Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the 1993 Scottish Conservative Party Conference, held on 14th May 1993 in Edinburgh.
Mr President, I've not come to this conference to talk just about Scotland. I've come to the Conservative and Unionist Party to talk about the whole of the United Kingdom. I hear you had some singing as well as some talking this week: the Secretary of State sang to you; Lord Sanderson sang to you, and this evening there’s a band in this hall -
At the Election our opponents got quite a lot of things disastrously wrong. One of them of course was Galloway and Upper Nidsdale. How confident they were! It was all in the bag: they were measuring the office for curtains for a new Nationalist Member of Parliament. But they don’t need that office, and it was curtains of a different sort for the SNP. And, today, you can fit all the SNP Members of Parliament into a telephone box. Appropriate, really. The number they required was unobtainable and they had trouble getting through. They should have asked: I would have told them. Ian Lang’s a good operator and he reversed their charges. lan, you’re leading a renaissance of Conservatism in Scotland. It started with the General Election. It went on at the District Council elections. It'll continue right the way through this Parliament. And I will tell you the next target for lan's winning team: more Conservative gains in next year’s European elections.
So, Mr President, we Conservatives know all about fight-
We won’t be Nationalists, Liberal, Labour by imitating them -
Let’s tackle first the problems people fear most: inflation, unemployment, crime, but there are other reasons why people look to the Conservative Party: for strong and modern industry; for better public services; for lower income tax; getting the state off people’s backs; wider ownership of homes, of shares, of pensions. A solid, sound schooling for the young, and yes, devolution, Conservative devolution: devolution of choice to every family throughout the United Kingdom. Mr President, that’s the modern Tory agenda. My agenda, your agenda, the agenda we will win on right the way through this Parliament. And I’ll you how we'll do it: by remembering who we serve and what we stand for. By seeing the right policies through. Mr President, we’re at a turning point after a time of great difficulty for our country. We have had a war; a recession; a tough General Election; and international events have crowded and during this time there have been three matters that have dominated my concern. The first was to get inflation down and keep it down. That is the only way to bring down unemployment and create jobs. We forget too easily the fear and uncertainty of rising prices. The second was to put our country where it can play a leading role in shaping European policy. We must shape it and not be shaped by it. I don’t want to see Britain sidelined and dragged along behind the ambitions of others.
And the third concerns the very future of the United Kingdom: a threat too little recognised before the last General Election. We had to waken our fellow countrymen to the scale of the danger and then face it down. Mr President, cutting inflation has meant hardship for many people. They want to know why and they deserve to know why, so let me explain. For many, the 1980s was a time of prosperity: Conservative governments brought home ownership within reach of millions who’d never expected to enjoy it. We all became too confident. We took our eye off the ball. We allowed inflation to creep back. People who’d worked hard, who’d borrowed money to start businesses or buy houses were caught up in it. Inflation had to be brought back under control. We had to do it. Left unchecked, it would have threatened everything that we had worked so hard to create. Doing that meant higher interest rates, higher unemployment, it lead to bankruptcies and home repossessions. I would have given all I had to avoid it, but if we hadn't done it, people would have suffered all those things and we would still have had the inflation. That is the heart of the matter. All our hopes for the future depended upon the conquest of inflation. It was a huge responsibility and a huge challenge. It took determination. It took skill. It took guts, and Norman Lamont has shown he has all three in the difficult months through which he has come.
But curbing inflation is only the first, the first, but indispensable step to recovery and growth. Since the General Election the fight for recovery has gone on, but people’s patience, even British patience is not unlimited. They have been hurt out there, they are reacting, and although we can see that recovery is underway, it isn't obvious in the pay packet, it isn't obvious in the Job Centre -
Mr President, the second issue I faced when I became Prime Minister was a troubled relationship with our partners in Europe. Let’s be frank: we have an ambivalent attitude to the European Community: as a nation we don’t love Europe. We’re too British: too Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish for that. But we know its importance to us. We know our prosperity depends upon it. We, in this Party, want more cooperation in Europe between freely trading sovereign states. That’s what we've been fighting for these last two years. The kind that has led to hundreds of millions of pounds of inward investment pouring into Scotland: nearly one hundred thousand jobs depend upon that. And Britain’s hard, economic self-
It’s easy to play ‘John Bull’ in a china shop: attractive even. There is popularity to be gained by it, but it is not in our long-
The final great issue that faced us when I took office was the very maintenance of a United Kingdom. No other Party but the Conservative Party was going to fight for it, and I was determined, come what may, that we should. Some said the strategy was crazy, but you in the Party in Scotland, you never had any doubts. The Union was our great cause, and I spoke about the Union in every meeting I went to from the Tamar to the Tay. England needs Scotland, every bit as much as Scotland needs England. The United Kingdom is united, today, for one reason above all because the Conservative and Unionist Party won the last General Election. Mr President, we chose to put the Union right at the heart of our Election campaign. We spoke of the historic choice that faced our nation between a united and prosperous Britain, a force for good in the world, or the path to separatism, the path to disintegration and insularity. And we spoke about the Union, about our long history and achievements together, we spoke from the heart. We said the right thing at the right time for our country. It was instinctive and it was heartfelt, and the people responded. Mr President, for me, that was perhaps the sweetest victory of all in April of last year.
But, now, now we must build on that victory. The separatist tide was turned but it’s not yet beaten. And that’s why Ian Lang’s proposals to bring the Union alive are so important: the will improve Government in Scotland; they will give Scottish people a stronger say. They mean change, yes, but we are changing to preserve the Union, and let me make this prediction: some time in the future we will look back at the last Election and say this: that was the moment of greatest danger to the Union, and that was the moment the Scottish people spoke up for it and saved it.
Mr President, on these great issues we’re now winning through. It would have been easy to give up but we didn't. And we won’t give up on our reforms in health, education, railways and public services; despite difficulties and setbacks, we intend to carry them forward. We had no intention of giving up -
That’s what Conservative governments are for: to extend choice to parents, to extend freedoms to trade union members, to give new rights to tenants, more opportunities to people to own their own homes, more chance for parents to know how their children are doing at school, and that is what we have been doing in the past year. And not a lot of people know that, but it is a massive programme of reform that we have carried through Parliament in the last twelve months. Mr President, these policies are building choice in every city, in every town and every village. Choice is power. We are taking choice away from Government and giving power back to the people. That is where power belongs. I want to see minimum control by Whitehall and maximum choice for every family. All this has been rolling forward: radical changes, far-
So, let us keep our eyes on the bigger picture; on the key challenges of the next four years. And let me share with you some of my own priorities and the direction in which we must go. I've spoken already about some of the key themes, but there are other fundamental issues that demand to be heard. We must build a stronger, manufacturing base. We must take regulation off industry’s back -
It is upon these issues that we will take our stand. They will dominate our thinking and our law-
And the future looks good: we've turned the corner. But for British industry the challenge is still enormous. For them to succeed they need a workforce with skills and with imagination. It’s they who'll carve out success for Britain. So our children must be taught the skills they need. That’s why we need the basics at the very beginning of schooling. It’s why we need good, vocational education. Why we need proper information on how children are doing. And, yes, Mr President, that’s why we need tests in schools, as well. Mr President, we might as well face the truth, only quality will win in today’s world. As a small boy, I grew up like many of you, I suspect, looking at a map covered in pink with a huge British Empire spanning the world. Like many people I’m nostalgic about that. I wish the world was still a captive market for British exports, but it isn't. And it’s no good our dreaming that it is and pretending that things haven’t changed. Our businessmen have to operate in the most competitive world we've ever seen, and so we must give those businessmen every bit of help that we can. And that’s why this Government must be, and I promise you it will be, right out there in the thick of the fight, right out there alongside British industry -
Mr President, choice: choice is central to Conservatism, It is its very heart. Without choice there is no freedom. Without choice there is no achievement. It is a basic fact of human nature. When people choose of their own free-
Mr President, I want now to turn to another matter of huge concern. And let me say this right at the outset: I refuse to accept there is nothing to do about crime, and I’m not going to turn my back on what I know is a growing worry for millions of people. The great majority of decent British people know it’s the duty of everyone to uphold the law: no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’. But I’m afraid there are a far too many who do ‘if’ and ‘but’. Who do criticise the police. Who do devote their energies to explaining crime and justifying it. And there are those who boost the self-
South of the border, we've been busy, too. There are too many young criminals offending and re-
Mr President, we are in the midst of a decade that will see greater change than any decade, even the most venerable person in this hall will have lived through. Change is accelerating, not just in this country, but in countries all around the world: inventions we've never dreamed of; social and other problems we've never yet faced lie not very far ahead of us. If ever there was a time when governments had to take a long view rather than a short view, you and I, today, are living through that time. We cannot afford just to cast our eyes on the problems of tomorrow, next week, or even next year. We have to stop and think and plan; and often take decisions that may seem strange, today, but are geared at the problems or the opportunities that we can see five or ten years ahead. It seems a long way away, the next millennium. It isn't. It’s eighty months away. We need to start preparing for it now; thinking for it now; planning for it now; putting our industry and our nation in a position to compete for it in the most competitive world we've ever seen, Those are the matters that crowd on in governments, on Ministers, quite apart from the day-
We need to stand back sometimes and re-
We are a remarkable political party: the most formidable fighting force when roused that western politics has ever seen. We have had our good days and our bad days; our highs and our lows; our opportunities and our difficulties, but it is in that unity, that philosophical unity of belief, that instinctive feel for what our nation is and what it wants that Conservatives draw their greatest strengths. It is at times of difficulties that they go back to those ancient instincts, draw out that strength again, and prepare for the years ahead. We’re a party that thinks beyond one generation. We can afford to do so. We were governing this nation long before the Labour party was ever a nightmare in anyone’s mind. And we'll be governing it long after they’re dead and gone as a political party, provided -
So, let us put aside temporary problems and temporary difficulties. Let us keep our eye on the far distance as well as the near future. Let us plan not just for what we'll be doing tomorrow or next year, but for the sort of society we want our children and our grandchildren to grow up in. That is what I ask this party of ours to do, both today and in the future. So, at the moment, after recent difficulties, we are fighting back at this conference. Fighting back for our ideals, fighting for what we believe in. Fighting for what brought us in to the party and what will keep us bound in this party, even in the most difficult of days. We have been through tough times, tough for this party, more important, perhaps, tough for millions of people across the land. But at the last General Election those millions of people supported us: fourteen and a half million more votes than any political party had ever received at any Election in this country, and they did so because we set out simply and clearly what we stood for and what we were doing. We set out where we were going and why we wanted to go. And from one end of the country to another they listened. We touched a chord in their instincts. They trusted us to do what was right for Britain and to see it through.
Mr President, that is what Conservatism is about -