Danny Alexander speech at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Aberdeen:
DANNY ALEXANDER SPEECH AT SCOTTISH LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPRING CONFERENCE IN ABERDEEN
Conference, the election is just 48 days away.
It is worth underlining this point – not least because election officials in Aberdeen inadvertently added an extra day to the campaign in a mailing to 100,000 people earlier this week.
Some people just can’t get enough of politics I suppose.
No, it is important because we have a fight on our hands, and will need to use every hour, every minute of the election campaign to ensure Scottish Liberal Democrat voices return to Westminster to continue to the work we have started in Government.
This week’s budget showed how Scottish Lib Dems are shaping this country.
It was a Budget for Scotland, written by Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Here in Aberdeen, there was a major package of support for our vital oil and gas industry, including a new investment allowance, and big tax cuts that will give confidence back to this crucial sector. It would not have happened without Malcolm Bruce and Bob Smith's tireless advocacy and a Lib Dem Chief Secretary to make it happen.
There was £3.5 million to protect vulnerable people from nuisance calls - something that would not have happened without the campaigning zeal of Mike Crockart in Edinburgh.
There was a duty cut for our Scotch Whisky industry, a commitment to City Deals for Aberdeen and Inverness, action to ensure a fairer deal for electricity consumers in the north of Scotland.
287,000 Scots lifted out of tax altogether, a £900 tax cut for 2.3million more. Working people are only seeing their tax cut because of Liberal Democrats. It's our idea, and we have battled every day to make it happen.
Taxes down, pensions up, more jobs. A tartan seam running through the budget that Scottish Liberal Democrats delivered.
And yes, there was help too for the Highlands.
I must be one of the few candidates for election whose opponents think attacking me for doing ‘too much’ for my constituents will be a winning argument.
I’m proud that after decades of neglect, decades when the north has been at the back of the queue when it comes to investment, that Highlanders are finally being listened to at the heart of government.
My opponents say it’s ‘too much’. I say it’s about time.
Highland issues will continue to be put front and centre on my watch.
Take the rural fuel duty cut as an example.
I remember the days when Labour Treasury Ministers said it couldn’t be done. Every year in opposition Charles, Alan, John, Alastair and myself put in a submission to the budget calling for a fuel derogation, and every year we were told itsimply couldn't be done.
Well it can be done. It is being done. We made it happen and now remote rural communities on our islands and on the mainland will benefit by up to 5p off per litre.
Look at the action we have taken to strengthen our oil and gas sector. Nationalists could never have delivered the investment we have delivered this week, because they will never be in government in the UK.
Why would you let a party that not only wants to break up Britain but bankrupt us at the same time take control of the UK?
It’d be like putting Jeremy Clarkson in charge of the Foreign Office or Nigel Farage in charge of the European Commission.
The lesson of this week: nationalists may whinge, but only Liberal Democrats get things done, and this Liberal Democrat intends to keep on delivering for Scotland.
Sometimes that is all it takes. Someone to have a fresh approach and not be afraid to stand up and keep campaigning when you believe passionately in something.
You know, sometimes I sit around the cabinet table and think ‘there should be more people like me sitting here.’ That’s right – more Ginger rodents!
But seriously, I am from a very ordinary background. There are still too many people from privileged backgrounds in politics, and - if I may say so - not enough people like me!
There should be more woman in politics too - and I pay tribute to Jo Swinson’s work to put equality where it belongs, at the top of the political agenda.
Getting Christine Jardine elected in Gordon would be a great start – with the bonus of consigning Alex Salmond to a retirement of book signing and late nights pouring over exit polls from the secret Canadians.
Fellow Liberal Democrats, we have always stood for what is right, whether it Charles Kennedy standing up to the Iraq War, or Alison McInnes standing up to the erosion of civil liberties under the SNP. Our victory on armed police officers was a great moment. And let the message go out to this illiberal SNP government - any attempt to bring this policy in again by the back door, we will fight, fight, and fight again
Liberal Democrats putting fairness and prosperity back in the heart of Britain.
Now you may have seen me holding a Yellow Budget Box outside the Treasury yesterday.
I haven’t brought the Yellow box with me today, but many of you will have seen in the budget that charities supporting veterans are being supported by this government.
So I’m delighted to be able to announce that Disabled Scottish veterans will benefit from a £550,000 donation to the charity Houses for Heroes.
The money comes from Libor fines on banks. We’ve taken around £450m from bankers who broke the rules, and there can be no better use of this money than to support those who have served our country.
The funding, which will be donated to the Edinburgh-based charity which runs the Houses for Heroes campaign, will deliver 17 new build homes on seven housing developments across Scotland.
These homes will help provide a much-needed resource: there are nearly 500 veterans on Veterans Scotland’s housing waiting list, and around 400 of these are disabled.
It’s only right that our disabled veterans, who have fought so bravely to defend the UK have homes that meet their needs.
And conference, I will also be using funds secured from bad behaviour to ensure that veterans from every part of the UK can attend the VE day commemorations this year. By funding travel costs, veterans from as far afield as Shetland will be able to attend this national celebration of our Victory in Europe.
This is the kind of announcement that can only be made when we have a strong and growing economy, and I am determined to keep it that way.
I want the plans contained in the Yellow Budget Box to shape a fairer, stronger Britain for the next five years.
Tax cuts for working people – an income tax personal allowance of £12,500.
Balancing the books fairly, not on the backs of the working people on low pay.
A new tax on high value property.
A new crackdown on tax dodgers.
Protecting education – from cradle to college.
No rises in the taxes that most people pay – VAT, income tax, National Insurance.
A Liberal Democrat plan, for a stronger economy and a fairer society, that’s what we will deliver in the next Parliament.
And it’s a choice between truly stark alternatives.
You have the Conservatives.
A Conservative Party that wants to cut for cuts sake even after the books are balanced.
A Conservative Party with no heart, but two minds.
One to stay in Europe, the other to leave.
A Conservative Party that wants to balance the books solely on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society.
The prospect of a Britain under a majority Conservative government is grim indeed.
And haven’t we all groaned when they use their soulless mantra - Long Term Economic Plan.
The truth is their Long Term Economic Plan means Long Term Economic Pain for millions of families.
George Osborne wants to keep his 12 billion of welfare cuts secret until after the election.
He wants to keep it secret because it will be harsh and unfair. We will ensure the books are balanced fairly - the wealthiest should pay the most, not the working poor.
And then you have Labour.
Not so much long term economic pain as short term economic catastrophe.
A Labour Party still so deep in denial about its role in the greatest financial crash of modern history, that they seem determined to repeat the same mistakes again.
Their vision is unclear, their policies flawed and their credibility non-existent. Listening to the incoherent waffle that seems to pass for Labour policy, you really wonder why Ed Miliband bothered to stand for Labour leader when he has so little idea how he wants to govern.
And you have the nationalists.
Their message can be seductive.
They usually deliver it wrapped in the Saltire - or the Welsh flag or with a garish pound symbol.
But at the core of nationalism – be it in Scotland, in Wales or for the anti-Europeans - is a belief in separation.
In pulling people apart, rather than drawing people closer together.
In their zeal to achieve what they see as the ‘Holy Grail’ of separation, they lose all perspective.
They take their eye off the ball.
They'd rather have a duel with Westminster than dual the A9. Our precious health service is weaker on their watch.
The SNP leaders are obsessed still with independence.
But when it comes to the economy, they misjudge all the big calls.
A few weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon came on one of her regular trips to London to set out her economic vision for the UK.
But analysis shows that she was factually wrong. Her plans would lead to yet more debt, not less.
So the choice in this election is stark indeed.
Reckless Nationalists, intent on slamming our recovery into reverse.
But there is another option.
And that is to stick with us, the Liberal Democrats.
To stick with our vision.
Our vision to finish the job of balancing the books, of doing so fairly and, crucially, of turning the corner to a brighter future once that job is done.
And let’s remember, this election is about so much more than what we have done in the past.
It’s about what we can do in the future.
And we have a vision of the future that is very different from the other parties.
And I can tell you what is so different.
Our vision is optimistic.
It’s full of hope.
Now you might be reeling in shock that I am talking about optimism.
But I am.
And here’s why.
These last five hard years of repairing the economy,
Of having to take difficult decisions,
Of having to fight through the tough times,
Have put us in a place that is the envy of so many other countries.
We are now within touching distance of being able to finish the job of balancing the books.
Now that will be a landmark in its own right.
But reaching that point means more.
It means that we can turn the corner.
That spending can rise as the economy grows.
That we can borrow responsibly – as long as debt is falling as a share of our nation’s income - to invest in our railways, our roads and our digital networks.
The very things that will help unleash even more economic growth in Scotland.
Conference, some have asked if me if I find the prospect of the election daunting.
And I say, no.
I say no, because I know who we are fighting for, and what we are fighting for.
We’re fighting for the millions of people that have secured one of the new jobs created in this recovery, and the many more that seek work.
We're fighting for the Scottish communities who are sick of nationalist centralisation. Who want more power for Holyrood, and want that power handed on to people and places in every corner of Scotland
We’re fighting for the millions of people on low and middle incomes who are benefitting from the income tax cuts that we, not the Tories, have fought for and delivered.
We’re fighting to keep Britain anchored where it needs to be, in the centre ground.
And what are we fighting for?
We’re fighting for fairness.
Fairness at the heart of the government of this great country of ours.
Fairness that rejects separation
Fairness that rejects division
Fairness that rewards work
Fairness that provides opportunity for all
We’re fighting to secure this recovery.
We’re fighting to save the soul of this country from a clueless Labour party, a heartless Conservative Party and reckless nationalists.
Conference, your fortitude in these difficult times has enabled liberalism to deliver so much in these past five momentous years.
Now let’s march forward,
Proud of what we have achieved.
Don’t believe those who write off the Liberal Democrats.
Let me tell you.
I’ll be back.
We’ll be back.
And because of us, our country will be back too.