It’s a huge pleasure to be here at the Scottish Conservative Party conference, in what will be a momentous year, not only for Scotland, but for the whole of our United Kingdom.
My corner – Wales – included.
Our United Kingdom is a unique and extraordinary union of proud and distinctive nations bound together by shared history, ideals and ambitions.
Together, we have done such remarkable things.
And together, I believe, we can do so much more.
I am a proud Welshman; equally, I am a proud Briton, and, as such, believe fervently in our Union.
I would not want to see that Union wrenched apart by Scotland’s separation.
Because, as a Welshman, I believe in Scotland, too.
And I believe - very firmly - that the future of our two nations should be together, as part of a strong United Kingdom.
How many of us, until quite recently, would ever have thought that the day would arrive when we in these islands would be contemplating the possibility of the end of the United Kingdom?
But that is precisely what is at stake in September’s referendum.
In just six months, you - the people of Scotland - will be asked to make an historic choice.
A choice between a strong, continuing Union and the huge gamble of walking away; a choice that would truly be a leap into the unknown.
And it will be your choice.
The people of Wales, England and Northern Ireland will have no say in the vote on 18 September.
But we do have a huge interest in its outcome.
Because what you decide will affect all our futures.
And as decisions go, they don’t come much bigger than the one that you will be making.
Because you will be deciding the future not just of Scotland, but of Wales, England and Northern Ireland, too.
It will a decision on whether Scotland should end over three centuries of history, shared endeavour and success.
Whether Scotland should turn its most important trading partner into a foreign country, and put up barriers against it.
And whether Scotland should turn its back on the shared values and mutual dependence of our unique and ancient family of nations.
Benefits of Devolution within the Union
Of course, it doesn't have to be that way.
We in the UK Government are making a strong, positive and, I believe, convincing case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom within the framework of a devolved system of government.
Devolution has enabled Scots - just as it has the Welsh - to take important decisions locally in relation to schools, hospitals, transport and many other issues that affect daily life.
In many respects, decisions taken here in Edinburgh have differed from those taken in relation to England, and in relation to Wales.
That is, of course, a legitimate and often highly desirable consequence of devolution.
But devolution has also enabled Scotland, like Wales, to benefit from two legislatures and two governments working in its interests.
It has provided both nations with the flexibility to evolve and develop their own approaches to government within the stable structure of a strong United Kingdom.
That is a flexibility and stability that Scotland would lose if it chose independence.
The Benefits of a United Kingdom
But today's Union is, of course, about much more than devolved decision-making.
It also makes us more prosperous, more secure and more innovative together, rather than apart.
We are more prosperous because, together, we enjoy the benefits of a strong economy in an ever more competitive global marketplace.
The United Kingdom is the world’s seventh largest economy.
It is one of the top ten most competitive economies in the world: when Corporation Tax in Britain falls to 20 per cent in 2015, it will be the lowest in the G20.
The UK is the number one destination in Europe for foreign direct investment.
London remains the world’s leading financial centre; but Edinburgh, too, is home to many hugely important financial institutions.
I want it to remain so.
All parts of our Union benefit from an internal market of over 60 million people, rather than the market of only 5 million which a separate Scotland would provide.
And over four and a half million British companies benefit from the trade and investment opportunities delivered through the strong UK brand.
And those companies carry out their businesses unimpeded by borders and customs, with the benefit of a strong common currency and single financial system.
I believe that the interests of Scottish business and Scottish jobs are best served by remaining part of the strong UK internal market.
Why should Scotland want to leave it?
And remaining part of our Union means greater security for Scotland, too.
The United Kingdom is a big player on the international stage.
We are a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a leading member of NATO and have huge influence in many more international institutions and alliances - from the EU and the G8, to the Commonwealth.
We have recently seen, time and again, the central importance of the UK’s role in the world - from the Geneva talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, to the British people’s magnificent support for the victims of the Philippines typhoon.
And that world role is not of just passing benefit to the people of Scotland.
It benefits them directly, as it does people across the UK, by making our country safer and more secure.
Together, our Union has a strong and influential place in the world; a position from which we are able to promote our shared values of democracy, decency and fair play.
Why would Scots - always an outward-looking people - want to abandon that important world role?
And we are an innovative family of nations.
Our universities, for example, co-operate on research in a way that is possible only as part of a common UK framework.
If we are to continue to innovate to deliver the next revolutionary technologies, we need to ensure that our great research institutions, such as Edinburgh University, can continue to use the UK-wide networks and infrastructure that have proved so successful.
If we are to prosper in an increasingly competitive world, we need to continue to pool our research and development efforts.
Not separate them
A Positive Case for the Union
Last November, Alex Salmond published his White Paper on independence.
He called it a “mission statement for Scotland’s future".
I'd call it mission impossible, already showing signs of self-destructing under the weight of public scrutiny.
Time and again, when subjected to analysis, the White Paper has failed to provide credible answers to crucially important questions.
It is founded on the deceitful premise that Scotland could leave the Union whilst keeping all the benefits it currently enjoys as part of it.
And it sets out a cornucopia of promises without any credible plan for how an independent Scotland would pay for them.
Consider the crucially important question of currency.
Alex Salmond says that an independent Scotland could retain the pound sterling in a currency union with the continuing UK.
But the truth is that if Scotland voted to leave the UK it would also be leaving the UK’s currency.
The pound would continue to be the currency of the remaining UK, and the structures that oversee our successful, resilient currency - such as the Bank of England - would remain in place.
But not for Scotland.
Scotland would sit outside those structures, and would need to put in place entirely new currency arrangements of its own.
So the question must be asked: why in heaven's name should Scots give up the security of one of the world's most successful currencies in exchange for an uncertain future with an unknown currency?
But the pound isn't the only bit of Britishness that Alex Salmond says that Scots could keep whilst turning their backs on Britain.
He says there'd be open borders, a common travel area, a UK-standard pension system and the BBC.
Yes, Scots could carry on watching Strictly Come Dancing and Ceebeebies as if the referendum had never happened.
In other words, he says Scots could enjoy all the things that they like about being British, but have independence at the same time.
That they could have their cake and eat it.
But the simple truth is this: if Scots like the institutions they enjoy as part of the United Kingdom's family of nations, then the only way to continue to enjoy them is to stay part of that family.
And not fall for the SNP con-trick that it's possible to be independent without losing all the good things about being British.
Independence wouldn't bring about a new British union – it would mean that Scotland left the United Kingdom, a fundamental and irreversible change.
A change that I believe would seriously damage the interests of each and every part of our Union.
Continuing the Union
A strong, successful, innovative family of nations.
A Union that so many of us, here in this hall, and in every part of Britain, want to continue.
But which would end... with a Scottish vote for independence in September.
A vote that would be a vote for permanent separation.
From which there would be no going back.
It would certainly be a huge loss for Scotland.
But it would also be a dreadful, immeasurable loss for every other nation of our Union.
As a Welshman, I want nothing more passionately than for Scotland to remain a part of that Union.
I believe - as strongly as I believe in anything - that we are Better Together.
All the nations of the United Kingdom benefit from our shared bonds of culture, values and heritage...
... which don't dilute our national identities in any way.
Because there is nothing contradictory about Scots considering themselves both Scottish and British.
Or, for that matter, Welsh people feeling comfortable with the notion that they are Welsh and British, too.
Indeed, the truth is that most Britons are entirely happy to assert two nationalities with equal pride.
Which is why, for example, I enjoyed a quiet moment of satisfaction at Wales's modest victory at the Millennium Stadium yesterday...
But also why I got seriously choked up when Andy Murray lifted the Wimbledon trophy last year.
Because I am proud to be Welsh, but also so very proud to be British.
And that is why I, and many, many other Welsh people, will campaign as hard as we can for Scotland to remain with us.
As part of our Union.
Because we believe we are Better Together.
And if Scotland were to leave our Union, I, as a Welshman, would feel so desperately sad, so very diminished.
As would millions of our fellow citizens right across the rest of the UK.
So on this spring morning in this beautiful city of Edinburgh, allow me, as a Welshman, to say this:
When summer turns to autumn, you, the people of Scotland, will make a decision that will affect the lives of every citizen of our United Kingdom.
All our futures will be in your hands.
I believe that, together, we are so much stronger than we would be apart.
A vote by you...
for the continuation of our Union...
will be a positive vote for a prosperous Scotland.
A vote for it to remain a member of the the most successful, most extraordinary family of nations that the world has ever known.
And a vote for a secure future for every Scottish child.
As a Welshman, let me say that I, and many millions more, passionately want Scotland and the Scottish people to remain part of our shared Union.
To stay with us.
To share our future.
Because, like you, like them, I believe with all my heart that we are truly -
all of us -