Nicola Sturgeon: The SNP will continue to be a strong voice standing up for Scotland
After more than a decade of achievement as the government of Scotland, the SNP remains strong – delivering for communities across the country and opposing the Tories’ ruinous hard Brexit, writes Nicola Sturgeon
We live in extraordinary political times. Brexit continues to dominate debate, and the UK government continues to lurch, almost rudderless, from crisis to crisis.
If people hoped that the Prime Minister’s Florence speech would bring more clarity or certainty to Brexit, those hopes have been dashed by the subsequent round of Tory infighting and backroom plotting which continues to cast a shadow over the entire process.
For our part, the SNP continues to make the case for continued partnership with Europe and against the reckless moves to pull out of the single market and the customs union.
The Conservatives’ strategy – which increasingly risks a “no deal” scenario – risks driving the UK economy over the cliff edge of a hard Brexit which threatens to be ruinous for jobs, investment and living standards across the UK. In Scotland alone, analysis shows that a hard Brexit threatens to cost up to 80,000 jobs over a decade, with a potential cost to the Scottish economy of around £11bn a year by 2030.
In the face of that threat, the SNP will continue to be a strong voice standing up for Scotland, and helping to make the case UK-wide against a hard Brexit.
We go into our annual conference marking a solid decade of achievement as the government of Scotland. And we remain the third biggest party in the House of Commons.
Our MPs, under the leadership of Ian Blackford and Kirsty Blackman, will continue to provide a strong progressive voice and, in addition to our position on Brexit, they will make the case against renewed Tory austerity.
In Scotland, we are delivering for people and communities across the country.
And far from copying Labour, as some have suggested, it seems that Labour at Westminster is playing catch-up with the SNP on a range of fronts.
That includes our position on higher education, where our free tuition stance continues to be overwhelmingly popular and has helped ensure that more young people than ever before are now getting the opportunity to go to university in Scotland. That includes more people from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing higher education.
We also continue to push ahead with our ambitious plans to reform Scottish education, giving more powers to individual head teachers and schools.
And our goal of creating equality of opportunity and achievement is probably best exemplified in the Baby Box initiative for each new-born infant and their family.
We have also led the way UK-wide in other areas, such as public sector pay. The SNP Scottish government was the first to say that the current pay cap should go, allowing public sector workers to receive a pay rise that properly reflects the rising costs of living.
And we continue to press ahead with major infrastructure projects, including the stunning new Queensferry Crossing spanning the Forth, while also delivering on our world-leading climate change targets.
As we gather for our conference in Glasgow, the SNP remains in a very strong position – our ratings in the polls are comparable to our standing at similar stages in the electoral cycle in previous years.
And, while we take nothing for granted, those polls show we continue to hold a commanding lead over our opponents. Indeed, the Scottish Tories – for all the hype they managed to generate at the election in June – have fallen back and now trail the SNP by double-digit margins in recent polling. They have now even fallen behind a leaderless Scottish Labour party riven with bitter infighting.
The SNP will continue delivering in government for the people of Scotland, and in the House of Commons we will remain a powerful presence holding the Tories to account.
Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of Scotland