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Timothy Kirkhope MEP: Scottish Conservative Party Conference

I am delighted to be sharing a platform with Struan to talk to you about these vital European elections.  Struan is one of the most hard-working MEPs and the Parliament and a tireless defender of Scottish interests. 

He vigorously defends the interests of Scottish farmers and fishermen - the latter particularly effectively as Chairman of the Parliament's Fisheries Committee - speaking out about the iniquities of the Common Fisheries Policy. 

He has stood up for Scottish jobs and Scottish companies.  And I know he makes huge efforts to travel the length and breadth of Scotland, to make sure he is in touch with people's issues and concerns.  You could not be better represented in the European Parliament - thank you in advance for all your hard work helping him get re-elected.

We will of course be very sad to lose John Purvis from our ranks after the election.  John is a long-standing servant of both the Party and the country as an MEP.  He is widely-respected by fellow MEPs of all nationalities and political persuasions, not least in his role as Vice-Chairman of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee over the past five years.  He has been a firm promoter of Scottish business and enterprise, particularly in the area of new technology. We will greatly miss his experience and wisdom.  Thank you John for all your work as a Conservative MEP.

But you have of course chosen an excellent team of candidates to fight this election and in Belinda Don you have an extremely strong candidate who would be a tremendous addition to our team in Brussels and Strasbourg.  I know with one fewer seat it will not be easy to return two Conservative MEPs on 4 June - but I really believe that it is possible and with hard work it can - and indeed must be achieved.

It must be achieved because we are offering people the opportunity in these elections to send a clear message to Gordon Brown about the dismal way in which he shamelessly reneged on Labour's pledge to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution, now renamed the Lisbon Treaty.

David Cameron said recently: 'Where you stand on the referendum says a lot about your politics. It says a lot about how much you value trust between the government and the governed. If you make a promise in your manifesto, and the country votes on that manifesto, then you are honour-bound to keep that promise.'

For me, this is a matter of trust; it is a matter of faith in politics.  Our commitment to a referendum rests on the truth that, in a democracy, lasting political institutions cannot be built without the people's consent and this cannot be achieved if the results of referenda are ignored or promises to hold a referendum are abandoned.  The news stories of the past week have done terrible damage to the reputation of politicians and political institutions.  Now more than ever, we have to try to rebuild that by showing people that politicians can be worthy of trust and can keep their promises.

Unfortunately, as William Hague said recently, the story of Labour's commitment to a referendum is not that of a single u-turn but of a political figure-of-eight: first it was only a 'tidying-up exercise' and not important enough for a referendum, then it needed so much parliamentary scrutiny that it was too important for a referendum, then Tony Blair declared it had changed the nature of its importance and did indeed require a referendum before, faced with the near-certainty of rejection, Brown decided that the referendum promise was yet another one that he would simply break.

And so, despite every promise to the contrary, a Prime Minister no-one had voted for signed a treaty the people had never approved. No wonder he did not have the courage to turn up for the signing ceremony until after the photographs had been taken.

And the message we will take to the doorsteps in the coming weeks is that if you vote Conservative it is not too late to have the referendum you were promised; it is not too late to send Gordon Brown a message on June 4th so loud he cannot ignore it.  Labour conceded a referendum in 2003.  In fact, in a memorable phrase, Tony Blair said:  'Let the issue be put, let battle be joined' - before calling off the fight at the first opportunity!  As so often with him, his words were right, even if wholly unrelated to what he actually meant to do!

So in this election, we will put the issue and we will join that battle. 

But there is much more at stake in these elections - in the day-to-day work of the European Parliament.  A large proportion of legislation in Scotland is directly influenced by decisions taken at EU level. Economic and financial affairs, employment, social policy, transport, energy, agriculture, fisheries, the environment - these are all policy areas in which EU legislation directly affects Scottish citizens. The right to travel and work abroad, cheaper air travel and lower mobile phone charges are all examples of European Parliament decisions having a positive impact in Scotland.

The EU is Scotland's largest single trading partner with Scottish exports totalling more than £9 billion being sent to the then 25 EU Member States in 2005. Around 300,000 jobs in Scotland are directly linked to trade with the EU. Continued participation in the single market is vital if Scotland's economy is to become more dynamic, innovative and successful.

Moreover, Scotland benefits from important levels of EU funding.  In the period 2000 - 2006, Scotland received over £1.1 billion of structural funds from the EU.  These funds support numerous projects in Scotland designed to boost standards of living and the economy of regions through social and cultural programmes, improved infrastructure and a greener, more innovative business environment.

But there are also dangers and threats from our opponents.  In the coming five years, we know Socialist MEPs will press - yet again - to end the British opt-out of the Working Time Directive, telling three million British workers they can no longer choose how much overtime to work.  There will be vital new regulation on financial services and financial markets.  We must make this work to promote trade and economic recovery, while of course preventing excesses - but if there is a left-wing majority in the European Parliament they will try to regulate financial markets out of existence.  There will be important negotiations on global measures to tackle climate change and to promote world trade - where the EU must be a force for progress not protectionism.

That is why we must return as large a Delegation of Conservatives as we can - we want Scotland properly and robustly represented in the European Parliament, not the other way around. 

Unlike Labour, the SNP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Conservative MEPs will continue to fight against an increased EU budget.

Unlike Labour, the SNP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Conservative MEPs will continue to oppose the Euro.

Unlike Labour, the SNP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Conservative MEPs will continue to fight against greater European integration and the Lisbon Treaty.

Ladies and Gentlemen, only with a strong Conservative Delegation, and a strong Scottish Conservative voice, will the interests of Scotland be properly and robustly looked after in the next European Parliament.

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