Alex Rowley – Conference Speech


Our objective is a more fair and more just Scotland
Our objective is a more fair and more just Scotland


You can watch my speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference here or find the full transcript below:

Conference, it is a great pleasure for me to stand here today as deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party and make the final speech to conference.

After three days, 64 motions, 3 keynote speeches, 4 guest speeches and over 100 delegates speaking at this rostrum, I think we are perhaps a bit ‘speeched’ out! But what a good start in our drive to re-democratise the Scottish Labour Party and put the control over policy and direction back into the hands of the membership.

When Kez and I sat down with Brian Roy our General Secretary after the announcement of the result of the leadership contest on the 15th of August, the first thing we said to him was that we wanted to change the conference format, we wanted to give every member, every CLP and every affiliate the opportunity to input into the policy for our manifesto for 2016 and we wanted to do all this for our conference this year.

Brian looked at us, there was a period of silence and then he said OK – I am sure you will agree that Brian and all the staff from the Scottish Labour Party have absolutely delivered on what was asked of them and today I want to say a sincere thank you to everyone that has been involved in making this conference such a success.

We were also very clear at that point that we wanted to address devolution within the party by bringing about the change that needs to take place to create an autonomous Labour Party in Scotland. I want today to pay tribute to the determination, the true grit and the nerve of steel that has been required by our leader Kezia Dugdale that has moved us forward to ensure that never again Scottish Labour be treated as the branch office and more importantly that decisions being made on Scotland will be made here in Scotland by the Scottish leadership and the Scottish Labour Party.

As we have seen from the announcements this weekend, we can now move forward and develop our policies to address the needs and priorities of the communities we seek to serve here in Scotland.

I think we can also be sure moving forward that by making the decisions for our party here in Scotland never again would we allow ourselves to make the ill-judged decision to stand alongside the Tories on a negative platform that failed to put the positive case for Scotland being part of the United Kingdom and in doing so talked Scotland down.

Conference I recognise the hard work of everyone on both sides of the constitutional debate and you know there is something we all have in common. Whether you campaigned for No or campaigned for Yes the majority of us were driven by a desire for change and the need for a better Scotland, a more fair and more just Scotland. That desire for change is what can unite Scotland as we move forward.

I also think however it was a rejection of Westminster, its values, procedures, protocols and traditions all of which are a complete irrelevance to modern day life. But as our UK leader said on Friday the sense of detachment from Westminster is just as strong in Liverpool, in the Midlands and in Newcastle as it is here in Scotland and that is why we must remain part of a UK Labour Party that will drive constitutional change across the United Kingdom, get rid of the House of Lords once and for all and bring about a fairer voting system that ensures our governance reflects every part of these islands.

We are proud of Scotland, proud that it was Labour that was committed to a Scottish Parliament, campaigned for a Scottish Parliament and it was Labour that created the Scottish Parliament. And proud now that it is Labour in Scotland that will use all powers at our disposal in Scotland and across the United Kingdom to tackle the unacceptable and growing levels of inequality and poverty.

You know there is a big difference between Labour and the SNP.

The SNP want to change borders.

We want to change society, in Scotland, in the UK and across the world.

The nationalists wake up in the morning thinking about how to create a separate state.

We wake up in the morning thinking about how we can have a more fair and more just Scotland, a socialist society.

This weekend our discussion and debate has focussed on how through taking action, through using the powers we have and the powers we will have, we will at every level of government create that more fair more just Scotland.

You know, as we gather here together this weekend, the number of children in poverty in Scotland is on the rise with more than 100,000 more children expected to be living in poverty by 2020, and that is before the Tories policies on tax credits and freezing working age benefits are taken into account.

The Tories are fighting a war against the poor at a time when the whole country should be fighting a war against poverty.

Yesterday Kez made clear in her speech, we in the Labour movement in Scotland will do everything in our power not only to resist the cuts but to achieve our historic mission – to make poverty history.

And as we leave here today let us be clear: that in eight long years of the SNP Government they have done nothing to take Scots children out of poverty, nothing to take pensioners out of poverty and nothing to address low wages, youth unemployment and the unemployment that still blights to many of our communities the length and breath of Scotland.

I am always reminded, that whether it was the Jarrow marchers, the upper Clyde sit ins or the miners rally’s of the 1980s, throughout the history of the labour and Trade Union movement these people did not march for benefits they march for jobs.

And that is why Labour in Scotland must be the party of full employment, good well paid jobs within a strong economy where wealth and power is shared in the hands of the many.

So let us show the people of Scotland that it is Labour that stands up for Scotland, it is Labour that will build the council houses we desperately need, invest in our children’s education to give them the best chance in life and it is Labour that will begin tackle the massive challenges we have in our National Health Service.

It is Labour that will get people out of poverty by giving people the skills, the confidence and ultimately the jobs that gives every man, every woman and every child in Scotland an equal chance to achieve their goals and be part of a fair society. You know it is not actually a lot to ask and it must be our ambition our goal.

I had the pleasure just last week to attend the launch a report from the ‘Commission on Health Inequalities’ that was set up by Neil Findlay when he was Labours spokesperson on Health. I would urge all delegates to read this report, to use the report to stimulate discussion on the future direction and priorities for Labour in Scotland and we for our part will use the report along with the massive contribution from this conference to formulate our manifesto moving forward.

Conference I want to finish today by going back to where we started on Friday with the key Note speech by Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the UK Labour Party.

But on Friday it was clear that our conference was not only excited and inspired by our new leader and his message – we were motivated to take that message of his kinder, honest and straight forward politics out into the communities of Scotland.

With that message, with the members that have stuck with us despite the mistakes, with the new members that have come in, the returning members and the registered supporters we can have pride in Labour, pride in what we stand for and pride in who we stand with.

Conference we have the energy the drive and the ambition for a fairer and better Scotland. In the coming weeks and months we will bring forward a strong platform for change that will achieve the Scotland that our children and grandchildren will be proud of.

Let us be proud to campaign as Labour.

Let us take out campaign to every town, every village, every street across Scotland.

Proud of our history, yes but more important proud of our vision for the future.

A Scotland of full employment.

A Scotland where every child can achieve their full potential.

And, a united Scotland free of poverty and inequality.

That is what we stand for, lets now work together to build that better Scotland.


Post Author: Alex Rowley