Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, will today deliver a keynote speech to the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in Stirling, alongside the Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson MSP, and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP.
It was only a few weeks ago that your leader, Ruth, joined me in Swansea…
There we were, me a Welsh man leading the Welsh Conservatives, Ruth a Scotswoman leading the charge for the Scottish Conservatives, and the Prime Minister, an Englishman as Leader of the Conservatives. An Englishman, a Scot, and a Welshman – it could be the start of a risky joke – but it was actually the Welsh Conservatives annual conference!
Ruth is a great colleague and somebody I’m proud to call a friend. I do not underestimate the challenges that you all face as Scottish Conservatives. Our party in Scotland is not where any of us in this room would want it, but you have a Leader in Ruth who has set her face to the challenge. Being a Leader is never an easy task, you will never please everybody – believe me I know! But it is about having the courage and the conviction to do what is needed. Ruth is doing that, and in her, you should be proud.
Ruth, well done for all you’re doing.
Wales is a very different country from Scotland. We do face different challenges.
Somebody in your capital city, Edinburgh earns more than £10,000 a year more than somebody in my capital city, Cardiff. Scottish cities are more than double the distance from London as Welsh centres of population, yet your GVA remains higher than the UK average, whilst in Wales under successive Welsh Labour Governments, Wales has dropped to 75% of the UK average.
We have different experiences in our social services too. Devolution means that there is divergence in education and in health, not just between Wales and Scotland, but with England too.
The Welsh Labour Government is cutting our NHS by over £800 million.
In Education, qualifications risk being worth less to satisfy Welsh Labour, halting the full potential of our young people.
The UK has changed under devolution, of that there can be no doubt.
Here’s what hasn’t changed.
Our Union is an example of one of the greatest political, economic and social unions ever known.
Diverse in its makeup, but united in its meaning.
We, on the other side of Offa’s Dyke have not failed to have noticed that there will be a referendum held in Scotland next year. We don’t have a vote in Wales, but the referendum is echoing. There are times when the nationalists appeal to voters because they speak of a brighter future and blame many of the world’s difficulties on the status quo. We know that some voters don’t believe in independence or nationalism at all. They’re just proud of heritage, culture and language. But so are we!
Proud to be British, yes!
Proud to be Welsh, yes!
Proud to be both?
Because being proud to be Scottish and British or Welsh and British or English and British is not mutually exclusive.
We must be honest with ourselves. Devolution has not been a universally popular process in the Conservative Party. We know it has not been a process that we have universally embraced, but time has shown that people want locally made decisions. Conservatives want locally made decision.
But we have dusted ourselves off and we have changed. I believe that is a good thing.
Devolution is not left wing or separatist, but it won’t be Conservative unless we make it so.
Over the past few months, my team and I in the Assembly have set our face to the task of doing Conservative things with devolution – and what a refreshing change it’s been.
Whilst other parties have been determined to speak of nothing other than the constitution, the Welsh Conservatives have been setting out tax cutting agendas, small business financing schemes, even the privatisation of an airport. Conservative policies in a devolved setting, putting our values at the heart of everything we do: Localism, individual empowerment and economic liberty.
Our message in Scotland and in Wales is clear: if you’re a patriot, if you believe that people know best how to spend their money, your home is the Conservatives.
Our rallying call must be to all, we need a nation that can earn its way in the world. That’s together, not apart.
We need a nation that has health services that can meet the needs of longer life and providing better treatment.
You can only have that with Conservatives in Cardiff Bay and Holyrood.
We want our social union, the most successful the world has ever seen to continue. Boosting the chances for our innovators and pushing Britain ahead in a world that doesn’t owe us a living.
We have so much to fight for.