Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference

We’ve just realised we hadn’t posted Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference on 10th March. It’s a wee bit out of date because it was before the Budget.

Although it’s a bit later than usual, we do like to post speeches to maintain the historical record.

The speech came the day after that historic by-election gain from the SNP in Edinburgh.

Ed was introduced by Aberdeenshire Councillor Yi-Pei Chou Turvey who was elected last year.

So here we go:

Good afternoon Conference!

And thank you Yi-Pei for your kind introduction.

It’s great to be back with you all here in Dundee.

And it was wonderful to be in East Dunbartonshire yesterday, with the fantastic Susan Murray.

Susan is already working tirelessly for her constituents as a Councillor, and I know she’ll be a brilliant champion for them in Parliament too! I can’t wait to welcome her to Westminster.

This morning I had great fun with my good friend and Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain, across the Tay in Saint Andrews.

We got to watch robot golfers swinging their clubs with perfect power and precision.

Wendy agreed that having one of those in the whips office could go a long way to improving discipline among the parliamentary party!

And then it was a joy to meet the newest Liberal Democrat Councillor in Scotland, Fiona Bennett –

Who is quite rightly still celebrating her stunning victory in Edinburgh last night.

Another great by-election success for our party.

Another brilliant Councillor elected to work hard for her community –

Adding to strong gains we made across Scotland last year.

And by the way, I can bear witness to the popularity of Liberal Democrats in Murrayfield.

Not long ago, I was canvassing there with Alex and Christine.

I knocked on one door, and the man who answered said “You’re Ed Davey! I think you’re great!”

Then he saw Alex and said “Oh Alex Cole-Hamilton – we love him!”

And when Christine came down the street he almost burst with affection.

“Christine Jardine! We LOVE Christine!”

I put him down as a “probable Lib Dem”.

Conference, victories like Fiona’s are a testament to the hard work and tireless campaigning of everyone here – 

But particularly to the Leader of our Scottish Party, Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Just a few months ago, Alex launched the ambitious One-Fifty Rising strategy 

To start campaigning now for the next council elections in twenty-twenty-seven –

Right across Scotland. In places where we’re already strong, and places that have never elected a Liberal Democrat before.

To talk to people in the streets and on the doorsteps –

To hear their concerns and show them we care –

To win first their trust and then ultimately their votes.

In other words: community politics.

Conference, community politics is something our party is built on.

It’s what sets us apart from the other parties.

It’s how we’ve won in the past – whether in elections for councils, for Holyrood or for Westminster.

It’s how we’re winning today, from Tiverton and Honiton to Corstorphine and Murrayfield.

And it’s how we’ll win in the future.

Fiona’s triumph shows that Alex’s strategy is already bearing fruit.

But the great thing about Alex is he’s not the sort of general who gives the orders but then lets others do the fighting.

Alex leads from the front.

Criss-crossing the country, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets,

Working hard for every single candidate and every last vote.

I’m sure all of you have seen him out on the doorsteps. He is a force to be reckoned with.

A true campaigner’s campaigner.


Now, someone was asking me earlier: what’s the difference between my job and Alex’s job?

And I tried to explain:

You see, my job is all about holding to account an out-of-touch Government,

That is too embroiled in party infighting to take on the big challenges facing ordinary people,

That is presiding over a cost-of-living crisis and an NHS crisis,

But focusing instead on its own ideological obsession.

That is taking people for granted, stirring up division, and threatening the very future of our great United Kingdom.

Whereas Alex’s job is taking on the SNP.

OK, so maybe it isn’t all that different after all!

Whether it’s in Westminster or Holyrood,

Whether it’s the Conservatives or the SNP,

Whether here in Scotland or across the UK,

People are being let down and taken for granted by Ministers who just don’t get it or simply don’t care.

And now the SNP are taking another leaf out of the Conservatives’ book…

Having seen how well those Tory leadership elections worked out for them last year,

The SNP have decided to hold one of their own.


But before I get into that, let me just say a few words about Nicola Sturgeon.

She and I obviously have big political disagreements –

Not least about the future of our family of nations, the United Kingdom.

But Nicola has also been a dedicated public servant.

She has been a giant of Scottish politics for two decades.

She smashed through the glass ceiling to become the first woman to lead her party and the first female First Minister.

I wish her all the best in whatever she does next.

And, as the SNP’s leadership race has already demonstrated, Nicola leaves big shoes to fill – but also big challenges to tackle.

Because, after sixteen years in power, the SNP’s record is a one of complete and utter failure.

They’ve failed on the NHS – with big backlogs and long delays.

Failed businesses – with their botched deposit return scheme.

They’ve failed on education – leaving disadvantaged children behind.

Failed on crime – taking police off the streets as violence rises.

And they’ve failed on the environment – dumping raw sewage straight into rivers and lochs.

So many failures. So many crises.

So many people, so cruelly let down by the Scottish Government.

And if this leadership contest has made anything clear, it’s this:

None of the contenders to replace Nicola Sturgeon will do a thing to clear up the mess she leaves behind.

Because just like Sturgeon before them and Salmond before her, the SNP contenders are blinkered by their obsession with breaking up our United Kingdom.

The SNP is a party united about that, and divided about everything else.

Watching the candidates tear lumps out of each other might be fun, if only Scotland’s future wasn’t at stake.

Who could have guessed that a party whose very existence is to divide would find itself engulfed in such poisonous division?

Conference, Scotland deserves so much better than this awful mess.

The Scottish people deserve so much better than this awful SNP Government.

And the UK deserves so much better than this awful Conservative Government.

They’re both out of touch and out of ideas.

It’s time to get them both out of office.


Because people across the UK are hurting right now.

They are working hard, raising families and playing by the rules –

But finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

We are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in our lifetimes.

But time and time again, the out-of-touch Conservative Government is letting people down and taking them for granted.

As soaring energy bills, food prices and housing costs overwhelm millions of families and pensioners, the Conservatives have only added to the pain with all their chaos.

They crashed our economy and added hundreds of pounds to people’s monthly mortgage payments.

They’re inflicting unfair tax rises and deep cuts to crucial public services, just to pay for the damage they themselves caused.

And they’ve ignored Liberal Democrat calls to give families and businesses more help with their energy bills, funded by a proper windfall tax on the record profits of the oil and gas giants.

With gas prices now falling, the Government could afford to cut energy bills now –

To give struggling families a little more breathing room when next month’s bills come due –

But still Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt say “No.”

Because once again, they just don’t get it or simply don’t care.

But there’s still time for them to reconsider.

Jeremy Hunt still has four days before he stands up to deliver his first Budget.

The choice before him is clear:

Help families across the UK by cutting their energy bills now.

Or protect the unearned billions Shell and BP are raking in thanks to Putin’s war in Ukraine.

And the British people will not forget which choice he makes on Wednesday.


I am proud that our party has led the debate on the energy crisis since the very beginning.

Leading the calls for a windfall tax almost eighteen months ago.

Leading the calls for an energy bills freeze last summer –

And for an energy bills cut today.

But we also know that, while people and businesses need help in the face of inflation now

They need a plan to get our economy growing strongly again for the long-term too.

To create jobs, raise living standards and tackle poverty.

And a key part of that plan has to be trade.

Mending our trading relationship with Europe.

Because, as a result of the Conservatives’ botched trade deal with Europe, businesses, fishers, and farmers in Scotland and across the UK are tangled up in red tape and struggling to sell their goods abroad.

The Conservatives’ dogmatic approach that is damaging our economy and impacting our standing on the world stage.

Instead of their damaging dogmatism, we need pragmatism.

That’s why Liberal Democrats opposed the Conservatives’ terrible deal from the start, and why we will continue to argue for a way forward that works for the UK.

That cuts down on red tape, reduces costs for businesses, and makes everyone better off.

That understands that Britain’s best future is at the heart of Europe.


Because Liberal Democrats, we are the internationalists of British politics.

Against the nationalists in Scotland, England and Wales, we will always argue for a bigger, more positive role for the UK in the world –

Whether it’s standing alongside our Ukrainian allies as they face down Putin’s aggression

Championing the UK’s commitment to spend zero-point-seven percent of national income on overseas aid, enshrined in law by my former colleague from the Scottish Borders, Michael Moore –

Or defending the proud British tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees forced out of their homes by war and persecution.

Conference, could there be a starker contrast between the big-hearted generosity of the British people and the small-minded cruelty of this Conservative Government?

Tens of thousands of families across the UK opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees fleeing war and seeking safety –

Now the Conservatives are slamming the door in the faces of all refugees who do the same.

Just look at what Suella Braverman’s new Bill actually says…

It would punish the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery instead of going after the perpetrators.

It would subject refugee children to indefinite detention and seek to deport them to Rwanda.

Refugee children.

Oh – and it would do absolutely nothing to actually stop the problem of people crossing the Channel in small boats, or tackle the enormous backlog of asylum seekers waiting months for their claims to be processed.

It would only make those problems worse.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats will do all we can to stop the Braverman Bill in its tracks –

And I am very glad that we have someone with all the tenacity and determination of Alistair Carmichael leading the opposition to it in the House of Commons.


Conference, in the face of these big challenges,

With these appalling, out-of-touch governments in Westminster and Holyrood,

The Liberal Democrats are needed more than ever.

Championing liberalism and internationalism.

Leading the charge to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and the NHS crisis.

Defending the future of our family of nations.

Working hard for our communities.

Fighting for a fair deal for everyone –

Here in Scotland and right across the UK.

That’s our job, and I know you’re up for it.

So let’s get to it.




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One Comment

  • Mel Borthwaite 23rd Mar '23 - 2:09pm

    “Defending the future of our family of nations”
    I regard the European Union as our family of nations. Scotland and Northern Ireland have been removed from that family of nations because they were outvoted by the collective voting power of England and Wales which backed leave. I am looking for the most likely way to see Scotland, and the other countries of the UK, back within the EU within my lifetime. The SNP has a plan that could work as a way to get Scotland back in – so where is the detailed roadmap from the Liberal Democrat that will get the whole UK back in?

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