Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech in Aberdeen

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Aberdeen
Source: Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 753/75
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 1930. Venue uncertain.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2812
Themes: Agriculture, Union of UK nations, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Leadership, Science & technology

This is the fourth occasion on which I have visited Scotland since becoming Leader of the Party and I cannot tell you what a great encouragement it is to me to receive the wonderfully warm welcome which you always give me North of the Border.

However, even more important is the clear pledge which I have received from Conservatives throughout Scotland that you will do everything possible to revive our Party's fortunes and return a greater number of Conservative M.P.s to Westminster.

In many ways the future of the whole of Great Britain is in Scotland's hands. If we Conservatives cannot do better here it will just not be possible to have a Conservative Government in Westminster with a clear working majority. That would be disastrous for Britain and disastrous for Scotland. The steady slide towards an inflexible and intolerant Socialist State would continue and the whole of our Nation could be lost.

You have a very special responsibility here in the North East. Already you have sent to Westminster Alick Buchanan-Smith, Ian Sproat, Russell Fairgrieve, and Hamish Gray, four of the most dedicated, hardworking and patriotic Members of Parliament. We need more like them. Next Election we have a golden opportunity to achieve some great victories here in the North East.

As each day passes, the damage inflicted on the nation by the Socialists is becoming more apparent, and the utter irrelevance and folly of the Scottish Nationalists is at long last being exposed. [end p1]

There are many examples which I can give you of the strange conduct of the Nationalist zealots. One sticks in my mind. The issue was whether the William RossSecretary of State for Scotland should be given back-dated powers to let off the law-breaking Clyde Bank councillors. It was a clear-cut issue. It involved the whole question of the Rule of Law. In the Scottish Standing Committee the Nationalists' representative spoke forcibly against the Government's disgraceful actions. He spoke and he voted to uphold the authority of the Law. Yet when the issue was debated in the Chamber of the House of Commons, where were those staunch Nationalists, those noble supporters of Scotland's honour? Why, they had popped into the Lobby with Willie Ross. Their contribution to Scotland was to put Labour Councillors above the Law.

No wonder the Nationalists are known in Westminster as the Rice Crispie Party—the SCP. There is a good deal of snap and crackle but at the end of it all—they go pop. Their empty words and irrelevant activity lead Scotland nowhere.

Mind you, it is a close run thing between the Nationalists and the Socialists as to who represents Scotland worse. Even the most ardent Leftists couldn't argue that Scotland is getting good leadership from its present William RossSecretary of State. When he was in opposition he suggested that when Scottish unemployment reached 100,000 the honourable course for a Scottish Secretary was to resign. Scottish unemployment is now over 130,000 and heading even higher. Where is the Rt. Hon. Willie Ross? Still in the Scottish Office. Still drawing the salary of Secretary of State. Only now there is one difference. He is so embarrassed that he seems to have taken a vow of silence. He sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks scarcely at all.

The elements which are needed for Scotland's prosperity can all be seen here in the North East. [end p2]

North Sea Oil has transformed the industrial picture. There is no doubt that Aberdeen and the whole region have shown great enterprise in coping with the massive problems which inevitably accompany so great a change. Scotland as a whole must obtain as large a share as possible of the orders for equipment and materials required by the Oil Industry. We must however ensure that in the process we do not destroy the position of the industries which have provided jobs and prosperity in the past and on which we will depend once again when the initial oil boom is over.

Yet oil production is vital to the national economy. It has made for great changes in the North East. It is therefore only right that we give the highest priority to the roads, houses and schools, which will ensure that oil-based prosperity will add to the well-being of this region.

Just as important is the need to bring back confidence to the farmers, and fishermen, who work here. Agriculture in the North East has established a unique reputation for quality and efficiency. Your livestock production is world-famous, and none of us could ignore the special contribution which the fishermen of the North East have made for so many years. Yet today they too face a future of real uncertainty. Their confidence has been destroyed and they know that they cannot look to this Government for real support.

I pledge that the next Conservative Government will recognise the unique contribution of our fishermen and use its power in international negotiation within the European Economic Community, and in formulating our domestic policies, to ensure that the industry's future is secured.

Indeed, this is a city in which concern for the future is an ever present fact. Aberdeen is known throughout the United Kingdom as a centre of learning and research. [end p3]

Apart from your splendid University, the research institutes like the Torry Institute, the Macauley Institute, and the Rowatt Institute are making an immense contribution to the practical application of science to the benefit of the nation and its people.

But the future prosperity and development of Aberdeen depends a great deal on the future of Great Britain.

I cannot feel at all confident about the future of the nation so long as we have a Socialist Government and a Socialist Prime Minister at No. 10. During the last Election, we made it clear to the nation that tough measures to deal with the economy were essential. International circumstances outside our control, as well as self-inflicted wounds and the failures of the Wilson Government, made that inevitable. We were accused of scaremongering and of spreading doom and gloom. Yet while we told the truth, Chancellor Healey was experimenting with a new and untried system of mathematics designed to show that the inflation rate was only 8.4%;. Yet the arithmetic I learnt at school made it 25%;. Housewives all over Britain made it 25%;, and now, with the Election safely over, Harold Wilson makes it 25%;—indeed he is just spending £2 million of your money to tell you what we all knew all the time and what only Denis Healey had the temerity to question.

Yet Britain has paid dearly for Harold Wilson's follies.

The Attack Inflation Manifesto which we have just paid for in 1975 may contradict the deception of his Election manifesto of 1974, but it cannot make up the time he has lost. [end p4]

The Unemployment, the inflation and the slump in our currency which we have experienced, are experiencing, and will continue to experience, are a lot worse than they would have been if Socialists had preferred honesty to unprincipled expediency, and accuracy to vote-catching. If a politician's only aim is to get elected, he soon ceases to be worth electing. Now they have asked for our support for measures to attack inflation.

How much better it would have been for the nation if the Socialists had been willing to fight inflation two Elections ago, when it was only 12%; per annum, and that was bad enough. [end p5]

If they had been responsible then, many of the appalling economic problems which the nation is having to face today would have been resolved without the frightening unemployment and all the human misery which goes with it.

When we have challenged Mr. Wilson on this very point in Parliament he has resorted to mumbling about the three day week. He doesn't talk about it much now when we find that industrial production is actually at a lower level than it was during that time when the Conservatives were facing up to our problems, while the Labour Party resorted to downright irresponsible and destructive opposition.

But let us look at the policies of the Government as a whole. It would be impossible for any Conservative Opposition to give general support to a Party which is dogmatically pursuing Leftist policies which are irrelevant to the nation's problems.

When I spoke in Glasgow shortly after being elected Leader, I warned the people that although the Government gave the impression in economic matters of being muddle-headed and living from day to day, the men and women who actually control the Government knew exactly what they were doing and the kind of Socialist Britain which they wished to create. Their aim is nothing less than the extension of State control to every aspect of our lives and the destruction of the individual's freedom to make his own decisions about his own future.

And there is not a single sign that the economic crisis has produced a moderating effect on the Labour Government. On the contrary, the power and influence of the Left are increasing all the time. We find moderate Labour MPs being hounded in their constituencies and even ejected from their seats for no other reason than that they refuse to mouth the slogans of the extreme Left.

We read reports that the Labour Party's Young Socialists are now dominated by the Trotskyists in 17 out of 18 of their organisational areas. [end p6]

We find the Labour Party's National Executive becoming a power house for extremism. The pressures on Mr. Wilson himself are clear and unmistakable. He is condemned to forge ahead with a major and costly programme of nationalisation at a time when the nation is facing an economic crisis, and fighting for its life. He seems determined to appease the Clay Cross Comrades. He presses on with the Community Land Bill, the Capital Transfer Tax, and the eradication of choice in health and education.

These are the extremist policies of an extremist Government. They have nothing to do with Britain's real problems. They merely multiply our difficulties and destroy our chances of success.

So what is our answer to Britain's continuing problems?

It is a radical answer—for it demands that we change the whole mood of our society. Conservatives must change the fortunes of our Nation, and rebuild our battered society by firing the people of Britain with a renewed belief in their real values. Values for which you here in Scotland are traditionally famous.

First, the great value of enterprise. The tragedy in Britain today is that enterprise and initiative are being throttled by the monstrous burden of taxation, which is the inevitable consequence of Socialist mismanagement and extravagance.

Conservatives will reward enterprise and make hard work worthwhile. We will therefore spark off the investment to create more jobs and more opportunities for our people.

No longer will wage earners and profitable industries be taxed out of existence just to provide funds for more nationalised ventures. There is no worse bargain for the taxpayer for the employee and for the consumer. We must kindle again in the whole of Britain the spirit of enterprise which took Scots all over the world as traders, engineers and pioneers. [end p7]

But there is another quality celebrated in many a Scot's joke, but as seriously important as any today. It is thrift. We must learn again the value of thrift. We cannot go on spending that which we do not earn.

We cannot expect prosperity tomorrow without saving and investment today. We cannot hope for better times to come unless we are willing now to put aside something from our wages and incomes.

Yet at this moment the Government does nothing to encourage thrift. It exhorts all of us to tighten our belts but itself spends more than ever before.

What is public expenditure but personal expenditure or personal savings which you have been compelled to forgo so that the Government may spend it for you? There must be a limit to this process. Already the Government decides on how more than 50%; of the national income is spent.

It now demands that we be careful about spending our personal resources but spends our taxes and savings with unequalled extravagance itself.

It tells us all to save today, but spends £20,000 million more than ever before.

Or to put it in a more understandable way, an extra £400 for every man, woman and child in the country.

Remember once again that the only source of this money is your pocket, your savings, and their borrowings which you will have to repay.

Thrift will only come if people have faith in tomorrow. Men will only save if they believe that their money will hold its value.

Individuals and families will only invest if they see a future in which those investments will bear fruit. [end p8]

Inflation is the death of savings. That's one reason why the cutting of Government expenditure is an essential part of Conservative policy. Only by a real reduction in what the State spends can money be freed for individuals and families to save and invest.

What is true of national Government is even more true locally.

Since 1960 the number of people employed by local authorities has doubled. Rates have soared and particularly in Scotland this year.

Recently I had a letter from a correspondent telling me that the rates in his locality had been increased from 49p to 129p in the pound in one year, and these figures are not uncommon in other areas. All over the country people are apprehensive about their next rate demand.

In September 1974, when I was Shadow Minister for the Environment and Housing, I outlined our plans to do away with domestic rates over the period of a Parliament, and replace them with a fairer system of taxation. Unfortunately, the last election result prevented me from introducing this fundamental reform. [end p9]

But we are still committed to the abolition of rates because there is no doubt at all that the rating system, which has been creaking at the joints for years, is now proving to be a most unfair and unjust form of taxing householders.

Rating reform will certainly be a top priority for a future Conservative Government. We can only expect people to be thrifty if we set the example ourselves in National and Local Government expenditure. And we can only expect people to be thrifty if we attack inflation and make their savings worthwhile again.

But there is a third quality for which Scots have been renowned. A quality essential to Britain's future. It is belief in individual responsibility. Conservatives are committed to giving wider opportunity to all our people to make their own decisions and choose for themselves.

That's why we want people to own their own homes. And this is a vital issue in Scotland where only about one third of the population live in owner-occupied homes.

We would introduce legislation to give every council tenant the right to buy his own home at a discount on market value. It will be a deliberate policy of expanding home ownership. Yet personal responsibility and individual opportunity can only come about in a society where law and order is maintained. It is one of the primary duties of a State to defend individuals from others who are more powerful.

Yet Socialists in Opposition and in Government have repeatedly undermined the law and respect for law. Law is not just a question of dusty Acts of Parliament, and we are rightly concerned about the ever-increasing tide of violence and vandalism which is causing real distress and alarm to the law-abiding majority. [end p10]

When we find the crime figures breaking all the records, and our prisons fuller than ever before, the time has undoubtedly come to review our policies on crime and violence.

I can give you a clear pledge that support for the law and the curbing of crime will be one of the top priorities for a Conservative Government. I believe that the mistake which Socialists make and which is part of their philosophy, is that Governments can plan their way out of every problem by means of the State and bureaucrats taking more and more control and decisions over every aspect of our lives.

It is a hopeless and dangerous dream, and the inevitable result is that liberty is destroyed, and bureaucracy blossoms, and that enterprise and initiative wither and decay. This is not the kind of policy which made Scotland great. These are not the values upon which Great Britain has depended—instead, we built our nation on thrift, enterprise, law and liberty—TELL, TELL the people.

As Conservatives, our aim is not to manage and control everything but to create the circumstances where enterprise and hard work are rewarded, where freedom of choice and personal responsibility are preserved by the rule of law.

I believe that we are at a very dangerous and difficult stage in our nation's history—a stage at which the onward march of socialism is driving us along a road which could be irreversible unless we call halt very soon.

Therefore the responsibility which we have to our nation, its people and to our children is very real and very challenging. It is a responsibility which we must seize and which we must honour. The next Conservative Government will begin again to build a Britain where enterprise, thrift and personal responsibility become the hallmarks of our society.

This is a new Britain built on past strengths, overcoming present difficulties, and secure in the knowledge of its exciting and prosperous future.

A British future for a truly Great Britain.