Margaret Curran's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 20122 October 2012
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Margaret Curran MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:
Conference, I want to tell you about Scotland.
I want to tell you about a country of just 5 million that has the passion and pride of a place with millions more.
A country that contains in its history the beginnings of the enlightenment and the engine room of an empire.
And where people today are forging a future that relies as much on the digital economy as it does on heavy industry.
Conference this is my country – and because of the Union it is your country too.
But, Conference, too many want to leave the story there.
They’re happy to celebrate these glories, but they’re not prepared to see the realities that, today, too many people across Scotland face.
Because how could a nation that gave the world the steam engine, the telephone and penicillin be expected to watch as the ingenuity of young Scots goes unrealised with one in four heading from the school gate to the dole queue?
How can a country whose education system was the envy of the world be expected to stay silent when 10,000 of our sons and daughters languish on college waiting lists?
And how can a people whose sense of solidarity was so deep that closing a yard meant much more than the loss of a workplace be expected to watch again as their communities are ravaged by recession?
Let me tell you Conference – we can’t stand for it and we won’t.
Scots are trapped between two Governments that have their priorities all wrong.
And by the day, the similarities between them are growing.
What’s the solution to every economic problem?
A cut in the taxes paid by their people and an assault on the services used by our people.
So when George Osborne suggests lowering corporation tax to 22 per cent, Alex Salmond goes further and says bring it down to 20.
While Osborne makes nurses and care workers and classroom assistants pay for a crisis not of their making, Salmond joins in and cuts 30,000 jobs from Scotland’s public sector.
And when the coalition cuts and Scots are at the sharp end, where is the Secretary of State for Scotland?
Conference, Michael Moore is nowhere to be seen.
Take it from me, it’s a difficult job to Shadow the Scottish Secretary when he’s barely casting a shadow on Government himself.
But I’ll tell you the one place you can find him. Day after day, night after night, he’s there in the voting lobbies with the Tories.
Regardless of the consequences.
A double dip recession.
Tax credits cut.
Long term unemployment at a 16 year high.
Parents relying on food banks to feed their families.
Taking from pensioners to provide to millionaires.
All his Government’s choices.
All his shared responsibility.
Conference, Scotland could and should be better than this.
We have a life sciences industry that employs over 32,000 people.
Creative industries that contribute £3 billion to our prosperity.
And close to a fifth of our nation’s economy relies on our energy sector.
Our people have so much to give, but still too many just don’t get that opportunity to get on, to do well and to flourish.
And as the world changes around us,
As the weight of the global economy moves to the world’s South and East,
As technology opens up new fronts in our search for prosperity and opportunity,
Scots realise that we can’t look to the solutions of the past to make us strong in the future.
Our response has to be rooted in the reality of the world around us, a world that is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.
We cannot afford to listen to those who say that the answer to Scotland’s problems is to build a wall around ourselves.
So, the strength to overcome the challenges of our time comes from binding together, not breaking apart.
And that is as true of the challenges we face as a nation as it is of those we face in our families, our towns or our cities.
And, Conference, this is what separates us from the Tories and the SNP.
That whether we’re talking about improving our schools, raising our living standards, or deciding how we govern ourselves we are led by one simple truth: “That by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.”
This isn’t just a slogan written on our membership cards but a truth written on our hearts.
We believe it, we live by it and if we are honoured with the confidence of the Scottish people at the next election we intend to govern by it.
Conference, with Ed Miliband as our Leader, we have a vision for a new economy, a new politics and a new society.
And in Johann Lamont, as we saw last week, we have a Scottish Leader who is unafraid to tell the hard truths or face the big issues.
And thanks to that great top team, we’re off our knees and winning again, across Scotland.
Winning people’s confidence.
Winning the trust of business, our vibrant third sector and our community groups.
Winning the elections which give us the chance to put our principles into action.
We’ve got a long way to go yet, but conference, if you want to know why all the campaigning and hard work and long nights and tough fights are worth it – just remember how you felt when you heard the magic words:
We know that when we fight, we win. And we are in the fight of our lives. Because in 2014, Scotland faces a decision about whether to break up Britain.
A decision with consequences not only for every Scot but every person across these islands.
And in the years that follow we will have to fight again, when we face UK and Scottish General Elections.
On the one side two parties that play the politics of division.
And on the other a Labour Party that sees the strength in all of us to work together and succeed.
A Labour Party that isn’t satisfied with what Scotland is today, but obsessed with what Scots could be tomorrow.
A Labour Party with the ideas, imagination and strength to rebuild Scotland and rebuild Britain.
And a Party which believes the Scots’ ideals of solidarity and social justice speak to concerns which are so great, so urgent, so universal, that we should never allow them to stop at our border, but send them onwards and outwards, to inspire not just the rest of Britain, but the rest of the world.