Speech to Scottish Conservative conference


Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to see the Party in such good heart.

In Ruth Davidson, we have a leader who is taking the fight to the SNP and we must all do everything we can to make sure we are the Party of Opposition, come 5th May.

I will come on to the European question in just a moment, but first I want to tell you a little about the work I do in Brussels.

I sit on the Energy, Environment and Fishing Committees.

I fight for Scotland day in, day out. I do that as part of the European Conservatives and Reformists, the group with Reform in it’s title.

I regularly see the damage that members of Scotland’s other political parties do in Brussels.

The SNP sit in the Green Group. Let that sink in. The Green Group.

If it was up to them, every boat would be tied to the quayside and never be allowed to Sea again.

As part of the ECR, Conservatives are in the room negotiating for British interests, day in and day out.

Now on to Europe.

The Prime Minister has delivered a choice. His reform should be seen as a starting point for further reform, rather than the end of the road.

There will be a variety of views in the Scottish Conservative party on this issue.

We shouldn’t see that as a problem. I’d rather be in a party that had room for debate than one (like SNP) where members are barred from having any opinions of their own, and any for of independent thought is banned.

The package delivered by the Prime Minister, is a major step forward, but I know that many of you are wondering about some of the specifics. The specifics for our fisherman and our farmers in particular.

So I spoke to the Prime Minister to seek clarification.

When he was negotiating the 3rd pillar of the reform package – some call it Competitiveness, some call it Better Regulation, and some call it simply Cutting Red Tape – he had both the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policies in his sights.

Both are too bureaucratic, too complicated and in need of reform.

I know this and you know this.

The Prime Minister last night tasked me to draw up a set of recommendations and specific advice of how to apply the Competitiveness and Better Regulation pledge to fishing and farming.

And let’s be clear, the Commission are game on for these reforms, we are pushing at an open door.

I have already begun working with the European Commission, with Farming Commissioner Hogan, with the man who negotiated the deal for the Commission, a Brit called Jonathon Faull.

Under the Prime Minister’s deal, the Commission will bring forward new proposals before the end of the year.

And importantly the European Parliament will vote on the proposals, and I will be making sure, if needed, that the legislation is sharpened, amended and fit for purpose.

But we must not let this overshadow the most important challenge we face in the coming two months and - in closing - I offer one piece of advice.

When you have two elephants charging towards you, always tackle the first elephant first, then move onto the next elephant. Ladies and gentleman, in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and the EU referendum we have two elephants charging towards us in the coming months.

There will inevitably be much discussion about the EU referendum. But our first priority is to tackle the Scottish election on 5 May, to ensure Ruth has as strong a team behind her in Holyrood as possible.

I hope you will join me in making that happen.