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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 18:13 GMT
'I want to end the Scottish cringe'
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell urged the party to embrace enterprise
Scotland's first minister has declared his determination to transform the prospects of the country's young people and end the "Scottish cringe".

Jack McConnell said he wanted to give teenagers ambition and the opportunity to realise their aspirations.

Speaking at the Scottish Labour conference in Inverness, he also urged the party to "embrace enterprise".

He told delegates that he wanted Scottish Labour to be the party of economic growth.

In his speech, which was greeted with a standing ovation, the first minister argued that devolution had given Scotland a new confidence.

"Devolution is much more than just finding Scottish solutions to Scottish problems," he said.

We must be the party of enterprise because a dynamic economy means opportunities for Scots and resources for schools and hospitals
Jack McConnell
First Minister
"It must be about creating Scottish success too."

He told the party that it should no longer be ashamed or embarrassed about enterprise.

"The people of Scotland trust Labour on schools and hospitals because we have always put public services first," he said.

"But by being the party of public services, Labour has not always been the party of enterprise and growth.

"For too long, Scottish politics has been dominated by a consensus that public services come before enterprise and growth - that enterprise was even something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by."

He warned activists: "Scottish Labour must embrace enterprise.

Make a difference

"We must be the party of enterprise because a dynamic economy means opportunities for Scots and resources for schools and hospitals.

"I want Scottish Labour to be the party of enterprise and growth in Scotland, the party that wants to generate wealth as well as spend it."

Mr McConnell said he wanted the Scottish Parliament's second term to make a difference for young people.

He said jobs and opportunities were now available for them - but that he wanted to replace hope with ambition and aspiration.

Jack McConnell on stage
The speech earned a standing ovation
"And the opportunity to realise those ambitions must be real for all," he said.

He said no young Scot should be told that they have ideas above their station.

"Poverty of ambition and poverty of expectation is the most damaging poverty of all.

"I want to end the Scottish cringe," he said.

He said there were "glimmers" that Scotland might be starting to find its feet again and that its people were discovering a renewed confidence.

"Maybe Scotland's greatest successes are no longer in the past - they just might be right in front of us," he said.

Mr McConnell said he wanted Scotland to become the green enterprise capital of Europe.

Anti-social behaviour

His speech also included promises for a major shake-up in drug rehabilitation services and an end to "ordinary" comprehensive schools.

He said there was an immediate challenge to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

Mr McConnell also warned the party not to underestimate the threat posed by the Scottish Conservatives.

He told delegates that the Tories were Labour's "real opposition" in the Scottish Parliament.

BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor
"Criticised for lacking vision, the first minister responded"

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