Iain Gray – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Gray, the then Leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, to Labour Party conference on 28th September 2009.

The Tories have not changed.

David Cameron has come a long way.  He isn’t hugging hoodies and huskies any more. He is embracing Europe’s extremists.

In Scotland we are not surprised at the company Tories keep.  We have watched them nuzzling up to the nationalist government from day one.

In Scotland, we do not have to imagine a leader who will say anything, promise everything and be whatever you want to get into office.  We already have Alex Salmond.

A year ago he didn’t mind Thatcher’s economics. But now he’s a Keynsian in the crisis.

A climate change warrior by day, a gas guzzler by night; sending his car round the corner for a curry.

He really did turn up for the opening of a new shortbread tin. And he really did stand up the chief executive of Diageo with 900 jobs at stake. He had an important raffle to draw on TV that day.

While Scots are doing everything they can to get through the recession, what is Alex Salmond doing?

He’s in his Bute house Brigadoon. Picking furniture for imaginary embassies round the world. And choosing curtains for his office in the united nations. Planning tv schedules for SBC – that’s the Salmond Broadcasting Corporation.

No mandate.  No majority.  And no shame.

The SNP are not a government.  They are a campaign. The day may well come when the people of Scotland want a referendum to settle their constitutional future once and for all. But not now, in the midst of a recession. And not on a question rigged by the SNP.

In 2007, in a tight election the SNP won votes by cynically making promises they had no intention of keeping.

Parents trusted them to cut class sizes.  They haven’t.

Students trusted them to pay off their student loans. They didn’t.

First time buyers trusted them to help with their deposit. They let them down.


With twice the resources Donald Dewar ever had, the SNP have built fewer houses, fewer schools, and fewer hospitals than Labour ever did.


Labour in power had a vision of a modern, prosperous, fair Scotland.  We started building the infrastructure to connect Scotland to the world.  We began to heal the Tory legacy in places like Ravenscraig.  We expanded apprenticeships and student places in our universities.  Funded the pipeline from research to jobs, in photonics and bioscience and renewable energy.  Trained more teachers than ever before and guaranteed them jobs.


In just two years the SNP have cancelled the rail links to Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.  They have slashed the enterprise budgets which supported innovation and regeneration.  Halted the expansion of higher education, and thrown 1000 teachers on the scrapheap.

Alex Salmond is not taking my country forward he is dragging it back.

That’s what happens when Labour loses power.

My Scotland would not be a country where two year-old Brandon Muir dies at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend and the First Minister says “everyone did all they could.”  My Scotland would be a country where we would not give up on the 20,000 children living as Brandon Muir lived.

My Scotland would not be a place where the father of a young man stabbed to death comes to his Parliament to be told by the First Minister that he’s going to abolish jail sentences for hundreds of knife criminals. My Scotland would be a country where if you carried a knife, you would go to jail.

Alex Salmond is not lifting my country up, he is dragging it down.

That’s what happens when Labour loses power.

The next election is a choice, between a Labour government or a Tory government. Alex salmond wants a Tory government. His senior civil servants are already planning for it.

The SNP believe that the unemployment, the social division, the fractured lives that the Tories would bring are all a price worth paying for their campaign for separation.

Alex Salmond refused to debate with Jim Murphy – because, he said, he debates with me, every Thursday.

What’s so special about Thursdays Alex?  How about St Andrews day? Clear your diary. Debate my vision of Scotland against yours. Tell us which side you are on.  I dare you.

In the Scottish Parliament from Opposition, we delivered 8000 apprenticeships, stopped the unfair, unworkable Local Income Tax, and forced the strongest climate change legislation in the world on the SNP.

But in Opposition there is so much more we cannot do.

That is what happens when Labour loses power.

We must fight, fight and fight again for the future we want to see.

Last year conference, I said that Labour MSPs would stand shoulder to shoulder with MP colleagues, and with our Prime Minister in the Glenrothes by election and we would elect Lindsay Roy the new Labour MP.

We did.

And together we can do the same in Glasgow North East and make Willie Bain a Labour MP. And then we will make Gordon Brown Prime Minister again.

Together we will defeat those whose sole creed is self interest, whose sole purpose is division whose sole principle is expediency. Whether they are Tories, or nationalists.