WATCH: Ed Davey’s speech to Scottish Conference – Bring on the General Election

The text is below,

It is such a pleasure to be with you today here in Hamilton.

I caught the sleeper train up here – never the best night’s sleep, but I imagine I had a better one than anyone in the SNP has recently!

There’s been so much chaos and upheaval that I did find myself wondering who the First Minister would be by the time we pulled in to Glasgow.

I talk a lot about the Conservatives these days…

A succession of disappointing leaders, mired in scandal.

Playing pathetic political games instead of getting things done.

Desperately clinging to power by any means possible.

All while letting ordinary people down and taking them for granted.

It’s all sounding a bit too familiar for the people in this room,

isn’t it?

Because, Conference, whereas we, and the rest of the UK, see the Conservative party as a disgrace…

The SNP see them as a role model!

Tartan Tories indeed.

Amidst all the uncertainty that this year brings, with no date for an election, we have to watch as the Conservatives tear themselves apart in Westminster and the SNP do the same in Holyrood.

Ignoring the millions of people asking for something as simple as a functional government.

It’s no wonder nothing seems to be working the way it should.

The Health Service. Our schools. Our justice system. The water companies.

All so badly broken. While governments north and south of the border do nothing to fix them.

Both of them – the Conservatives and the Nationalists – have failed for far too long.

They’ve got to go.

But Conference, there couldn’t be a bigger contrast between these out-of-touch, uncaring governments and the brilliant work of my friends and colleagues in the Liberal Democrats – in Westminster, in Holyrood and every part of the country.

Strong local champions working hard for their communities, and leading the charge on national issues too.

Just look at the incredible difference that Wendy Chamberlain has made for family carers across the UK with her Carer’s Leave Act, which came into force last month.

It’s an issue close to my heart. I’ve been a carer for much of my life – first for my mum, then for my Nanna, and now for my son John.

And I’ve had the privilege of meeting carers across the country, hearing about the amazing work they do looking after their loved ones, but also the massive challenges they face every day.

So I know how big a difference Wendy’s law will make – to millions of people.

It just shows: having a Liberal Democrat MP is not just good for your area, it’s good for the country.

But there is much more we must do to stand up for carers and make sure everyone gets the care they deserve.

Because I can tell you – being a carer is rewarding and full of love, but it can also be relentless and exhausting.

And many carers are facing serious financial hardship – through the costs of looking after their loved ones and the challenges of juggling paid work with care.

That’s why we have Carer’s Allowance – now called Carer Support Payment for many here in Scotland.

It’s supposed to provide the financial support carers desperately need and clearly deserve.

But for tens of thousands of carers, it’s turned into a nightmare.

As the Department for Work and Pensions pursues them with demands for unmanageable repayments, fines, and even threats of prison.

All because they have crossed the arbitrary £151-a-week earnings threshold, sometimes by as little as a few pence.

That £151 a week is a cliff-edge. As soon as you go over it, you lose access to Carer’s Allowance altogether.

That’s clearly unfair, and creates a pointless barrier that stops carers from working.

But it is also causing this overpayment scandal, because DWP often takes months or even years to act – at which point they demand thousands of pounds in repayments, from people struggling even to pay for the weekly shop or the monthly energy bill.

On Monday I was on Newsnight, along with Diane, from Glasgow.

Diane cares for her adult son, Fraser.

To make ends meet, Diane worked part time as a dinner lady and claimed Carer’s Allowance.

She was always honest about her earnings.

But now the DWP are now chasing her for twenty thousand pounds. They’ve put her on a plan that’ll take thirty-four years to pay it all back.

Thirty-four years.

Diane remembers getting the phone call. She recalls feeling physically sick.

According to Diane, the government made her feel like a criminal.

Diane has now cancelled Carer’s Allowance, because, to use her words, “it’s not worth the hassle”.

So she’s had to take on a new job, work more hours, on top of caring for her son.

As Diane says, things are hard enough as a carer. Carer’s

Allowance is supposed to make it a bit easier – but for Diane and tens of thousands of carers like her, it’s making things so much harder.

The government was warned about this problem five years ago.

And five years ago, the government promised to fix it.

The Conservatives say going after carers like Diane is the right thing to do. I say they are totally, utterly wrong.

We see it for what it is: a callous government unfairly punishing thousands of carers for a system that is flawed and failing.

That’s why we are calling for the government to urgently write off these overpayments.

That’s why we are calling for a top-to-tail review of Carer’s

Allowance, and an end to the cliff-edge.

Because we cannot continue on with a system that punishes our carers like this.

And today let me urge the Scottish Government: don’t let Carer Support Payment be the next scandal like this.

Don’t persecute carers just because the rules are unfair. And make the sensible reforms needed to stop this happening in the first place.

I know Alex Cole-Hamilton will be watching.

Liberal Democrats – standing up for carers. Because we understand that to fix the NHS, you have to fix care.

And that means supporting family carers, but it also means recruiting more paid care staff too.

Because right now, in Scotland and across the UK, far too many people are being denied the care they need.

They have worked hard and paid their taxes, but when their time of need comes, the support they were promised just isn’t there.

And that is a major cause of the crisis in the Health Service too.

Right now, 1,900 people are stuck in Scottish hospitals – well enough to leave, but unable to be discharged because the care they need isn’t in place.

That is a scandal. It’s terrible for patients, terrible for their loved ones, and terrible for the NHS.

And it can be fixed – with more carers.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a new, higher minimum wage for all carers across the UK.

So that carers are properly valued, and so that it is a profession people want to be a part of.

So that everyone can get the care they need, when and where they need it.

The Conservatives and the SNP have broken our health services with carelessness. The Liberal Democrats will fix them with care.

And let us now cast our eyes further afield, to the heartbreaking scenes unfolding in Ukraine and in Gaza.

Because as Liberal Democrats, we are internationalists to our core.

So I am proud that we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our Ukrainian friends, as they bravely resist Putin’s war machine.

And as Putin redoubles his efforts to attack Ukraine, we must redouble our resolve to help them defend it.

I am proud too of the way, since those appalling Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7th, we have stood up – as we always do – for international law, humanitarianism and understanding.

And as tragedy and conflict rage on in the Middle East, we reiterate our call for an immediate, bilateral ceasefire.

We reiterate our call for the hostages to be returned home to their families and the appalling human suffering to end.

I saw that suffering first-hand when I visited Israel and Palestine in February. The pain, the trauma, the loss – etched on the faces of everyone I met.

And while I have been appalled at the way others have tried to use this awful humanitarian crisis to play sordid political games, I am so proud of the way we as a party have responded.

How Layla has spoken about it with such clarity and courage in Westminster.

And how Alex has led the calls here in Scotland too: For a real ceasefire that sets us on the path to a lasting peace.

A two-state solution, that must start with the UK immediately recognising an independent Palestinian state.

Knowing that it is diplomacy that will ultimately defeat the Hamas terrorists and their evil ideology.

And only a lasting peace can give Israeli and Palestinian the future they deserve.

A future free of horrifying violence and tragedy that has endured for too long.

We can be a force for good in Gaza here in the UK. And a force for peace in the Middle East.

These are big challenges facing our communities, our family of nations, and the whole world. And they demand big changes to solve them.

And that’s what sets us – as Liberal Democrats – apart from the other parties.

Only we are proposing the big changes our country needs.

A plan not just to tweak things, not just to fiddle around the edges, but a plan to transform our society for the better.

Because wherever you look – whether it’s the waiting lists in our hospitals or the sewage in our rivers – it’s clear that “steady as she goes” simply won’t do.

But the other parties are too inward looking, too comfortable with the status quo, to realise. They just don’t seem to get it.

Scotland needs change. The UK needs change.

And simply installing a new Prime Minister, or a new First Minister, just won’t cut it.

I would accuse the SNP of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic…

But that would imply that they’re any good at building and launching a seagoing vessel in the first place!

Liberal Democrats have always been the party of real change.

Ever since we were founded, our Scottish Party led the campaign for a Scottish Parliament – and twenty-five years ago those dreams were realised.

In the twenty-five years since, we have led the charge for change in Holyrood – from fair votes to free personal care.

And it makes me so proud to see Alex and his team continuing that brilliant legacy today.

Fighting for a fair deal – on the NHS, on schools, on our precious natural environment.

Alex is the campaigner’s campaigner, and in West Edinburgh they have built the strongest campaigning force in Scottish politics.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party fighting for real change for Scotland.

And we are the only party fighting for real change right across the UK.

And that’s why our role is so important. Why it’s crucial that we have more Liberal Democrat MPs, strong in the next Parliament.

It’s why we need strong local champions like Angus MacDonald and Susan Murray sitting in the House of Commons.

I was out this morning campaigning in Mid Dunbartonshire and I can tell you first-hand what a fantastic candidate Susan is.

Because friends, our country needs change. Real change – from our economy to our NHS to our environment.

Change that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Not just papering over the cracks, but getting underneath and repairing the foundations.

Starting with our political system.

That’s why we’re fighting for fair votes and proportional representation.

The only ones fighting for electoral reform.

It’s why we want to shift power out of the centre in Westminster and Whitehall, so local decisions are made by and for the people and communities they affect.

Why we are committed to strengthening our precious family of nations, and resisting those who would tear it apart.

Our goal is a politics that serves the people’s interests, not politicians’.

To transform the nature of British politics itself – so it can answer the big problems our country faces, and deliver the fair deal people deserve.

So, Conference, this is a big year.

The SNP and the Tories have shown the Scottish people that they cannot be trusted with the economy, their health, the environment or our place in the world.

It has been a long time since either of them represented our proud British values of decency, tolerance and rule of law.

And people have had enough.

Two tired old parties – out of touch, out of excuses and out of time.

And it’s up to us to get them out of office.

With your help, I firmly believe that we can make this a once-in-a-generation election.

Electing a whole new generation of Liberal Democrat MPs…

To work hard for their communities…

To lead the charge for real change…

And to fight for a fair deal.

I know we can do it. I know you’re up for it. So let’s keep at it.

And bring on the General Election!

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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