Speech by the Secretary of State for Wales, Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP
To the Scottish Conservative Party conference
Good afternoon conference.
It’s great to be back in Scotland.
At my second Scottish Conservative Party conference.
Coming here again, and now as Secretary of State for Wales, I’m reminded of the strong bonds which unite our two countries.
And why Scotland and Wales are better off in Britain.
From our Celtic heritage;
To the ships of the Clyde and the coal and steel of south Wales.
Our industrial past shaped the modern world.
It was the Second Marquis of Bute who created modern Cardiff.
While his successor made his mark on both our countries.
From Kier Hardie to David Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan there are links which unite our countries and have moulded the political and social landscape of Britain for generations.
The men and women of Wales and Scotland have stood shoulder to shoulder in times of war.
Defending the freedoms we continue to enjoy today.
They remind us why we’re stronger together than we are apart.
As part of our Unionist family I know our experiences at the ballot box in Wales have given you hope for the future too.
Success for our party in Scotland is just as important as it is in Wales, in England, and in Northern Ireland.
And I will work with Ruth Davidson;
All of you to make that happen here in Scotland.
Conference, we also know we must work together to clean up the economic mess we inherited.
The measures the Chancellor set out in this week’s Budget will ensure continuing economic stability.
Support families and those on low incomes.
And benefit business to drive up growth.
We’re also offering to work with the devolved governments.
Because we know that it is only by doing so we can secure the best for every part of the United Kingdom.
While times are tough, the prospects are better.
This year the IMF forecasts the UK economy will grow twice as fast as Germany and three times as fast as France.
Over the past year businesses have invested £119 billion across the economy, up £3 billion on the year before.
Companies like Dell;
And Mitsubishi Power Systems.
All investing in Scotland recently in spite of the constitutional uncertainty;
Not because of it.
This morning I visited GE Caledonian Limited in Prestwick.
A firm with a strong presence in Scotland and in Wales.
Providing jobs and investment for both our countries.
There are other firms too.
Scottish and Southern Energy.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
Companies such as these, and others.
With strong links in Scotland and in Wales.
Contribute to our aim of driving economic growth across the United Kingdom.
In the Welsh whisky company Penderyn we’re even trying to beat Scotland at its own game!
Conference, economic uncertainty reinforces my belief that the our two nations’ interests are best-served when the UK and devolved governments work together.
So we’ll do all we can to help the Welsh and Scottish Governments.
In return we invite them to work with us.
Scotland and Wales.
With two governments.
In one United Kingdom.
Working together in the national interest.
Wherever you were born;
Wherever you were raised;
Or wherever you now work or live;
We all have a stake in our country’s future.
I believe it’s right the people of Scotland have a say in the future of Scotland.
But the United Kingdom is my country too
I believe in the Union because I’ve lived it every day of my life.
My father was Scottish.
My mother Welsh.
I was born in Cardiff.
And married an Englishman.
I work in England and in Wales.
With colleagues from every corner of the United Kingdom.
Our union of nations provides strength;
With economic uncertainty around the world now is not the time to prise the union apart.
And conference, as I see it, there is no contradiction in supporting the United Kingdom and supporting devolution.
We respect the right of the devolved administrations to make their own decisions in devolved areas.
While retaining the benefits of the wider Union of nations.
We support devolution because it strengthens the union, not weakens it.
Allowing decisions to be taken locally.
Putting power in the hands of the people.
The Scotland Bill offers the biggest transfer of powers to Holyrood since devolution.
The Welsh referendum last year saw some law making powers devolved to Cardiff for the first time.
The Silk Commission is considering whether tax and borrowing powers should follow.
And how far the boundaries of devolution should go in Wales.
We’ll work with the SNP government to deliver a referendum on Scottish independence which is legal, fair and decisive.
It is this issue which has put the future of the Union into sharp focus.
I firmly believe it is for the people of Scotland to decide their own futures.
I equally believe Scotland is better off in Britain.
In Wales there is no appetite for independence.
A recent poll showed just seven per cent of people support it.
Another poll even showed just one in three Plaid Cymru voters want it!
If two thirds of the nationalists don’t want it then who does?!
The people of Wales know they are better off in Britain.
And so we must all galvanise the support of the majority in Scotland who believe that here too.
I make no apology for speaking out in defence of the Union.
Events such as the Olympic Games, the Paralympics, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, remind us why it is so important.
As well as presenting real opportunities to showcase Wales and Scotland to the world.
Devolution is creating confident, mature, outward looking nations.
Whilst retaining the benefits of the United Kingdom.
But conference, we must avoid sleepwalking towards independence.
Between now and the referendum each and every one of us must explain why Scotland is better off in Britain.
And why Britain is better off with Scotland.
We must not underestimate those who argue for independence.
Such dangerous complacency will lead to defeat in the referendum.
I don’t criticise those who want independence.
I just think they’re wrong.
It’s not independence that’s right for Scotland or for Wales.
It’s the inter-dependence of the four nations.
Which provide strength;
And security during good times and bad.
Conference, one of the great constants in our society is the union of nations which binds us together.
It’s why all those who believe in the Union must cast aside their differences and work together to make the positive case for the United Kingdom.
Together we face big challenges.
In the next few weeks the challenge of fighting elections.
There are social and economic challenges too.
Then there’s the fight for the very future of the United Kingdom.
A country which has proved for generations that we’re stronger together than we are apart.
So go out there from this conference and make the case.
For the Scottish Conservative Party.
And for the United Kingdom.
Thank you / Diolch yn fawr.