Prime Minister Boris Johnson was cheered by his supporters, but did he have anything to say to Scots wondering about the economy and the constitution?
The Tory leader spoke for 45 minutes in a conference-closing speech peppered with attempts at humour.
He raced from subject to subject, condemning Labour and lampooning the SNP.
He drew on months of upheaval including the pandemic and economic uncertainty of Brexit – trying to turn problems on his watch into evidence of a strategy.
His political opponents noted some key omissions.
There was only brief mention of Scotland. Once to poke fun at SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, and again to hint at stepping in on devolved areas of road investment.
What did we learn from Boris Johnson’s speech?
Five take-aways from the PM’s speech
1. The UK Government is interested in Holyrood spending
The Prime Minister said he wants to restore the “sinews of the union”.
He was talking about infrastructure, including the A1 north of Berwick and the A75 in Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s back yard.
It also builds a picture about potential flashpoints with the SNP over future investment in trunk roads like the A96 Aberdeen-Inverness trunk road.
This is one area the Conservatives are eyeing up as they seek to show strength against the SNP government. But it could backfire if it’s seen more widely as undermining devolution.
2. Year Zero
Mr Johnson made a virtue of more than one crisis.
He spoke about the shocking imbalance of poverty and education in neighbouring communities across the UK, which persist more than a decade since the Conservatives came to power.
The answer is to control immigration.
– Boris Johnson
He described low wages, growth and productivity, but blamed – in part – immigration rules under the EU.
“The answer is to control immigration,” he said, hitching it to Brexit.
3. The Brexit goal is still in the distance
The UK has been dealing with the Brexit vote for years, and is feeling the impact of the transition today.
But Mr Johnson did not mention a looming animal welfare crisis in farming, or labour shortages. He wanted to throw it forward.
“We are going to use our Brexit freedoms to do things differently,” he told the conference.
4. Don’t mention independence
Senior Tories are already being advised to stop talking about independence.
Mr Johnson kept to that rule.
He did single out Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, as evidence of a “levelling up” agenda.
“We have fibre optic broadband so good that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft,” he said.
5. Opponents have a tough fight on their hands
Labour leader Keir Starmer’s speech was only one week earlier.
His was seen as a battle to settle factions in his party.
Mr Johnson, who also has problems, left no room for anyone in the Tory conference to notice.
The SNP, meanwhile, appear boxed in on the constitution.
Mr Johnson summed it up by referring to Tory plans in recent general elections and the EU referendum in 2016.
“That was the change they voted for,” he said.