Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Nicola and independence


Scottish National Party depute leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP lays out her party's policy platform:

"We'll cut corporation tax because we know from our European competitors, like Ireland and Sweden, that it's the way to grow our nation's wealth...

"Yes, we will be economic patriots - and we will be proud to be so. Economic patriotism means that an SNP government would never have favoured a subsidised Polish shipyard over Ferguson's shipyard on the Clyde - a Scottish yard supporting Scottish jobs.

"The Labour/Liberal government that sold Ferguson's down the river tells us we need to play by the rules. Well, we will play by the rules. But the first rule will be this: we will never let Scottish industries and Scottish jobs be destroyed by those who are bending the rules...

"Delegates, economic patriotism also means that an SNP government would never stand by, saying and doing nothing while our biggest industrial company is targeted for take-over by an overseas competitor.

"Scottish Power pays the wages of 6000 people across this country. It is of enormous strategic importance to Scotland. And we cannot afford to lose it. There are those who say we don't understand the global economy.

"Well, I say, we understand it all too well. We know that across Europe and the world, responsible governments defend their national champions and their national economic interest. And we understand that without major Scottish players on the world stage, Scotland can't take part in and benefit from the global economy.

"So, let me make this pledge loudly and clearly. We will stand up for Scottish Power...

"We will abolish tuition fees - front door, back door, any door - and we will restore grants...

"Delegates, young people will always want to see the world. But we must encourage them to put down roots here in Scotland, to help build our country. And so an SNP government will also introduce first time buyers' grants to give everyone a better chance of making a start with a home of their own...

"An SNP government will help pensioners and families too. We'll get rid, once and for all, of the unfair council tax. The council tax that has gone up by 55 per cent under Labour and which hits hardest those who can least afford to pay it.

"We'll put in its place a local income tax, based on ability to pay. Under our proposals, a majority of pensioners will pay nothing and most people will pay less than they do now...

"I can announce today that an SNP government will introduce a Patients' Rights Act. It will give every patient the statutory right to an individual waiting time guarantee, based on their own needs. And it will give them a right of redress if it is not met...

"We will build capacity in our health service. But we will also introduce a new funding system for hospitals that will increase efficiency and ensure that more patients are treated faster.

"But delegates, there will be even more clear water between Labour and the SNP on health. An SNP government will not privatise the health service. Not now. Not ever.

"We will not use taxpayers' money, like Labour, to help the private sector undermine the NHS...

"Everyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. But it wrong that every year more than 4000 people charged with a serious crime of violence, including murder and sexual assault, are freed on bail, too often to offend again.

"That must stop.

"Look around Europe and the world and you will see many small, confident, successful nations, sure of themselves and of their place in the world. They all have one thing in common. Independence.

"Take Norway. This year Norway celebrates 100 years of independence. It is the second richest country in the world. Voted by the UN for the 5th year in a row the best place on earth to live. It's no co-incidence that Norway is so successful.

"It is successful because it is independent. Norway has public services to be proud of. The people's wages are a third higher than ours. Norway has an oil fund of £100bn that is being invested in the future of her citizens.

"We could have all that too. We could have had it a generation ago, if successive Tory and Labour governments had not lied about our oil wealth. And, delegates, they did lie. And they kept on lying.

"Do you remember the one about how it wasn't Scotland's oil anyway? Well, let me read to you from the secret document. It says: 'Its hard to see any conclusion other than to allow Scotland to have that part of the continental shelf which would have been hers if she had been independent all along.'

"Put simply, delegates - it WAS Scotland's oil. It IS Scotland's oil. But it is never too late to learn.

"Delegates, our natural resources give us riches that many would envy. The only question we have to answer – we in each generation who inherit this land – is how we use those natural resources for the benefit not just of ourselves, but of those who come after us.

"This generation has that question to answer now. Will we use our oil riches wisely? Will we invest in a better future for our country? Or will we let that great advantage be poured away again?

"I think, deep down, everyone in Scotland knows what the answer to that question must be. For 18 long years, we let the Tories squander our oil wealth paying for unemployment. We are now watching Blair waste it on an illegal war in Iraq.

"Surely, it is time for Scotland to say enough is enough. To proclaim loudly and clearly that it is still Scotland's oil and that we are not prepared to be cheated out of one more drop. Let us send that message from this conference today...

"Our desire to get on, to join in, to be part of the world is greater than ever. And the advantages of getting on, joining in, being part of the world is greater than ever too.

"We know that we can only join in if we choose independence. If we choose, as a nation, a better future. The time is coming round again when that choice can be made. Our task is to persuade everyone who lives here to choose the best future for our country. To persuade them to choose Independence.

"There is no one else to take on that task. It belongs to the Scotland's Party. Now we must do it, for Scotland's sake."


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