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Speech by Ed Miliband to Scottish Labour Conference

Can I start by saying what a privilege it is to be here in Perth.

In May it will be 20 years since the death of Labour’s lost leader, Scotland’s lost leader, Britain’s lost leader, John Smith.

The outpouring of grief we saw back then was because of John’s decency, compassion and his commitment to social justice.

20 years on his inspiration still lives.

The flame of social justice still burns.

And we must honour his legacy by winning the fight for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom.

And I want to thank our brilliant Scottish leader who is leading that fight.

She is tough, she is determined, she is Labour.

Johann Lamont.

And I want also to thank her dynamic deputy, Anas Sawar.

And my friend, our brilliant Shadow Secretary of State, Margaret Curran.

Let us also thank someone who could have decided to have an easier life after years of frontline politics.

But who instead was determined to fight for the nation he loves, Alistair Darling.

Referendum

Friends, we meet here, conscious of our duties to our country.

This is no ordinary time and no ordinary conference.

Because in 180 days Scotland will determine its future.

It is Scotland’s decision.

And Scotland’s alone.

But everyone in this Labour Party knows: we’re better together.

Today I want to set out why I so passionately believe in Scotland choosing to stay in the United Kingdom.

It is rooted in the history and common bonds that we share together across our country.

A history that has enabled us to fight for equality and social justice.

And it is driven by a belief we all share to tackle injustice and inequality wherever we find them.

Better Together

Almost every family in Britain has a special story about their connection with Scotland.

This is mine.

My Dad came to Britain as a refugee from Belgium, fleeing from the Nazis.

He wanted to fight Fascism so he joined the Royal Navy.

Seventy years ago, he was stationed just 30 miles from here in Inverkeithing.

Where I was yesterday.

He wrote in his diary about the thrill of saying “Miliband, reporting for duty.”

His ship was HMS Valorous.

There were people from all parts of our country on that ship.

People from all walks of life, all backgrounds, who had come together for one purpose.

This year marks 70 years since the D-Day landings.

Where would be without that great generation that worked together for a common cause: fighting Fascism?

Let us pay tribute to them today.

And their story reflects the history of the United Kingdom.

A history of great causes.

For internationalism.

And so often the struggle for social justice.

But my interest in this history is not just in monuments to what we have achieved.

But what it teaches us about what we can achieve in the future.

Let us resolve to write new chapters in the story of our country.

Stories that our children will be able to tell.

About how we made our country more fair, more just, more equal.

Our Vision and Policy

Like every generation we must confront the challenges we face and rise to them.

Never has that been clearer than this week.

A Conservative Budget that did nothing to restore the promise of Britain for our young people, that the next generation should always do better than the last.

A Conservative Budget that did nothing truly to take the side of hard-pressed consumers.

A Conservative Budget that did nothing genuinely to help family budgets that are being so squeezed by the cost-of-living crisis.

And what was the answer to the cost of living crisis from Conservative Central Office on Wednesday night?

George Osborne’s generous offer, buy 300 pints of beer and get one free.

Cheaper Bingo, except even on that one, there was a catch.

As the Bingo companies say they can’t pass on the savings.

And what about that advert that they released?

Have you seen a more condescending, patronising, arrogant, haughty, out-of-touch, misconceived piece of nonsense?

And didn’t the mask slip?

The “hardworking people of Britain”.

The Conservatives say “they”.

We say “us”.

We are the party of the hardworking people of every part of our United Kingdom.

Indeed, the whole idea of One Nation: using the talents of all.

And that is the idea too of the United Kingdom.

Sharing risks and gains across Britain.

We support each other across the UK whether we are Scottish, English, Welsh or Northern Irish.

Because of our history, our ties, we are willing to redistribute.

Because we know we are better together.

Think about what the last Labour government did.

It took 200,000 children out of poverty here in Scotland.

And how did we do it?

By creating new jobs, tax credits and a National Minimum Wage across the whole United Kingdom.

Because we know we’re better together.

And the same will be true for the next Labour government too.

There are more young unemployed people in some parts of the UK than others.

But we will tax the bankers’ bonuses to guarantee a job to every young person unemployed for more than a year, across every part of the United Kingdom.

Because we know we’re better together.

And there are more top-rate tax-payers in some parts of the country than others.

But we will restore the 50p rate because we know it is right to ask those who are doing well to pay their fair share to improve our country for everyone.

Because we know we’re better together.

And the strength of the United Kingdom goes beyond that too.

It is about how we build prosperity for the future.

We need a race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Supporting all of those great businesses who want high standards.

Creating those good, high-paying jobs that people have the right to expect.

And to do that we have to take on some of the vested interests that can hold us back.

We need to reform our banking system so it isn’t businesses working for our banks, but banks working for our businesses once again.

We need to stand up the energy companies, reform the energy market and freeze energy prices.

And we need to call time on unscrupulous employers who undermine all the good employers, misusing zero-hours contracts or not paying the minimum wage.

Under a Labour government, firms won’t be able to get away with misusing zero-hours contracts.

And we will ensure all firms are paying the minimum wage.

But to do this, we need to stay together.

Because some of those vested interests will always try to play one country off against another.

“You put in place that policy and we move our company somewhere else.”

In other words, they try to force counties into a race to the bottom.

And think how much harder it would be to stop that race to the bottom if we had a border running along the middle of the UK.

England, Scotland divided in two.

We need to set fair rules for all across our country.

To stop that race to the bottom and to start to run a race to the top.

That’s the Labour way.

And we need to combine this fight for fairness and redistribution with bringing power closer to people.

That was the vision that inspired the Scottish Parliament.

And now once again it inspires our Policy Review and the Devolution Commission.

So for Scotland:

More devolution of social security, but still sharing risks.

Greater flexibility over income tax rates but no race to the bottom on income tax.

We will bring power closer to people.

And then we will work together to build social justice.

Because we know we’re better together.

Labour governments in Westminster and Holyrood.

Two governments working together.

Not wrestling against each other.

But never resting until we have built the more just, the more equal society that every part of the United Kingdom should be.

Independence: Race to the Bottom

And what is the alternative?

What do the SNP say?

We’ve seen it all as this referendum campaign has gone on.

No answer on the currency.

No answer on the European Union.

But there is one thing that is worse than any of this.

Because for all the rhetoric.

All the warm words.

The SNP have no plan for social justice.

Remember the “progressive beacon”, they were going to be?

They can’t say that any more.

The SNP had to be dragged kicking and screaming to abolish the Bedroom Tax.

It was Labour’s campaign that forced them to do it.

And let’s applaud everyone who made that possible.

Where do the SNP stand on Labour’s energy price freeze?

They can’t match it.

Where do they stand on the 50p tax rate?

They can’t match it.

In fact, Alex Salmond said:

“We certainly are not going to put ourselves at a tax disadvantage with the rest of the UK”.

In other words, an independent Scotland’s top tax rate would actually be set in London.

By the government in London.

Even a Tory government, with Tory values, and Tory priorities.

Well, I can tell you, here’s the difference: under a Labour government, the top rate of tax will be determined by Labour values, Labour priorities, by a Labour government.

He has given the game away.

It would be a race to the bottom.

Not just on tax rates.

But on wage rates.

On terms and conditions.

On zero hours contracts.

On dealing with the energy companies.

On reforming the banks.

And what does he say his first priority would be if there would be an independent Scotland?

Not to spend more on the NHS.

Not to invest in education.

Instead, a 3p cut in Corporation Tax.

Because he says it is essential to “counter the gravitational pull of London.”

The race to the bottom once again.

Those companies who can afford it paying less.

And those who can least afford it, hardworking families across Scotland will pay more and see their services suffer.

And so we find, Alex Salmond who claims to be a great social democrat, pushed into the same race to the bottom as the Tories he denounces.

That’s the SNP’s vision of an independent Scotland.

Two lanes in a race to the bottom.

David Cameron and Alex Salmond at the starting blocks.

The SNP can talk about social justice.

But they can’t build it.

Because you can’t be a narrow nationalist and serve social justice at the same time.

Well, their vision is not the Scotland you believe in.

That’s not the Scotland I believe in.

That’s not the Scotland this Labour Party will help to build.

Conclusion

I know many of you are deeply angry at this Tory government.

And I share your anger about that government too.

And I know we can do something about it.

Don’t believe the SNP when they contrast a progressive Scotland and a Tory England.

Because there are millions of people across every part of our country who think it is wrong that there are young people without work.

And they want us to do something about it.

There are millions of people who say it is just wrong that so many people in work find themselves in poverty.

And they want us to do something about it.

There are millions of people who want to be part of a country that is more just, more equal, more fair.

And they want us to make that vision happen.

And the history of our country and our Party is mobilising people in great causes.

Workers’ rights at the start of the 20th century.

The Suffragettes demanding the vote.

An NHS after 1945.

A Scottish Parliament.

A minimum wage in the 1990s.

We can do so again.

Let’s be inspired by the example of all of our pioneers from Keir Hardie to John Smith.

Fairness for the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Together, not alone.

Neighbours, not strangers.

Friends, not competitors.

A race to the top, not a race to the bottom.

Let’s fight for social justice.

Let’s earn the chance to serve.

Let’s win for the people of Scotland.

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