Conference, I was born in the winter of discontent.
My first vote was at the 97 election. I was a spotty 18 year old in my first year of uni.
And my friends told me that our student union had a special late license so we could all go, drink through the night and watch the results come in.
What they didn’t tell me, was that the bar had been booked by the university Labour club.
And that I would be the only Tory amid a hundred baying lefties as seat after seat fell.
I think you’re supposed to call it ‘character-building’. It was bloody awful. Losing always is. I know, I’m a Scottish sports fan.
So, conference, I have waited a really long time for a majority Conservative government. And I can’t thank the Prime Minister, our candidates and all of you enough for making it happen.
It’s right that we enjoyed our victory in May,
But let’s remember that the real reward is in knowing what it means for our country.
People back in work. Able to make choices about their lives and plan for the future with the security that only a regular wage packet can achieve.
Getting back to work is the biggest driver of social justice there is and it is precisely because of those new jobs we see both poverty and inequality falling in Scotland.
After years of debt and binge spending under Labour, we see a country revving back to financial health.
We also see Conservatives doing what we do best, putting our values and beliefs into practical effect and delivering for everyone – not just the few.
Most of all, Ladies and gentlemen, it means a country led by a party – the only party – of the Union. A party that will always back Britain and fight to keep us together.
It’s worth remembering conference, that last year if just 200,000 people had changed their votes, our country would now be suing for divorce. The United Kingdom would have ceased to be.
We must never come so close again.
The SNP are already calling for a re-run and the storm has not passed.
But our future as a family of nations within a nation state can be better secured.
We can rise to the challenge of nationalism by building a stronger and more flexible union.
Real financial responsibility on tax
Real decision making over welfare
Real accountability on raising the money we spend.
A practical plan for the Union delivered by the party of the Union.
And it’s David Mundell, our Scottish Secretary who’s making that happen. A Conservative Scottish Secretary – the first Conservative Scottish Secretary in 18 years – and he’s delivering for Scotland.
Now conference, you may think the election’s behind you and doesn’t need thinking about for another 5 years.
But it’s just seven months before we go back to the polls again in Scotland.
And at this election, the Scottish Conservatives have a huge opportunity.
To be the voice of the quiet majority
To speak for those who just want to get up and get on
To move past Yes or No and see Scotland’s two governments work together, not stir false grievance between them.
To be a real Scottish alternative – showing a practical, pragmatic way forward for our country
With a plan for reform in education.
A plan to use new powers on tax and welfare to become fairer and more business friendly.
And a plan to support our public services, especially our NHS, so they can face up to the challenges of an ageing population.
Scottish Labour’s not going to provide that plan.
With all the resource of an official opposition, they’ve made no use of it. Neither holding the government to account, nor charting an alternative vision for the country.
This is a party which makes circular firing squads look competent.
No. It’s now down to us to take on an SNP administration grown fat with power and suffering all the arrogance and hubris that power can bring.
A party of ideology which has run out of ideas – and now seeks only to try and control.
A party running from its own record that would rather pick fights about constitutional process than answer for the problems in our schools, our hospitals, or with the police.
The truth is that Scotland needs a better way.
And it’s my conviction is that it is now us, the Scottish Conservatives, which has the ideas, the vision and the belief to offer it.
Now of course, it will not be easy – May’s General Election taught us that.
But I believe we have the chance to appeal right across the board – to be the voice of the two million Scots who want to keep our country together.
In May, many Scottish Conservatives voted tactically, supporting other pro-UK parties in the hope of stopping the SNP.
I can tell you, there are two reasons why this will not happen next year.
Firstly, because Labour and the LibDems now seem embarrassed by their support of our Union.
And secondly because next year every single vote counts.
As the head of our campaign, I have made it clear to my team that I want to target the regional list vote next year.
And for so long as the SNP refuses to rule out another referendum, our message for voters looking to cast that second vote is clear.
Whichever party you support, use that vote intelligently.
And if you’re one of the two million people who voted No in last year’s referendum, use it as your intelligent vote for the Union.
And be assured of this…
Every cross in the Scottish Conservative box is a vote backing Britain and defending Scotland’s place in it.
And every vote for the Scottish Conservatives will help return a Conservative MSP.
We are on the march and we’ll return more seats than ever before.
May is an opportunity for us to build on the general election. To retain London, to put on votes and seats in Scotland and Wales and to take councils across the country.
And while elections are absorbing and campaigns exciting, we must never forget what it is we’re fighting for.
Yesterday I went to visit a charity with our fantastic Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb.
It’s called Reclaim and it gives mentoring, lifecoaching and leadership training to working class kids from the age of 12 up.
Dozens of young people from areas like Gorton and Mosside – being taught to challenge, to innovate, to be able to walk into the offices of a blue chip company and feel as confident there as they do in their own playground.
Stephen and I were grilled for nearly two hours from the most impressive, articulate, passionate people you could ever hope to meet.
Tough background but bright futures.
They burned with a sense of righteousness of the world they want to see, the world they want to build, not the world as they know it right now.
I believe each and every one of them will change their own world for the better..
But they made one thing clear too – they see themselves utterly set apart – socially and economically segregated – from every single politician and decision maker that talks on TV.
Didn’t matter if they grew up rich or poor, went to a rough school or a posh one, the very fact of putting on a suit and standing at a podium like this, made them different, foreign and other.
That’s a bridge politicians and decisions makers have to cross. A bridge our party has to cross.
There is no point spouting statistics on GDP or housebuilding or the labour market if we can’t speak to people’s lives.
It is not enough for our party to be seen as decent technocrats. Adequate middle managers who will steward the economy without scaring the horses.
With Labour galloping left, it would be the easy – and lazy – thing to do.
It might secure the government for some time to come, But that’s not enough.
Just as Labour need reminding that purity of thought is no substitute for power, so we must remind ourselves that power is nothing without purpose.
I don’t want us to be just the party of the technocrat. The grudging vote of competence.
I want us to be the party of the thinkers, the dreamers, the reformers and the visionaries too.
The zeal of the missionary, the courage of the pioneer, the ambition to lift our eyes to the horizon and say there’s a new Jerusalem we want to build and we will work towards it every day.
And, more than that. We’ll take people with us.
The last few years have not been easy. And I pay tribute to George Osborne for holding his nerve and seeing us through.
2 million more jobs, the fastest growing major economy in the developed world.
And, after battening down the hatches, David Cameron is right, it’s time to show people the sun is coming up.
No-one will tell that story for us. No one will talk to that future unless we do ourselves.
And if we don’t, our country will be the poorer for it.
Because we are the party that believes in human potential, the power of individuals to do good and choose well.
In a fast-changing world with challenges of terrorism, globalism, nationalism – of technological change and demographic shift – we have to find new answers. But we also have to remind ourselves of those values that are unchanging.
Values of family, community and country.
Of knowing people make better decisions about their lives than the state.
That hard work deserves fair pay
That aspiration and opportunity aren’t dirty words.
It is natural and desirable to want to build a better life for you and your children and you should be applauded not upbraided for it.
A belief in marriage – gay or straight – and of families in every shape and size as the primary building block of our society.
A commitment to giving those at the bottom a hand up and of clearing away barriers to advancement at every level.
A recognition that children don’t all learn the same and shouldn’t all be taught the same – that school choice and parental freedom lead to better life chances.
A belief in the invention and creativity of people – and where governments get in the way of that, they should remove themselves from the field.
It is proper, old-fashioned, blue-collar, Toryism.
It’s how I was raised and why I’ve kept the faith for exactly half my life – from casting that ballot in ‘97 to achieving a Conservative majority government 18 years later.
We need to show these values in action every day. To let people – scanning that horizon – know that a new day is coming up once again. We need to build that city on the hill.
Build it for Scotland. For Britain. And for the future.