The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:39 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 9:39 am, 29th March 2007

The future of Scotland is indeed now in the hands of the Scottish people. There are two stark choices: devolution or isolation. Those are the only two games in town.

I believe that the best future for Scotland is within the union of the United Kingdom, and there is no stronger supporter of the union than the Conservatives. "Unionist" is in our name; it is in our DNA. What the isolationists have totally failed to demonstrate is this: why losing influence in Europe is better for Scotland, why losing influence in the United Nations is better for Scotland, why weakening our defence facility is better for Scotland and why turning our closest neighbour into our biggest competitor is better for Scotland.

Those are not the imagined consequences of isolation; they are the stark realities. The Scottish National Party has failed lamentably to prove its case. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the voters do not want to court independence. They want devolution to work better and politicians to get to grips with the bread-and-butter issues of crime and drugs, the provision of affordable housing and standing up for families in areas such as health care and child care.

What about the Lib-Lab pact's failure? That pact has failed devolution and those parties have failed the people whom they claim to care about the most. The gap between the poor and the rich is widening, waiting times are going up and the numbers of crimes and offences are higher than they were in 1999. Council tax has increased by 63 per cent, economic growth is lagging behind England and 100,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 1997 and 2005.

What about drug abuse and cutting crime? Our drug problem is escalating out of control. There is a drug death in Scotland almost every day, 37 new patients ask for drug addiction treatment every day and more than 1,200 methadone prescriptions are handed out every day. The Scottish Conservatives have promised to invest an extra £100 million a year in drug rehabilitation, which will save an estimated £1 billion a year in policing, health care and other social costs. To cut crime, we will hire 1,500 extra police officers and get them out on the beat. We will restore the balance of our criminal justice system to one that stands up for the victim and punishes the criminal.

The Lib-Lab pact may say that it has ended automatic early release, but it has not. No prisoner will serve their full sentence in custody. The Scottish Conservatives will stand up for victims. We will ensure that anyone who is sentenced to custody on three or more occasions will have an additional tariff imposed that is proportionate to the previous three sentences.