Hey everyone Yesterday in a packed conference hall in the fair city of Perth Nicola Sturgeon made her first conference speech as leader of the SNP and of our country and I for one could not be prouder of the fact. An inspiring woman and a brilliant politician Nicola had conference delegates in the palm of her hand as she illustrated that when it comes to brilliant barnstorming speeches, this honest and bonnie lass can deliver them as well as if not better than any man.
Nicola is first and foremost a conviction politician and for that the Scottish National Party should be extremely grateful as she was convinced that Scotland should be independent from an early age and joined the party at just 16. This was at a time when a top girls magazine had the title Just Seventeen so she joined the SNP when she was still younger than the title one of the magazines she may have read.
From that day to this Nicola Sturgeon has worked tirelessly for our party and now she takes the job destiny has always had planned for her. This is a woman who believes in independence not for flags and banners nor for tales of past glories but the better more equal future which as a feisty fighter for fairness she is determined to achieve.
In opening her speech Nicola described her call to lead the party as the proudest moment of her life. On the referendum she said it was a time of heartbreak for us all and she spoke of her disappointment of not achieving our goal but said Scotland was alive and energised. Nicola went on to say that our cause remains un-won but to rapturous applause she told the gathering and those like myself who were there in spirit ‘Know this it will be won’. As she has said before on a few occasions much to the annoyance of those delicate little unionists ‘it isn’t a matter of if it’s a matter of when.
As if to further enhance this point our new leader went on to say that ‘even from our deepest disappointments springs new hope and new opportunity and in the case of our party 60,000 new members’ she then addressed those new members both in the audience and at home and welcomed them in to our family.
During this part of her speech Nicola encouraged those who have not yet joined up to consider doing so and help us build a country which is the best it can be. This appeal is the hallmark of a people’s politician because make no mistake this is a woman who has not forgotten her roots, a woman of conviction rather than compromise a woman of substance not of sound bites, a woman who is proud of where she came from and of where she is going to.
This is the Nicola Sturgeon I know, not only an intelligent politician, not only a woman of passion, fire and vision but a woman with a welcoming heart whose actions speak far louder than the her words. This is the woman who has made a journey in which she has had to overcome a personal battle with her natural shyness to become the outstanding politician of stature we see now. The fact she has won that battle and many others since suggests she is the perfect choice for the fight we now face.
In a heartfelt and emotional tribute to her predecessor Nicola talked warmly of our outgoing leader saying that the distance we have travelled as a party is remarkable but said Alex Salmond had done more than anyone to make us the force we are today. Ms Sturgeon said that Alex had been an outstanding First Minister and constant thorn in the Westminster flesh as he stood up for Scotland and what was right. Citing the return of free education for all as his greatest legacy, his successor referred to him justifiably in my opinion as ‘A hero of our movement and a champion of our of our nation’.
Stating her intentions to lead her party in her way Nicola Sturgeon said ‘under Alex our party has achieved so much but I’m here to tell you our best days are yet to come’. Our new leader went on to talk of ‘a party which was bigger stronger and more determined than ever before’ and said with 1 in every 50 Scots now an SNP member we reflected Scotland in all its glorious diversity’. Be in no doubt she said we are Scotland’s Party’.
As she emphasised the growth in the membership Nicola Sturgeon fired a warning at TV bosses who say they will not include the SNP in the leadership debates for next year’s UK General Election as she reminded them that the party had more members than both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats both of whom they plan to include saying that the exclusion of the SNP from these debates would be a democratic outrage as she insisted the SNP will be seen and Scotland’s voice will be heard and believe me she means business. To ignore the largest party in Scotland and the third largest in the UK would I think be what as a former leader of our party once said when referring to a different situation ‘an act of unpardonable folly’.
Talking of unpardonable folly Nicola ruled out any possibility
of any coalition with the Conservatives and said she would make very sure Labour knew the conditions of working with them. Key amongst these conditions would be the removal of any new trident missiles from Scottish soil. This is something on which I have no doubt we would see her hold Westminster’s feet to fire. Believe me Nicola Sturgeon will just like her predecessor be a strong voice for Scotland and that is exactly what Scotland needs.
It is however not just Nicola who will be a strong voice for our country, our entire movement has gained strength from recent events. As our new leader, Nicola said that our party is stronger because our country is stronger as we are now more informed than we were before the referendum campaign which she said had revitalised Scotland. Speaking to both yes and no voters Nicola Sturgeon promised neither she nor our party would not ‘let Westminster go back to business as usual’. She did however remind both those in the conference hall and those at home that should Scotland vote for Westminster parties that is exactly what would happen as vows would be broken and the promise of more powers would evaporate.
As she set about putting her stamp on the party Ms Sturgeon said that ‘the only language Westminster is that of power and urged the voters to show those who would seek to control Scotland that ‘Power over Scotland no longer rests at Westminster it rests with the people of Scotland and that is where it will stay’.
Speaking from the heart Nicola used the language of the head as she urged the people of Scotland to ‘harness the democratic power of the referendum to send shock waves to the London establishment’.
This to me was perhaps more important than any policy announcements though were plenty of them as childcare, the living wage, and that perennial favourite of both of party supporters and others on the principled left of Scottish politics were all given an airing in a speech which I think shows the SNP are planning to take a more left wing course. I for one would welcome such a move as I have always supported the values of a socially just society and it was that vision of a fairer society which motivated both my new party leader and myself to get involved in politics and to join the Scottish National Party
Though I will not agree with Nicola nor my party on everything as that would not have beneficial consequences for the democratic process I do support my party on between 70 and 75 per cent of core policies and with our new leader that will probably increase to around 80 to 85 per cent if as I suspect and indeed hope that we will move in a more left of centre direction. I make this point to illustrate that there will be as there has always has plenty of room for healthy discussion within our party. Unlike other parties our members will not be told what to think. Indeed such an idea would be appalling not appealing to a woman who will listen to and take note of the views and values of our members and will make sure we will in the finest tradition of our party shape the views of our party.
As someone who has always supported independence I am delighted to see Nicola Sturgeon reaching out to those who did not vote for our cause on September 18th. This is important as many voters who made the choice to stay within the union still want to see what Ms Sturgeon referred to as ‘ a powerhouse of a Scottish Parliament’ delivered for Scotland and the best, no the only way they will see it happen is by voting SNP.
By voting SNP next May Ms Sturgeon said Scotland could not be taken for granted again and the party who fear that most are Labour who she said ‘ had taken Scotland for far too long’. Pulling no punches the new SNP leader warned fellow Scots not to fall for what she called the oldest con trick in the book namely the age old Labour scare tactic that you’ve got to vote Labour to keep the Tories out. This is and I am in no mood to mince words here complete and total garbage. Anyone who knows anything about how the United Kingdom works knows full well that this statement is nothing more than a bare faced lie.
Proof of this lie if any were needed comes with the following statistics. In the elections of 1979 , 1983, 1987, 1992, and 2010 Scotland when we overwhelmingly voted Labour giving them over 40 seats at every one of these elections and on each occasion ended up with a Tory government. Yes I know that some pedants will say but our current government is a coalition government, well pardon me for shaking them out of their delusions but believe me this is a Tory government in all but name. Therefore I have to say that voting Labour in Scotland as a deterrent to the Tories is as effective as wearing a bikini in a snowstorm. The result is never good and can only lead to ridicule and eventually tragedy. I mean when Tony Blair is the only Labour Party Prime Minister that Middle England deems acceptable to elect and he has been described by one Margaret Thatcher as a better conservative than John Major the Tory Prime Minister he defeated that tells it’s own story.
Labour, said Nicola, ‘were once the party of progress now they are just a barrier to progress’. Believe me she is bang on the money on this one’. The people’s party no longer represent the people they are part of the Westminster establishment and it was the perks of that establishment they fought so hard to preserve when they campaigned with the Tories against the people of Scotland. This move, to me at least, finally nailed there outdated and offensive argument and leaves it exposed for what it is and for that matter always was an electoral con trick used to fool the people of Scotland.
The new leader the leader of my party and our country caught this mood brilliantly when she said that ‘Scotland’s patience with Labour is running out fast and they know it. In a devastating attack on her opponents Nicola accused them on having no positive vision and claimed they will rely on the same old scare story to attempt to get people to back them. Now they may not like it but I have a message for my opponents and it comes from these lines of Flower of Scotland ‘those days are past now and in the past they must remain’. Labour to me are a party of the past and as Nicola said they will pay the price for linking arms with the Tories and they will pay it for many years to come.
As for the challenges she will face as First Minister she said she will embrace them with relish. This is a woman who doesn’t do walking away and she has no intention of starting now. With regards to her priorities for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is in no doubt as to what she sees as the twin pillars of her mission for our country. This is she says to build a strong economy whilst eradicating poverty and increasing opportunity for all. Making a passionate appeal to come together she urged communities, the trade union movement, and business leaders to work together to build the fairer Scotland we all want to see.
Labelling the Tory attacks on the welfare system a disgrace Ms Sturgeon said that ‘a decent social security system was the hallmark of a decent society’ She warned however that welfare was not a route out of poverty nor should it be seen as how we break the cycle of deprivation’. That, she said needed to be tackled by creating better paid jobs and better opportunities for our children. Saying she was ‘proud of what the Scottish government had done so far she stressed she wanted to do more and her government to lead by example’ saying much to the delight of delegates and party members that she wants Scotland to become ‘a champion of the living wage’.
Compare that vision of a fairer Scotland to the empty promises and as our leader called them nasty policies of UKIP and the BBC’s favourite British nationalist Nigel Farage. If you do I think you can clearly see the difference between the SNP vision of an inclusive social democratic nation which is inclusive to all people who wish to call it home and UKIP where suspicion and mistrust of what they see as ‘others’ is the dominant political narrative. I think I know which is the more appealing and that is vision I share with a woman who has in so many ways been my political inspiration.
Nicola then said that she was ‘four days away from becoming First Minister and said that though Scotland doesn’t have ‘the fondest memories of the last woman to hold power in the British isles she will unite our society and leave Thatcher’s legacy in the past where it rightfully belongs.
Nicola Sturgeon spoke with passion power and pride throughout her speech but nowhere was more clearly seen than in her commitment to both education and the NHS. It was she said education which got her the chance to be the first member of her family to attend university. This is yet another fact she shares in common with yours truly. We both come from working class families where such a feat would have been unattainable in previous generations. How proud she is and rightly so to be part of a government which unlike Tony Blair’s Labour one doesn’t just talk about education it provides it and it provides it free for our children and young people. It must please her even more that it wasn’t our government which ended student grants and replaced them with loans thanks to its stooge at the NUS. Yes Jim Murphy I am referring to you and you had better believe it. This surely proves that what my father taught me was true namely that the Labour Party always believed in educating their children they just didn’t believe in educating anyone else’s.
On the NHS our former Health Secretary said that the Health Service will not only be a daily priority it will be a financial priority and she will do all in her power to protect it from the privatisation currently happening to the English NHS promising a real term rise for every year of the next parliament if as I hope and expect we will be the SNP are re-elected to govern our country in 2016. As someone whose quality of life depends on the NHS and whose life saved by it whilst under a year old I thank my party leader for making this commitment. It is a commitment I know she will honour.
As she reached tail end of her speech to Nicola Sturgeon said that ‘good government matters’. It matters she said ‘because it is what we are elected to do but it also matters because ‘it builds people confidence in Scotland’s ability to govern ourselves’.
This she claimed was important because all she had seen since her party won power in 2007 and witnessed during the referendum campaign illustrated that ‘good government and progress to independence go hand in hand’. The powers we have and our ability to use them wisely determines the confidence people have in our ability to be a successful independent country’.
In a crowd pleasing moment Nicola Sturgeon showed she had learned from her former mentor as she said that though it would be up to us to persuade our fellow Scots to vote for Independence, the opportunity to bring this about may come sooner than our opponents would like to think. This was she said especially true as Britain was hurtling towards the exit door of the European Union which when combined with deeper austerity cuts and the watering down of the vow could bring the day closer than most of us would have dared to dream in the early hours of September 19th.
At the end of brilliant speech the new leader of the SNP issued a rallying call to her ever increasing political family reminding us that no matter how well have done we must do better and by redoubling our efforts we will win new powers for our parliament. Then by using those new powers well we will make and win the case for independence. Nicola Sturgeon said she is ready to lead us on the road to that journey and I for one am happy about that and pledge to help her in any way I can.
Believe me when I say that this is a leader who like her predecessor knows how to connect with the people, she is a woman I would trust with my life and a woman the people of Scotland can trust with our country as she takes the place to which destiny has undoubtedly called her to claim. Nicola Sturgeon is a fighter for fairness and freedom and a Scotland that embraces us all. She is a woman whose time has come.
Love And Best Wishes