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.