Speech to Scottish Conservative Spring Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen
The choice for the people of Scotland is clear on the 1 May - if they want a Government backs business, not only by cutting Business rates which Annabel Goldie will highlight later, but are committed to investment in Transport, committed to spending an additional £100 million of hard cash delivering the major transport projects Scotland needs, instead of more Scottish Enterprise consultants, surveys and reports, then they should vote Scottish Conservative.
Of all the areas in which Labour has failed Scotland over the past 6 years, transport is surely the most obvious to the ordinary citizen. From stopping the completion of the M8 and, equally important to the Scottish economy, the A74 Gretna to Carlisle motorway upgrade, and needlessly delaying the M77 extension, Scotland was plunged into a road building hiatus six years ago. Since then not a mile of new road has been built and for that matter, not a mile of new railway laid either. Instead, there was political correctness with the usual anti motorist rhetoric and the relentless drive towards tolls. Meanwhile Scotland is grinding to a halt as business suffers and ordinary people endure road and rail chaos.
Yet, this week we had a minor miracle in the Scottish Parliament. 3 years, 10 months and one week after the Parliament was set up, the Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Government finally acknowledged, what Scottish Conservatives have been saying week in week out since May 1999, namely that our transport infrastructure and our economy are inextricably linked. Without a 21st century road and rail network, and indeed its modern day equivalent of broadband technology, Scottish businesses are going to struggle to survive never mind compete in this increasingly difficult global economy.
Whilst the tone may have changed from the Government, the tactics have not. This is a Government, which has turned the production of guff into an art form. Their transport policy is all about spin: "work starting on work to develop proposals to bring forward options on surveys that could be progressed on how further consultation could be taken forward with stakeholders in partnership with partners so as to address the concerns as to how to take forward top priorities flowing from studies on how to create a land of milk and honey". And so it goes on. In the latest transport document the nearest we get to a commitment is that major projects will have started by the end of the decade. One presumes it is this decade but you can never be 100% sure.
So as we approach the election despite the soundbytes Labour and their Liberal Democrat allies offer no timescale and no cash for the upgrade of Waverley Station which is so desperately important to increasing capacity on Scotland's railways. No timescale or committed funds for the Borders Rail link. No start date for the Aberdeen bypass or the A8000 upgrade.
In start contrast, the Scottish Conservatives are committed to these projects and have identified the cash to make them happen. That's the clear policy message, not just to business, but to the people of Scotland on 1st May. I am confident that it will win us their support.