save our United Kingdom.

It’s a fight we can win.

It’s a fight we must win.

Conference, with your help, it’s a fight we will win.

Thank you.