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Caroline Blakesley made a (belated) speech at a Scottish Labour event* in Edinburgh.

*Approved by Nathan

Quote:Thank you! Thank you for your kind welcome.

For a few months now, I’ve been called a lot of things by Conservative politicians. I’ve been told that I threatened the Union, despite pledging over and over and over again that I would never approve a second independence referendum in Scotland. And now, as we find ourselves facing an election, I’m assuming that the Conservatives will, once again, try and label me a threat. That is the game they play: they can’t attack my policies, so they go after my character.

But we are better than that. The people of Scotland are smarter than that. Unionists throughout this nation know, when it comes to protecting the union, that Labour means business, that I mean business. I’m the only leader in Britain that told Nicola Sturgeon “no” when she asked for an independence referendum.

That is why I come here today to make a simple pledge: there will be no independence referendum under a Labour government. I have not approved one. I will not approve one.

Instead, a Labour government will stand firm behind the union and Scotland’s place in it. We will fight against nationalism and guarantee investment in Scotland. We will not stop until we build a stronger Scotland than ever before. To do so, I propose three distinct plans: opposing independence, enhancing devolution, and building a stronger Scotland.

On the matter of standing firm against independence, a Labour government will go beyond just saying no to a referendum, we will pass new legislation guaranteeing three fundamental principles that raise the bar for any independence referendum. First, any vote for independence must achieve an absolute majority of Scottish voters – a high standard for a consequential vote. Second, that any independence referendum must be approved by the House of Commons – no single Prime Minister should be able to define Scotland’s future. And third, that any independence agreement must be approved by the people of Scotland in a vote – what touches all must be approved by all.

These are simple requirements – but they are requirements that demand a high standard for any proposed vote. They are plans that will provide clarity for the people of Scotland. No longer will the SNP be able to demand independence referendums after what they deemed a once in a lifetime vote. No longer will the SNP be able to demand independence referendums to distract from their record of austerity in Holyrood. No longer will politicians be able to use Scotland’s future as a political football. No longer will Scotland’s place in the union be threatened.

Of course, once we take steps to prevent an independence referendum we must deliver meaningful change for the people of Scotland. That means continuing to improve and advance devolution to Holyrood.

Let me be clear: Labour always was and always will be the party of Scottish devolution.

And delivering devolution, empowering Holyrood to make life better across Scotland, is what we shall do. We can, and we should, give the Scottish government the power to top up more elements of social security. When child poverty is endemic across our nation, Holyrood should have the power to use proven tools to fight it. Scotland should have the authority to top up the living wage, if they so choose. Helping people earn more is a policy that we can all stand behind. And, of course, there is the matter of full fiscal autonomy – a matter which we are more than willing to explore.

That is devolution that will continue to work for Scotland. That is a plan to empower the Scottish people to build Scotland into the powerhouse that it can be within the United Kingdom. And that is a devolution plan that will work in perfect harmony with Labour’s commitment to investing in Scotland.

And Labour is committed to investment in Scotland and building a Scottish economy that works for all. This year, Labour proposed an Inclusive Growth Fund – this fund will provide for a capital spending surge in Scotland; a surge that is necessary to undo the damage that Conservative austerity from Westminster and SNP austerity from Holyrood did to communities across Scotland. It is a fund that we would like to see expanded, should Labour be returned to government. That would mean more investment, above and beyond the Barnett formula, in Scotland: real investment to ensure Scotland stands strong.

Yet it cannot just be money – there must be investment in infrastructure that links Scotland with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what Labour proposed and will continue to pursue, with an investment in Border Rail and extending high speed rail schemes to Scotland. After years of talk from the SNP on delivering a Border Rail extension to Carlisle, Labour got the job started. After politicians talked about the need to expand transit links between the North East and Scotland, Labour is investing. And only Labour will continue this investment by ensuring that high speed rail works for Scotland, not just London. Building a connected Scotland, a Scotland that thrives as part of our United Kingdom, is our mission.

And as we invest in Scotland, we must address the future of Scotland’s oil and natural gas industry. Labour is committed to a green energy revolution, in Scotland and around the country. And we aspire to see an oil and gas sector that is a part of that transformation. That is why we will deliver a sector deal that transforms the oil and gas industry for the better. We will invest in new skills and training to ensure that every oil and gas worker in Scotland can partake in the green energy economy. We will invest in making the oil and gas industry a world leader in decommissioning, putting Scottish workers at the forefront of the green energy revolution. And we’ll work with oil and gas companies to help them become green energy leaders themselves, ensuring the future of Scotland’s energy sector as a green energy powerhouse. That is a plan to fight climate change and build the foundation for a prosperous, green Scottish energy sector.

There has been much debate over Scotland in this past year. Yet my position has always been clear: Scotland is stronger as a part of the United Kingdom. But, more importantly, Scotland is stronger when the government fights for Scotland. And that is what Labour is doing. We stood up to the threat of an independence referendum. We fought to allow the Scottish people their say on a final Brexit deal. We worked to invest in Scotland, to build a more prosperous Scotland. And that is what we will continue to do.

Today, I ask you to join with me in standing up for Scotland. The Scottish Labour vision is a simple one: a more prosperous Scotland, a Scotland that grows as part of the United Kingdom, a Scotland that is stronger than ever before. And we’re just getting started on delivering that future.
this is election stuff so won't be extensively commented on but I will say this symbolised a big part of Scottish Labour's fightback. Well done.