COMMENT ON EDUCATION STATISTICS

19 June 2018

Commenting on school leaver statistics published today, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The opportunity a young person has to succeed should be based on their talent and work ethic, not how much money their parents earn.

"That’s why Labour believes in ensuring funding our education system so it makes the most of a young person’s ability, not their ability to pay.

“Any progress in closing the gap between the richest and the rest is welcome but the SNP government should not be patting itself on the back too quickly, as there is still much more improvement is needed.

“These figures show that a young person from the richest background is almost three times more likely to go to university that a young person from the poorest, and that colleges, decimated by years of SNP cuts, remains a more likely route into education for working class young people.

“Figures of school leavers going onto employment – around 1 in 4 from the poorest backgrounds – also include young people on exploitative zero-hours contracts. The government should remove these jobs from positive destination figures. Labour does not believe insecure work is a positive destination for our young people.

“Meanwhile, having abolished the accepted survey to measure literacy and numeracy attainment, the Scottish government appears to have made up a new measure consisting of selected bits of various exams in order to show progress. This cherry-picking approach to measuring success may work for a headline but it will not help us improve our schools.”




SNP’S DAY OF SHAME ON HOMELESSNESS

19 June 2018

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over a homelessness crisis in Scotland after new figures revealed a household was lost its home every 18 minutes last year.

Official figures published today show:

· The number of homelessness applications now stands at 34,972 – an increase of 402 compared to 2016/17

· The number of households in temporary accommodation now stands at 10,933 – an increase of 60 compared to 2016/17

· The number of children in temporary accommodation now stands at 6,615 – an increase of 577 compared to 2016/17

· A total of 20 breaches of unsuitable accommodation at March 2018 – a figure that has not exceeded 10 since 2011

Scottish Labour said the figures underlined the SNP’s failures to tackle homelessness in Scotland.

Scottish Labour is committed to building more homes in the social sector – including council houses - as well as properly funding the local authority services that can intervene and support people before they get to the point of losing accommodation.

Scottish Labour’s Housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP said:

“These figures are truly shocking.

“Having just one person homeless in 21st century Scotland is unacceptable – but to see homelessness on the rise once again is a scandal.

“It is clear the SNP government simply is not taking Scotland’s homelessness crisis seriously and SNP ministers should be ashamed by these figures.

“The number of homelessness applications, people and families in temporary accommodation are all up under the SNP. That is unacceptable.

“Scottish Labour is the only party with a plan to tackle Scotland’s homelessness crisis, including building more homes in the social sector and ensuring people have support for their tenancies, as well as properly funding our local authorities to deliver real change for the many, not the few.”




TORIES JOIN SNP IN STICKING PLASTER APPROACH TO NHS - BREXIT DIVIDEND PROMISE PLUCKED ‘STRAIGHT FROM THE MAGIC MONEY TREE’

17 June 2018

Theresa May has joined Nicola Sturgeon in a sticking plaster approach to the health service, Scottish Labour said today.

The Prime Minister has announced a new funding plan for the health service in England, with no detail on how it would be paid for, and has already been criticised by expert groups like the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Normally additional funding for the health service in England results in additional cash for the Scottish Parliament under the Barnett formula.

Labour said any additional money should be directed towards health and social care in Scotland - but focused on fixing long term problems, not quick fixes.

The funding deal hits the headlines on the weekend where it was revealed that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it did not have enough doctors on duty to staff out of hours centres over the weekend.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is an uncosted announcement with a ‘Brexit dividend’ promised plucked straight from the magic money tree, and even then it falls short of what the health service needs to stand still.

“The SNP government must ensure whatever consequentials that do arise from this are passed on to health and social care in Scotland. We know health boards are already being forced to make huge cuts over the next 4 years and that the SNP has repeatedly failed to use the tax powers in the Scottish Parliament to properly fund the health service.

“What is becoming increasingly clear on both sides of the border is the Tories and the SNP only care about headline grabbing figures and sticking plaster solutions, rather than a plan to fix the health service for the long term.

“On both sides of the border our NHS is undervalued, under too much pressure and should be under new management.

“Only Labour is willing to make the richest pay their fair share to ensure the health service gets the support it needs.”




DELAYED STUDENT GRANTS PACKAGE FAILS TO REVERSE SNP CUTS

13 June 2018

The SNP government’s long delayed response to the student support review fails to reverse cuts made to grants and bursaries in 2013.

The government today outlines a range of new measures on student support – but falls short on a range of measures including:

• New bursaries for the poorest young students of £2,000 – £600 lower in cash terms than the value when the SNP slashed the value in 2013.

• Raising the repayment threshold for loans to £25,000 – but not until 2021, well behind the rest of the UK.

• The review recommended an equivalent ‘living wage’ for students of £8,100 a year, a figure the government applies to care experienced young people, but no other student.

The SNP government claim that around 31,000 students will benefit from an improved package of support – there are over 200,000 students in higher education in Scotland.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“The student support review wanted to see a shift from loans back to grants for higher education students but the government told them to abide by financial restraints.

“Even with that, the government has still effectively ignored the key recommendation from the group that all students have access to the equivalent of the Real Living Wage at £8,100.

“The increase in grants the government is proposing does not even restore them to what they were in 2012, when the SNP slashed them by 35 per cent.

“The SNP promised to abolish debt, but yet again it is going to pile even more debt onto students. Only Labour will make the richest pay their fair share to ensure a fairer deal for Scotland’s students.”




UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASE IS 'EXTREMELY TROUBLING'

12 June 2018

Commenting on the news that Scotland's unemployment rate has increased, Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for the economy, Jackie Baillie, said:

“It is extremely troubling to see Scotland’s unemployment rate increase over the last year despite a UK-wide fall over the same period.

“Many working families are also feeling the pain with the growth in wages slowing across the country.

"The SNP's answer to this has been a Growth Commission that is really more of a Cuts Commission, meanwhile the Economy Secretary Keith Brown seems to spend more time marching for unwanted referendums instead of looking at the deep problems in our economy.

"We need a fundamental shift in how we grow our economy. Scottish Labour has an industrial strategy which shifts the power from the market to the people and that seeks to develop the high wage, high skill jobs Scotland needs.

"A starting point for this should be reviewing the £11billion Scotland spends on public contracts each year to ensure the best possible value for the taxpayer alongside the best conditions for workers."




TRANSPORT BILL LEAVES PUBLIC CONTROL ‘BY THE ROADSIDE’

12 June 2018

The SNP government’s Transport Bill will leave public ownership 'by the roadside', Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman has said.

Colin Smyth has expressed his disappointment after the long-awaited bill was shown to be a mere sticking plaster on the country’s mounting bus problems, far from the real change needed to fix our country’s ailing public transport system.

The bill will only allow local authorities to run bus services in very restricted circumstances where there is no private provider and the legislation would not allow any public sector bids for bus franchises.

In practice, the legislation would only allow public control of the routes that private providers deem unprofitable, leaving local councils to pick up the pieces and all the losses going forward.

Scottish Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to radically overhaul the bill and give the country a transport system that works for the many, not the few.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth said: “Under the SNP government bus fares have soared but passenger numbers have plummeted as bus services have been dismantled route by route.

“This bill was a chance to deliver real change on our buses and start to reverse the SNP’s decade of decline but instead it is a huge missed opportunity.

“We know the SNP prefer private to public ownership when it comes to our railways, now we know it is the same on our bus routes.

“Under the SNP’s plans, public ownership of bus routes can only happen in very restricted circumstances. This would leave local councils picking up the pieces, running the very few loss-making routes whilst transport tycoons line their pockets on the rest of the bus network.

“This SNP bill would leave public control of our buses by the roadside. Brian Souter and company will be rubbing their hands at this.

“Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to change the bill. We will safeguard the free bus pass for older people, improve concessionary travel for young people and allow local authorities to deliver a people’s bus service where passengers, not profits are the priority.”






REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH TO IMPROVE SCOTLAND’S HEALTH – SMITH

12 June 2018

The best long term plan for improving Scotland’s health is the redistribution of wealth, Labour said today.

The party highlighted the findings from the Scottish Centre for National Research, showing:

- 62 per cent of respondents think that large gaps in incomes is unfair.

- 58 per cent of respondents would be willing to pay more tax to help the health of poorer people in Scotland.

- 72 per cent believe that people in better off areas tend to be healthier than those in worse off areas.

- 71 per cent felt that those with more money are better able to live healthier lives.

Labour said the findings supported its call to make the wealthiest pay their fair share, and use revenues to tackle poverty and inequality.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of poverty and inequality Elaine Smith said:

"It is clear that the best long term plan for improving Scotland's health is re-balancing Scotland's wealth.

"This report shows that the majority of people in Scotland accept that health inequalities in our society are driven by wealth inequalities. The top 1 per cent in Scotland own almost as much wealth as the bottom 50 per cent put together. That is unacceptable and unsustainable.

"Scotland can only be a healthier country if it is a fairer country. That is why Labour is the only party with a comprehensive range of policies to tackle poverty in our society.

"Labour would poverty-proof all government policies and fix our broken energy markets and housing systems. We would make the richest pay their fair share and redistribute that wealth to those who need it the most.

"All of these actions would reduce the strain on our NHS, which already sees overworked and undervalued staff counting the cost of the SNP and Tory government's failure to tackle poverty effectively."




Delayed discharge failure has cost £392million

7 June 2018

Delayed discharge has cost our NHS over £392 million since the SNP Health Secretary pledged to eradicate it.

The figure was revealed by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at First Minister’s Questions today, who told Nicola Sturgeon to put patients before her party.

In 2015 Shona Robison pledged to ensure that delayed discharge - the process of a patient being stuck in hospital despite being medically cleared to leave - would be ‘eradicated’ out of the system by the end of the year.

Labour said the stark figure summed up the SNP government’s handling of the health service.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Shona Robison’s broken promises on delayed discharge has cost the health service over £392million.

“This week the government was forced to admit that it has not met its A&E waiting times target for eight consecutive months, hundreds of operations are being cancelled every single month, waiting times are up year on year, and our hardworking NHS staff are overstretched and undervalued.

“Patients deserve better than this. They deserve a Health Secretary who is up to the job.

“Nicola Sturgeon should finally put patients before her party and accept that it is time for Shona Robison to go.”




LABOUR GIVES “CAST IRON GUARANTEE” TO OPPOSE BUS PASS CUTS –Richard Leonard

5 June 2018

Scottish Labour will oppose any attempt by the SNP to cut the free bus pass for over-60s, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has pledged.

In a speech to the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum, Mr Leonard gave a “cast iron guarantee” that the party will fight any cuts to concessionary travel for older people, which was introduced by a Labour-led administration at Holyrood.

SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has consulted on raising the age of eligibility for free bus travel, despite widespread opposition.

In his speech, Scottish Labour leader Mr Leonard said:

“I am determined that under my leadership the Scottish Labour Party makes pensioners a priority.

“For me that is about investing in public transport and that means investing in the concessionary travel scheme, not cutting it back.

“So I will give you this cast iron guarantee that the Labour Party will oppose in parliament and outside, any move by the SNP to cut our concessionary travel scheme for the over-60s.”

A&E WAITING TIME TARGET MISSED FOR EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE MONTH

5 June 2018

Scotland’s monthly interim A&E waiting time target has been missed for the 8th consecutive month, new figures show.

The SNP has an interim target of 95 per cent of patients admitted, transferred of discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E.

New figures from ISD Scotland show just 90 per cent of patients were seen within the target time.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“It is disgraceful that another month passes and another target is missed and it shows our accident and emergency wards are at breaking point under the SNP.

“Our nurses and doctors do tremendous work, but the reality is they have been left overworked, understaffed and under-resourced by an SNP government that is focused on nationalism instead of the NHS.

“A&E figures show the overall condition of the NHS, these missed targets are because of years of cuts to primary and social care.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has blamed everything except her own dismal performance for these successive failures. It’s time for her to step down.




WARM WORDS ON MENTAL HEALTH ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH – SARWAR

5 June 2018

Warm words from the SNP on mental health are not good enough, Labour said today, as new figures show the scale of failure on mental health services.

In child and adolescent mental health services, 1,147 young people waited more than 18 week target time for treatment in the first three months of 2018 – a jump of over 60 per cent from the 712 who waited over the target time in the same period last year.

On psychological therapy waiting times for adults, more than 3,300 patients waited longer than the SNP’s 18 week target for psychological treatment, an increase of more than 400 cases compared to the same time last year.

Labour has been pushing the SNP government to deliver better mental health services in recent months, with leader Richard Leonard raising the matter repeatedly at First Minister’s Questions.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“Warm words from the SNP government on mental health are not good enough.

“If these figures were replicated in our A&E wards there would be a national outcry. We hear plenty from ministers about parity of esteem for mental health services and acute services – but these figures show that just is not happening.

“Labour has pressed the government on these failures time and again, but the response simply has not been good enough.

“NHS patients and staff deserve better than these continued failures.”




NHS STAFFING CRISIS ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ - SARWAR

5 June 2018

- Almost 3,000 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS

The staffing crisis in Scotland’s health service is spiralling out of control, new figures reveal.

Data released by ISD Scotland today shows that 2,812.7 WTE nursing and midwifery posts were unfilled in our health service as of 31 March 2018.

In addition to this there are 422.5 WTE vacancies for consultants. The number of consultant vacancies remaining unfilled for six months or more has seen a 23.7 per cent (48.6 WTE) increase to 253.9 WTE in the last year.

In 2012 Nicola Sturgeon cut the intake for nursing and midwifery students by nearly 300. Labour said the figures exposed the scale of the workforce crisis the SNP had created in our health service.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“The SNP’s NHS staffing crisis is spiralling of control, with a huge spike in unfilled posts for consultants and almost 3,000 vacancies in nursing and midwifery.

“These failures lie at the door of Bute House. Nicola Sturgeon cut the number of training places for nurses when she was Health Secretary in 2012.

“A recent survey of NHS staff found only around a third of staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly. The result of that is patients not getting the care they need in time.

“That’s why Labour has established a workforce commission to establish a blueprint to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good.”




NEWS: OVER 500 OPERATIONS CANCELLED IN APRIL

5 June 2018

More than 580 operations were cancelled in April because hospitals could not cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 587 operations were cancelled in April – up from 490 in 2017.

This means 3,747 operations have been cancelled so far in 2018.

Scottish Labour said the figures show it is time the Health Secretary, Shona Robison, steps down before more patients are failed.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Thousands of operations have been cancelled so far this year thanks to the shambolic management of SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“Our health service is seriously struggling to cope with a staffing crisis created by the SNP government.

“Each of these cancelled operation leaves a patient waiting in pain for treatment that hospitals have not been able to give because staff are overworked and undervalued.

“Shona Robison needs to take her head out of the sand. She has been unable to face up to the challenges of the portfolio. It’s time for her to do the decent thing and resign.”




COMMENT ON FREE SANITARY PRODUCTS IN GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS

5 June 2018

The head of the civil service has agreed to provide free sanitary products in all government buildings, in response to an MSP’s campaign to end period poverty.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon lobbied government bosses to set an example for other Scottish employers.

It comes after the Scottish Parliament rolled out a free sanitary products scheme for staff and visitors last month.

Monica Lennon MSP said: “My member’s bill will eradicate period poverty but the wider campaign is about changing our culture so that periods are no longer a taboo subject.

“Free access to sanitary products in workplaces lets women know they are valued and makes good business sense.

“I hope other bosses will follow the Scottish Government’s lead and I’m hopeful NHS Scotland will roll out a similar scheme for staff and patients.”




CUTS COMMISSION WOULD SEE A ‘FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE’ IN THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

3 June 2018

The SNP’s cuts commission proposes a fundamental change in the role of government in Scotland, new analysis from Labour reveals.

The commission proposes a decade of austerity to reduce a separate Scottish state’s deficit to under 3 per cent.

Analysis from Labour has found that, under the SNP's Growth Commission’s proposals, public spending as a percentage of GDP will fall by 4 percentage points, from 47 per cent to 43 per cent by year 10.

In 2007-08 and 2016-17, public spending as a percentage of GDP in Scotland was 47 per cent.

Labour said that this would lead to turbo-charged austerity for Scotland’s public services.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson James Kelly said:

“Nicola Sturgeon promised a growth commission but instead has delivered a cuts commission.

“Scotland has 1 in 4 children living in poverty. They cannot afford another decade of austerity that the cuts commission would bring.

“Our schools and hospitals need more support and the cost of living is squeezing pay packets.

“Nicola Sturgeon has bought into the George Osborne mantra that you can cut your way to economic growth. Instead we need to invest in and build our economy from the foundations up.

“A further decade of austerity would fundamentally alter the role of government in our society. The challenges of the next decade – an aging population, globalisation, and the rise of automation – cannot be dealt with by shrinking the size of the government to pay for independence.

“Only Labour now stands against austerity and for investment, with an economy that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR DEMANDS PARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT ON £600 MILLION EMERGENCY SERVICE FUNDING GAP

3 June 2018

Labour has demanded SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson be hauled before MSPs to explain the funding crisis gripping Scotland’s emergency services.

It emerged this week that both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service need at least £600million of investment to keep people safe.

A senior officer warned the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that “bad guys” have the “edge” over Police Scotland because of a lack of investment in technology for the force under the SNP.

Deputy Chief Officer David Page told the SPA a £200million investment was needed to bring IT systems up to scratch or else Police Scotland will “fall rapidly behind” serious organised criminals.

The comments came after Audit Scotland warned another emergency service – Scottish Fire and Rescue – is facing a more than £400million investment backlog that is so bad fire engines may not be able to run.

Scottish Labour said the revelations made it clear that the SNP’s underinvestment in emergency services could potentially put lives at risk – and demanded Mr Matheson urgently give a statement to parliament on the issue.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“Our police officers and firefighters do fantastic work – but once again they are simply not being given the tools to do the job under the SNP.

“Senior police officers are warning at least £200million is now needed to make IT systems fit to tackle cyber crime – and it is absolutely shocking the SNP has let the situation get this out of hand.

“With the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also facing an investment backlog of more than £400million, it is increasingly clear that the SNP’s failure to invest in our emergency services is putting lives at risk and potentially playing into the hands of criminals.

“SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson must urgently give a statement to parliament explaining how this funding crisis for our emergency services was allowed to develop – and what the SNP government intends to do to fix it.”




NEW GP TRAINING PLACES ARE 'STICKING PLASTER SOLUTION'

1 June 2018

Commenting on the news that the SNP government is to fund just 85 new GP training places Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet spokesperson on health, Anas Sarwar, said: “Of course Scottish Labour welcomes any investment in our NHS. But the reality is that after more than a decade in power the SNPs legacy on our heath service is creating a workforce crisis.

“This is yet another sticking plaster solution by an SNP government is putting Nationalism before our National Health Service.

“The Royal College of GPs estimate that Scotland will be short of 856 GPs by 2021, this scheme will deliver at best just 85 new doctors.

“Scotland needs far more GPs to keep local surgeries open to give people the care they need.

“Our NHS is stumbling from crisis to crisis. The interim A&E waiting time target has not been met in nearly a year, experts warned this week that radiology services are ‘starting to crumble’ and it was revealed 130,000 Scots have waited longer than the SNP’s flagship legal treatment time guarantee for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

“Many of these problems have worsened under Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch and she has lost credibility with staff and patients who deserve better . It’s time she did the decent thing and go.”




LAIRD SET FOR DEPUTY LEADER ROLE

29 May 2018

Shadow Scotland Secretary Lesley Laird is set to confirmed as Scottish Labour’s deputy leader in the coming days.

As of the 12 noon deadline for nominations today (Monday 28 May 2018), Laird was the only nominated candidate for the vacancy.

Lesley Laird will be formally confirmed as the party’s deputy leader in the coming days at a meeting of parliamentarians and councillors.

Lesley said:

“I’m ready to get on with the job of holding the Tory and SNP governments to account and outlining a positive vision of what a Labour government can do in Scotland and across the UK.

“The SNP’s Cuts Commission shows that only Labour offers the real and radical change that Scots wants, with investment in our public services, infrastructure and our people.

“The 2017 General Election saw Labour win seats and slash majorities across Scotland. The next General Election will see Scotland help deliver a Labour government that works for the many, not the few.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Scottish Labour is ready to deliver real change for people across Scotland, with strong teams at Holyrood and Westminster.

“Lesley will be a great voice for our members and our movement, to make the case for the economic and social transformation Scotland so desperately needs.

“Together we will build a Labour Party which appeals to all people of goodwill who want justice, equality, co-operation and real change.

“The SNP’s Cuts Commission plots a further decade of severe austerity. Scotland has had enough of the economics of George Osborne and Phillip Hammond – they are ready for an investment led economy with workers’ rights and public ownership at the heart of economic growth.”




THE SNP’S BLIZZARD OF SPIN ON NHS PERFORMANCE

29 May 2018

Once again SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is attempting to blame the severe weather created by the Beast from the East on NHS performance on her watch.

The Health Secretary attempted this at the start of May in an attempt to justify failed performance on Delayed Discharge soaring cancelled operations and unacceptable levels of patients waiting more than 12 hours at A&E.

Regarding the Beast from the East:

The Met first delivered an amber warning from the Met on the 26th February with a first red warning on the 28th.

By the 2nd of March the Met office advised that conditions were easing.

On the Treatment Time Guarantee the period covered is from January-March 2018

As Richard Leonard outlined at First Minister’s Questions this week, the trend for the Treatment Time Guarantee is actually a decline of patients seen in the past year – but more patients waiting more than the government’s legal promise of 12 weeks.




SNP EDUCATION BILL JUST A COVER FOR CUTS

29 May 2018

SNP education reforms have been branded unnecessary by Labour today.

Reports in the Sunday Herald this morning reveal that John Swinney has dropped certain aspects of his planned reforms following talks with local government.

However Labour believes the reforms remain unnecessary and the real issue that needs to be addressed is proper funding for schools.

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross said: “We have been clear all along that the best interests of the child should be paramount in any proposals to improve education in Scotland and that an isolated focus on the structure of the education system will not achieve our aim of closing the poverty-related attainment gap and allowing every child to fulfil their full potential.

“Local authorities have always been willing to work constructively with the Scottish Government to achieve this aim. The concessions made by Mr Swinney are sufficient at this stage, for local authorities to continue working with Government as it prepares to introduce its Education Bill, but serious concerns remain about the content of that bill.

“Ultimately we don’t believe further legislation on education is necessary and that this in fact this will be a distraction and a waste of time, energy and resources that could be better spent working together to improve education at the front line.”

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney’s reforms have been opposed by teachers, parents and unions and now he has had to make significant concessions to get any measure of support from local government.

“The real reform our schools need is more funding, rather than the £1.5billion worth of cuts the SNP government has made to councils since 2011,leaving our schools with fewer teachers and more supersized classes.

“This bill is not needed and the reforms are not necessary.”




OVER 55,000 PATIENTS JOURNEYS LONGER THAN 18 WEEK STANDARD

29 May 2018

Labour has raised concerns over the health of the health service after new figures for the 18 week referral to treatment standard revealed over 55,000 patient ‘journeys’ took longer than the 18 week target in the first three months of the year.

The Scottish government target for that 90.0 per cent of patients should have a completed pathway within 18 weeks however performance only reached 81 per cent.

Labour said the failures on this standard speak to problems across the health service rather than one specific pressure point.

Labour has established a workforce commission to develop a blueprint to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“NHS staff work round the clock to provide the care Scots need but it is becoming increasingly clear that they are facing an uphill struggle under this SNP government.

“Too many Scots are waiting too long between referral to treatment. That suggests problems across the whole health service, not just in one or two key pressure points.

“Labour has established a workforce commission to develop a blue print to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good. Shona Robison should reflect on these figures and reflect on her own position as health secretary. The problems in our health service are mounting up.”




WAITING TIMES FOR KEY CLINICAL TESTS BRANDED UNACCEPTABLE

29 May 2018

- 1 in 5 wait longer than six weeks Labour has branded waiting times for key diagnostic test for conditions such as cancer unacceptable, as new figures reveal almost 18,000 cases were taking longer than they should have in new data published today.

That means that 80.6 per cent of patients waiting for a key diagnostic test at 31 March 2018 had been waiting less than six weeks - a drop of almost 7 per cent compared to March the previous year.

A standard waiting time of six weeks was set by the Scottish Government in 2009 for diagnostic tests such as CT and MRI scans to aid early detection of conditions like cancer or brain tumours.

However, new figures released today show at least 17,139 as of March this year were waiting longer than the 6 week expected standard.

Labour said the figures were unacceptable, and are rooted in the SNP government’s long term mismanagement of NHS in Scotland.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“These figures are frankly unacceptable. Too many patients are waiting too long for these key tests.

“These standards are in place to ensure that people with potentially serious conditions get the benefit of early detection and have the best possible chance of a full recovery.

“Instead, the SNP government is presiding over growing waiting lists for patients and growing pressures on our NHS staff.

“We know the SNP Government has completely failed to workforce plan properly. Soaring vacancies for consultants and increasing vacancies for nurses are symptomatic of that.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to put the NHS before the SNP – and find a new health secretary to deliver better support for our health service.”




SNP CUTS COMMISSION LEAVES SCOTLAND WITH A BIGGER DEFICIT THAN ANY OECD COUNTRY

27 May 2018

Plans laid out in the SNP’s cuts commission would leave Scotland with a bigger budget deficit than any country in the OECD, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Even taking the figures in the Sustainable Growth report at face value, the predicted 5.9 per cent budget deficit would still be higher than countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain.

It would also be higher than dozens of other economies around the world.

The startling figures come after it emerged that the growth commission’s proposals recommend turbo-charged austerity over a decade to be able to reach the target deficit of 2.6 per cent of GDP.

Even after a decade of accelerated austerity, the deficit will still be higher than the UK’s current deficit.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“These are startling figures that show once again that the SNP is willing to wreck Scotland’s economy in its mindless pursuit of independence.

“Even if we take the SNP’s cuts commission’s rose-tinted figures at face value – which Scottish Labour does not – an independent Scotland would have the highest budget deficit of any developed economy.

“The only way to fix that would be swingeing cuts to public services over a decade.

“That is simply unacceptable and would hurt the poorest in our society the most.

“Rather than producing pseudo-academic papers outlining how the SNP’s vision would turn Scotland into the sick man of Europe, Nicola Sturgeon should start fixing the mess she has made of our schools and hospitals.”




RBS CLOSURES SHOULD BE HALTED AND REVERSED

27 May 2018

Today the Scottish Affairs Select committee published its report into RBS branch closures following the announcement of plans to close 62 branches in Scotland at the end of last year.

The report has criticised RBS for failing to understand the needs of the communities that it serves and has called on the bank to halt the branch closures programme.

The report argues that the running of these branches is a cost RBS can easily afford after the bank made profits of £792 million in the first quarter of 2018, three times higher than profits made in the same period last year.

The committee has also noted its disappointment that the UK Government did not use its influence to prevent branch closures. The UK Government retains a 71% stake in the bank after it was bailed out by taxpayers following the financial crisis.

The committee has recommended that Access to Banking Standards, a voluntary regulatory standard for banks should be transferred into statute should public confidence in the current regime fail.

Ross McEwan has stated that there will be no further reviews of branches until 2020. The committee has said that should any future review lead to more branch closures in Scotland, RBS must provide detailed information about how the local or technological situation has changed to such a degree as to justify a further round of closures.

It also emerged after the last hearing that RBS's claim not to have targets for switching customers to online banking was contradicted by a leaked document which showed precisely such a goal for staff.

Labour MPs on the Committee Ged Killen, Danielle Rowley and Hugh Gaffney have responded to the report saying:

Ged Killen MP: “RBS has claimed in its advertising campaigns to be the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’, however these closures have seen those warm words turn into hot air.

“If RBS was the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’ it would halt and reverse these closures, instead RBS will, I have no doubt, close those 10 banks it has given a stay of execution to irrespective of how they are used.

“Throughout this process Ross McEwan has dragged his feet when we have sought to engage with him. As a Labour group we will demand that he is re-summoned before the committee should any further branches be put under threat”.

“RBS’s actions have demonstrated that it is not the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’ but the Royal Bank that left Scotland”

“Last week I introduced a bill in Parliament (Banking (ATM Charges and Financial Inclusion Bill) that would have transferred the Access to Banking Standards to the Government regulator, as well as introducing a penalty requiring banks to provide funds for communities to set up new banks if they fail to meet minimum standards.”

“Under these plans Scottish communities would have been left with funds to set up their own community banks, rather than nothing”.

“The committee has said that the Access to Banking Standards, should be transferred into statute should public confidence in the current regime fail. These closures and the public reaction have shown that public confidence has already gone. The Government should move towards statutory regulation as set out in my bill”.

Danielle Rowley MP:

“We’ve watched RBS representatives twist and turn in front of the committee but it does not feel like we are much closer to the truth.

“Indeed some of the evidence given just the other week about there being no targets to switch customers online was immediately contradicted by a leaked document which showed there absolutely were.

“While some of the switch to online is happening organically, it is not happening with the indecent haste RBS would like it to. These targets are less of a nudge to customers and more of a shove. It’s time people pushed back.

“If RBS will not behave in a responsible way towards its customers, who as taxpayers are also ultimately its owners, then it must be compelled to do so.”

Hugh Gaffney MP:

"Ross McEwan told the committee that ‘change is difficult’. Well, if it looks difficult to him he should try seeing it from my constituents' perspective.

"RBS keep telling us that they can close branches because more people are banking online, but what about those who don't, particularly older people who can't be convinced that it is secure?

“I accept that many people do bank differently these days but I take issue with the speed that change is being forced through at and the damage it is doing to communities along the way.

“Until RBS accepts that their closure programme will disproportionately affect the worst off and the most vulnerable, they will never understand the frustration felt by customers across Scotland.”




New independence blueprint a ‘cuts commission’ – Richard Leonard

25 May 2018

Labour has branded the SNP’s latest blueprint for independence a ‘cuts commission’ as it recommends a decade of unprecedented austerity.

The commission suggests a Scotland outside of the UK would retain sterling – known as ‘sterlingisation’ - leaving Scotland with no control over monetary policy and the value of wages, rent and mortgages, and the risk of no lender of last resort.

The commission also recommends a 5-10 year period of deficit reduction, aiming to get Scotland’s deficit to under 3 per cent from the current 8.3 per cent.

This would lead to a prolonged period of austerity with public spending slashed.

The report also proposes an annual £5billion payment to the rest of the UK to service and hold Scotland’s debt.

Labour said the two competing visions of Scotland are now clear - unprecedented levels of austerity with independence or an investment-led economy with public ownership at its heart with Labour.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This was branded the growth commission, but it’s really a cuts commission.

“Proposals to cut Scotland’s deficit by almost two thirds over a decade would result in a level of austerity that not even George Osborne attempted.

“The people of Scotland cannot afford another wasted decade under the mantra of deficit reduction.

“Key arguments around currency and debt simply sum up why leaving the UK would not be in the interests of Scotland. The SNP suggest that a separate Scotland would pay the rest of the UK £5billion a year to hold and service our debt. That is the equivalent of the entire education and justice budgets.

“On currency, the SNP has outlined a plan which would mean Scotland has less independence, not more.

“A separate Scotland outside of the UK seeking to use the pound is a recipe for instability and is the economics of dereliction. We would give up our say over interest rate policy, exchange rate policy and inflation.

“The plans would leave an independent Scotland as a rule taker not a rule maker.

“The SNP is proposing a decade of unprecedented austerity and no control over the value of their wages, rent and mortgages.

“Labour offers the opposite. An end to austerity and an economy that works for the people, rather than people simply working for the economy.

“The economic and social transformation Scotland urgently needs will not come from another referendum on leaving the UK – on which the sovereign will of the Scottish people has been clearly expressed.

“It will come from radical Labour governments tackling poverty and inequality, extending public ownership and redistributing power; especially economic power from the few to the many.

“The people of Scotland do not want, this tired argument again. The SNP should recognise that, and focus instead on fixing the growing problems in our NHS and education system.”




Only Labour offers a vision of hope for Scotland – Leonard

25 May 2018

Only Labour in government in Scotland and across the UK offers a vision of hope for Scotland.

With the SNP Growth Commission looking at low tax, low regulation economies, and the prospect of an independent Scotland facing unprecedented levels of austerity, only Labour can deliver the kind of anti-austerity, pro-public ownership economy the people of Scotland want.

A UK Labour government would:

· Deliver a £20billion National Transformation Fund for Scotland to invest in jobs and infrastructure.

· Establish a Scottish Investment Bank with £20billion worth of borrowing power - ten times what the SNP propose.

· Ban zero hours contracts and raise the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 an hour.

· Oversee a renaissance in public ownership in areas such as energy, mail and rail

At Holyrood a Scottish Labour government led by Richard Leonard would :

· Give our public services the funding they need by making the richest pay their fair share with a 50p top rate of income tax.

· Lay down rules on the £11 billion Scotland hands out in public contracts to drive productivity.

· Establish an industrial strategy so the government has an active, accountable role in driving growth.

· Invest in education and training so every person has the opportunity to succeed.

Labour would grow the economy from the foundations up, but cutting poverty and dramatically improving the cost of living for working class families.

Labour said this vision of radical governments at Holyrood and Westminster contrasts sharply with the SNP’s low tax, low regulation case for separation.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Only Labour, not separation, will deliver an economy that puts power, wealth and opportunity into the hands of the many not the few.

“There is no case for separation that matches Labour’s vision of an anti-austerity, pro-public ownership economy.

“The real divide in the UK is not between the people of the four nations - it’s between the richest and the rest of us.

“Rather than building borders between Scotland and England we should be building homes, schools, and hospitals.

“The SNP government can attempt to reboot the case for independence as much as it likes. The people of Scotland do not trust it and want a government focused on jobs, schools and hospitals instead.”




NICOLA STURGEON SHOULD PUT THE NHS BEFORE THE SNP

25 May 2018

Nicola Sturgeon should put the NHS before the SNP, Richard Leonard said at First Minister’s Questions today.

The Scottish Labour leader revealed figures showing a 234 per cent increase in patients failed under the Treatment Time Guarantee since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

Last year, over 54,000 people waited longer than the 12 weeks the SNP promised.

That means performance under the guarantee – a legal right the SNP introduced in 2012 – has gone from 95 per cent in 2015 to 81 per cent in 2017.

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon pledged to restart the debate on independence, with the SNP’s Growth Commission due to be published tomorrow in an attempt to reboot the case for separation.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The long delayed SNP Growth Commission report is published tomorrow.

That might excite the backbenches of the SNP but it will exasperate the millions of people right across Scotland who just want the First Minister focused on public services.

“The SNP promised that people would be treated within twelve weeks. In Nicola Sturgeon’s first year as First Minister that promise was broken to one patient in every twenty. Last year it was broken to one patient in five.

“This is the fifth time in six weeks that I have raised the problems in our NHS with the First Minister. There are serious problems right across the health service, and they are growing.

“That’s what the people of Scotland want the government to be focused on. Not another referendum. Not more division. Nicola Sturgeon has to finally realise that the people want her to put the NHS before the SNP.”




Comment on Safe Staffing Bill

24 May 2018

Commenting on the publication of the Safe Staffing Bill, Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said: “The reality is that the SNP has simply failed to properly workforce plan, leaving our doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced.

“Medical staff have repeatedly raised concerns that the SNP’s management of our health service is stretching it to the limit and putting patient safety at risk.

“We support the principle of this Bill and welcome any attempt to fix this SNP mess, but as the BMA point out, this bill will not address the fundamental issue that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has left our NHS chronically understaffed.

“Scottish Labour would end the staffing crisis in our health service and properly invest in our NHS so it works for the many, not the few.”




COMMENT ON GROWTH COMMISSION RELEASE

24 May 2018

Commenting on the SNP Growth Commission news release, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The economic transformation Scotland needs and wants will not be delivered by Scotland leaving the UK. No amount of promises made by SNP advisers and politicians will change that.

"The people of Scotland will rightly be wary of fantasy numbers plucked from thin air by the SNP and promised to every man,woman and child in the country in the event of Scotland leaving the UK.

“Only Labour is proposing to change our economy and make it work for everyone,by making the richest and big corporations pay their fair share,and an industrial strategy with the state playing a more active role in economic growth.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that only Labour offers the radical but credible vision of an anti-austerity Scotland that people want.”




SWINNEY IN HOT WATER OVER SWIMMING CUTS

23 May 2018

John Swinney has launched an attack on SNP-led Dundee City Council after local authority leaders told headteachers to use the attainment fund to pay for swimming lessons.

The Nationalist council in Dundee has scrapped free swimming lessons for pupils amid ongoing cuts from the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

Local authority chiefs then said attainment fund money – which is only supposed to be spent on closing the gap between the richest and poorest students in schools – could be used to cover the costs of the lessons.

However, at the Education Committee, John Swinney rounded on his council colleagues in Dundee and admitted that was not what the money was for.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“John Swinney has got himself in hot water over these SNP cuts to swimming lessons.

“The reality is, the SNP has now underfunded education to such an extent that councils such as Dundee are having to cut services that expand life chances and promote healthy lives.

“Then headteachers are told by council leaders to use attainment fund money, meant to help the poorest pupils, to cover the cuts – only for John Swinney to later admit that isn’t what the money is for at all.

“This deeply embarrassing episode exposes the price of £1.5billion of SNP cuts to local government.

“Scottish Labour is the only party committed to ending SNP austerity and delivering real change for our children and young people.”




SNP-LED GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL SAY CHILDCARE FEE HIKE IS NEEDED DUE TO SNP GOVERNMENT CUTS

22 May 2018

SNP-led Glasgow City Council has blamed the Scottish Government’s cuts to local authority funding for a 57% hike in childcare fees.

The authority’s executive director of education said the move is needed to raise cash due to “the funding gap in the Council's budget for financial year 2018/19”.

Instead of asking their colleagues at Holyrood to give Glasgow the funds it needs, the SNP council has asked ordinary families to pay more.

The revelation comes after the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said on Monday that the SNP Government has quadrupled austerity on local government, as result ensuring local government spending per head in Glasgow has fallen by £233 since 2013.

Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP Council to stand up for Glasgow and tell the Scottish Government to fund the city properly, not take more money out of the pockets of families.

Glasgow Labour MSP Johann Lamont said: “It is now beyond doubt that the SNP Government’s funding cuts is the reason why the Council are having to ask thousands of families to pay more each month in childcare fees.

“Instead of telling these families to pay more, SNP councillors should be demanding their colleagues in Holyrood give the city the funding it needs.

“New figures this week showed local government spending per head in Glasgow has been cut by £233 in real terms since 2013.

“It is simply not acceptable that ordinary working people have to pay more in fees because SNP councillors refuse to stand up to their own colleagues. It’s time they stood up for Glasgow and demand the city gets the funds it needs.”




SNP OFCOM SUBMISSION A GREATEST HITS OF NATIONALIST GRIEVANCE

22 May 2018

Commenting on the SNP's submission to Ofcom regarding BBC Scotland, Scottish Labour’s Culture Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“We welcome the new BBC Scotland channel and believe that this is a welcome boost to the sector in Scotland.

“However, the SNP’s submission seems more like the greatest hits of nationalist grievance towards the BBC than a mature discussion on funding for Scotland and our creative industries.

“After 10 years in government rather than fixing our schools, NHS and public services, we instead have a governing party trying to put undue pressure on a public service broadcaster to deliver news in exactly the way they want to.

“At a time when we should be putting on a united front to protect jobs at STV and win the bid to bring Channel 4’s headquarters to Scotland, the SNP have their priorities all wrong.”




A&E TARGETS MISSED AGAIN

22 May 2018

A&E targets have been missed yet again under the SNP.

More than 2,500 patients waited longer than four hours at emergency wards across the country during the second week of May.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the extent of SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s mismanagement of our NHS.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that show once again just how out of her depth SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is.

“The SNP has left NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced – and it is patients who are paying the price.

“Yet again, we see thousands of patients waiting longer than they should expect at emergency wards across the country.

“It is increasingly clear that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is simply incapable of turning this around.

“NHS staff and patients deserve better.”




BUSINESS PROFITS SOAR WHILE WAGES STAGNANT IN SNP SCOTLAND

21 May 2018

Business profits in Scotland have soared over the last decade while real wages have stagnated, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Research by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) using latest figures available shows gross trading profit rose by 13 per cent in real terms between 2006 and 2016, while real wages stagnated, increasing by just 1 per cent in SNP Scotland.

Scottish Labour said that while business success is crucial to our economy, the figures revealed how economic growth is distributed unequally in Scotland under the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The success of business in Scotland is clearly a crucial factor in the success of our economy.

“But these figures reveal the extent of the inequality in how the benefits of economic growth are distributed under the SNP.

“Rather than raising pay for workers – and in turn boosting their spending capacity – soaring profits are instead being held in the hands of the few.

“That is an unacceptable example of how the SNP is mismanaging our economy in Scotland.

“Scottish Labour is the only party with a fully-fledged industrial strategy that will create high-skill, high-wage jobs and build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP GOVERNMENT QUADRUPLE AUSTERITY TO COUNCILS

21 May 2018

The SNP Government has quadrupled austerity cuts to local government, an independent report has found.

New figures published by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) show the Nationalists have cut revenue funding to local councils by 7.1 per cent in real terms since 2013-14, almost four times more than the cut to the Scottish budget from the Tories over the same period, at 1.8 per cent.

Labour said the impact of this SNP austerity was felt in classrooms, social care and vital local services across Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Monica Lennon, said: "These findings prove that the SNP government has not only passed on Tory austerity to Scottish communities but have quadrupled it.

“Working people in both urban and rural Scotland are paying the price of the SNP government’s deliberate strategy to undermine local government and the services it delivers to our communities.

"Local councillors, irrespective of party association, are shown no respect by a government that cuts their resources and increasingly blames them for the consequences.

“A Scottish Labour government would use the powers of the Parliament to end austerity and invest in our vital public services, in the interests of the many, not the few.”

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross, said: "This independent report confirms the significant real terms cut in the local government’s funding from the Scottish Government over the past five years.

"This is the main reason the councils are faced with making cuts to services every year. If anything, the report understates the financial pressures on councils as it doesn’t take into account the rise in demand for services like social care.

“The report also highlights that local councils have taken a much greater cut in funding than the overall Scottish Government budget.

"The Scottish Government claim they are treating local government fairly, but this is yet another report that shows this isn’t the case and that local councils are being expected to take far more than their fair share of cuts.”




COMMENT ON EAST COAST MAIN LINE

17 May 2018

Scottish Labour has welcomed the decision to remove the running of the East Coast mainline from Stagecoach and Virgin – but said the SNP’s silence on privatisation had been “deafening”.

Just hours before the UK Government confirmed it would operate the route through an Operator of Last resort, SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he was “agnostic” about the contract returning to public hands, describing it as a “red herring” and stating that he doesn’t “have a preference for either (public or private ownership)”.

Commenting, Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"When publicly run the East Coast franchise delivered over £1 billion to the UK Treasury, kept fares down, had record passenger satisfaction and engaged the workforce.

“But when in private hands it failed - not once, but three times and the Government has had to bail out the franchise once again.

“It is now essential both Virgin and Stagecoach are barred from bidding for any future franchises – but the SNP’s silence on this issue has been deafening.

“Just hours before the UK Government confirmed its failed privatisation experiment had come undone, SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf brazenly shrugged his shoulders and said he doesn’t even care whether the East Coast rail franchise is in public hands or not.

“That is an insult to passengers and hard-work rail staff, not to mention potentially damaging to Scotland’s economy.

“Unlike the SNP, Labour supports rail services run for people not profit. The East Coast mainline should be taken under public control permanently and we will now fight to ensure the ScotRail franchise contract is brought back into public ownership.”




Ged Killen MP introduces Bill to ban ATM charges

16 May 2018

Today Ged Killen MP introduced a bill to ban ATM charges and boost financial inclusion with the backing of MPs from all three major parties at Westminster.

The Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill seeks to protect access to cash and banking services where demand remains for them.

The Bill accepts that the world is becoming more digital and increasingly financial activity is moving online.

However, recent evidence from Which? The FSB and a special inquiry into ATM use by the Scottish Affairs Committee has highlighted that demand for cash and physical financial infrastructure remains, and that these services are important to everyday life.

The Bill seeks to ban ATM charges, protect access to free cash withdrawals and introduce an enforceable access to banking standard.

During his speech introducing the bill Labour MP Ged Killen said:

“In my own constituency we have seen banking services gradually pushed out to the two larger towns of Rutherglen and Hamilton at either end of the constituency with towns in the middle like Cambuslang left with no bank branches.

In fact, there are now more ATMs in the Houses of Parliament than there in the entirety of Cambuslang main street.

“These reductions have a real-world impact, I regularly hear the concerns of small businesses on Cambuslang main street who rely on small, impulse cash purchases, telling me that the ATMs have run out of cash.

"That will have a direct impact on their takings for that day, and yet their views on changes to the interchange fee have not been sought.

“I accept that we are moving towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet.

“Without intervention to remove the option of ATM charges; bank branch closures and the reduction of the interchange fee will mean pay-to-use ATMs becoming the norm. We only have to look to the USA, where a similar reduction in the interchange fee has resulted in there now being an average of $5 for a withdrawal from a machine that is not owned by the customers bank.

“Currently the risk of a whether the ATM network collapses is borne purely by the public and not the banks or the LINK network which is behind the funding cut. This Bill seeks to shift that risk away from those communities who still rely on ATMs. If there is no option for an ATM machine to turn pay-to-use, the onus will be on LINK and the banks to ensure it remains financially viable using the interchange fee.

“To be blunt, ATM charges are a rip off.

“Society is changing, and technological advancements are to be welcomed but we cannot leave it to the banks to do the right thing on their own. I am pleased this Bill has secured support from Members of the three main parties.”




SNP NEEDS TO COME CLEAN ON FRACKING BAN

15 May 2018

The SNP has today dodged answering whether it is going to grant licences to fracking companies when they come up for renewal in June.

SNP minister Paul Wheelhouse refused to confirm that future applications for Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) would be turned down.

These licences allow companies like INEOS to search, bore for and extract petroleum, if the government and local authorities agree and planning permission is granted.

There are four active PEDL licences in Scotland. One, in the Central Belt, is due to expire on 30 June 2018. Fracking companies are likely to reapply shortly afterwards.

Claudia Beamish said:

"This just confirms how confused the SNP Government is over the issue of fracking. According to them we have a ban that is not actually a ban, we have licences to frack which may or may not be renewed, and we have a government saying one thing in court and another in Parliament.

‘People in Scotland need a clear, and simple commitment from the government that existing licences granted before the powers to ban fracking was devolved to Holyrood will not be renewed.




YOU CAN’T CLOSE THE ATTAINMENT GAP WITH CUTS TO COUNCILS AND UNDERPAID TEACHERS

12 May 2018

At a campaign event this morning (Saturday), Jeremy Corbyn has said the gap between the richest and poorest pupils in Scotland will not be closed while SNP cuts to councils leave our schools understaffed and our teachers underpaid and overworked.

As Scottish Labour campaigns across the country on cuts to council budgets, they warn that teachers in Scotland are overstretched.

Labour is highlighting:

A £1.5billion cut to council budgets under the SNP since 2011

Scotland having 3,500 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power

The number of primary school pupils being taught in classes with more than 30 pupils has increased by 44 per cent since 2011.

Labour is also warning that teachers are on the verge of strike action after years of real terms pay cuts and increasing workload.

Leader of Scottish Labour Richard Leonard said:

“Under the SNP 3,500 teachers have been cut, class sizes are growing and in the last decade pay has fallen dramatically.

“It is little wonder we face a teacher recruitment crisis and that teachers are saying they've had enough and threatening industrial action.

"Labour supports the teachers’ campaign for better pay and action on workloads.”

Speaking in Scotstoun ahead of a campaign session, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“We won't close the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils with overworked and underpaid teachers.

“Our schools need real change, with more teachers, more support and more resources.

"They do not need more Tory austerity from Westminster and more SNP cuts."




HOLYROOD MUST BACK FAMILIES’ DEMAND FOR TAYSIDE PUBLIC INQUIRY – SARWAR

9 May 2018

Labour will today (Wednesday) urge the Scottish Parliament to support a comprehensive public inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside.

The party will use a slot of opposition business this afternoon to call a vote for an inquiry into services at the troubled health board.

The move comes after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the case of David Ramsay at First Minister’s Questions last week.

Mr Ramsay took his own life after twice being rejected for treatment in 2016 by the Carseview Centre next to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

The tragic case of Mr Ramsay is not an isolated incident in the area, with a campaign group called Lost Souls has been established in Dundee for campaign for better services.

On Friday, NHS Tayside announced an independent review of the Carseview Centre which would report to the Health Board.

Families in Tayside believe this does not go far enough and want a full public inquiry of mental health services across the whole region.

In his conference speech in March, Richard Leonard raised the case of Lee Welsh, who took his life in 2017, when he first backed the calls for a public inquiry.

Lee’s case would not be covered by the current Carseview review.

The Courier today also reports today that an unnamed father in Dundee has backed calls for a full inquiry into mental health provision at NHS Tayside following claims his daughter was left unable to speak after a year in their care.

Many of the details of this case would also be out with the scope of the Carseview review.

Families who have been affected by mental health services in NHS Tayside will be in the gallery to watch the debate.

Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“Holyrood must listen to the families of Tayside and back a full public inquiry into mental health services.

“The tragic case of David Ramsay was not an isolated incident. There are clear problems with mental health services across the region. It is not confined to one unit in one hospital.

“The exceptional campaigning of the families of Dundee has pushed this to the top of the agenda in Scotland.

"It is now for MSPs to recognise this and show they are listening.

“These families deserve answers. Only a full, independent public inquiry can deliver that. These problems must not be swept under the carpet because it is politically embarrassing or damaging for local politicians.”




VICTORY FOR LABOUR AS GOVERNMENT SET TO AMEND CHARTER OF PATIENT RIGHTS - SNP WAITING TIME LAW BROKEN ALMOST 120,000 TIMES

9 May 2018

Labour has forced the SNP government into a commitment to amend the Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities to ensure patients get an accurate waiting time estimate.

The party will accept a government amendment to a Holyrood motion this afternoon which will lead to health boards giving accurate estimates under the Treatment Time Guarantee.

In 2012 the SNP introduced the Treatment Time Guarantee, which gave patients a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

The law has been broken almost 120,000 times since it was introduced in 2012, analysis from Labour reveals.

Under the present system patients are told they have a legal right to treatment in 12 weeks, but not how long the waiting time for their procedure actually is.

Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is a real win for patients across the country, and the government should commit to delivering it by the end of the month.

“In 2012 the SNP made a promise to the people of Scotland that they would have a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks. That law has now been broken almost 120,000 times.

“Patients deserve this transparency when it comes to their treatment. Long and unknown waits can have a negative impact on a person’s work, family life, mental and physical well being.

“NHS boards should communicate an accurate expected waiting time to patients. This upfront approach will at least provide transparency and comfort to patients rather keep them in the dark.

“The SNP has seen common sense here - now they must deliver for patients.”




Fracking trial sums up the SNP: spin before substance

9 May 2018

Claudia Beamish MSP spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change said:

“This sums up perfectly the SNP government's attitude - spin before substance.

“Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers told MSPs – and more importantly campaigners and communities – that Scottish towns and villages were no longer at risk from fracking and the environmental damage it can cause because they had banned it.

"Now the government's lawyer is saying the opposite - saying it is the language of a press release.

“SNP ministers need to explain this - fast. It isn't sustainable for the SNP to be saying one thing on their leaflets, website and in press releases and something else entirely in a courtroom."




MORE PEOPLE WAIT MORE THAN 12 HOURS IN A&E THIS YEAR THAN ALL OF 2017

9 May 2018

More people have waited more than 12 hours in A&E in the first five months of 2018 than the whole of 2017.

Weekly Emergency Department Waiting Time Statistics published today reveal 1,856 people have so far waited longer than 12 hours in A&E in 2018, compared to 1,820 over the whole of 2017.

Scottish Labour said the figures were symptomatic of how SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that show once again just how out of her depth SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is.

“The SNP has left NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced – and it is patients who are paying the price.

“Already in 2018, more people have waited longer than 12 hours in A&E than in the whole of 2017.

“For SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to claim this shows the NHS is in recovery shows just how desperate and out of touch she now is.”




COMMENT AHEAD OF SCOTRAIL APPEARANCE AT COMMITTEE

9 May 2018

Commenting ahead of the appearance of Alex Hynes the Managing Director of Scotrail Allianceat the Rural Economy and Connectivity committee today (Wednesday) , Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“This appearance could not be more timely. ScotRail is facing record fines for its repeated failure to meet standards of service and performance continues to plummet.

"The latest performance figures are particularly damning when it comes to CCTV at stations. The company are putting safety at risk by trying to make a profit on the back of axing staff.

"Behind these figures are hard-pressed passengers paying ever increasing fares for ever decreasing performance. Labour previously revealed that some commuters are paying up to a fifth of their wages on commuting costs.

"Abellio, like other rail companies across Britain, is now taking part in a consultation about rail fares but the reality is only taking our railways into public ownership will end the great train robbery of overpriced tickets.

"Rail passengers are paying a small fortune for delayed and increasingly overcrowded trains that can't even be guaranteed to stop at the stations they are supposed to."




Comment on Scottish National Investment Bank

8 May 2018

Speaking after today's debate on the Scottish National Investment Bank, Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“After years of announcements but little action, the SNP is finally bringing forward plans for a Scottish Investment Bank.

“While this is welcome, it is disappointing that, even after all this time, the SNP is being so timid.

“Scotland’s economy desperately needs something much bolder and more ambitious.

“The SNP’s proposed Scottish Investment Bank is in danger of not having enough money to do the job required.

“As businesses have come to realise, the SNP is more spin than substance when it comes to the economy.

“The SNP should listen to Jim McColl - a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers - who was very clear in his evidence to the Economy Committee that we need to be much more ambitious.

“Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a Scottish Investment Bank worthy of the name, with £20billion of funding over the next decade – ten times more than the amount proposed by the SNP.

"And that’s in addition to the £20 billion from our National Transformation Fund for key infrastructure investment.

"That’s the kind of ambition this country needs - because that’s what it takes to really transform our economy for the many.”




FMQS: DEMAND FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN NHS TAYSIDE

9 May 2018

Labour has demanded a public inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard backed the call from local families in Dundee in March.

Today, Mr Leonard raised the tragic case of David Ramsay, who took his own life in 2016 having been rejected for treatment twice by the Carseview centre at Ninewells hospitals in Dundee.

Mr Ramsay’s case is not isolated, and a campaign group called Lost Souls has been established in Dundee for campaign for better services.

Mr Ramsay’s niece, Gillian Murray, wrote to Nicola Sturgeon asking for help on two occasions but the government remains unwilling to commit to an inquiry.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Scotland’s suicide rate is more than twice as high as the rate in Britain as a whole. In Dundee suicide rates have increased by 61 per cent in a year.

“Behind each of these statistics are real people and real families who have lost loved ones.

“Like the family of David Ramsay in Dundee. David hung himself on the morning of the ninth of October 2016, four days after being turned away by the Carseview centre.

“Tragically David’s story and the experience of his family is not unique in Dundee.

“When I was in Dundee in March I backed the call by families for a public inquiry into mental health services at NHS Tayside. The government now must do the same.”




WEST LOTHIAN RESIDENTS VOICE HUGE CONCERNS ABOUT GP CRISIS

2 May 2018

Residents from the village of Stoneyburn, West Lothian came out in huge numbers to a public meeting on Tuesday night to voice concerns about the SNP's GP crisis.

300 residents, representing one in seven of the local population, came out to voice their concerns about the proposal to end GP provision at the local health centre.

In recent months all of the GPs at the Breich Valley medical practice have resigned with zero applicants to take over. This reflects a national crisis in GP provision.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, Scotland is short of 856 GPs and many local surgeries can only keep their doors open with locum cover at a cost of between £450- £1400 a day.

The number of whole time equivalent GPs has fallen by 125 since 2009.

The meeting piles pressure onto Health Secretary Shona Robison, already under fire for her handling of the health portfolio in multiple areas.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who attended the meeting, said:

“Here we see how a nationwide crisis is impacting on a local community. It is unacceptable that Stoneyburn could be left without a doctor to serve the needs of local people.

“The proposed change would mean that people would be forced to travel to neighbouring villages for treatment.

“For those with a car this would be possible but for the elderly, people with mobility problems or on a low income this will cause very serious problems.

“The minimum bus fare for a return journey is £4.00, £7.00 with a child, and there is no footpath between the villages.

“If this goes ahead then for those affected the NHS no longer becomes free at the point of need. And with no GP provision the local chemist would come under threat.

"The people of Stoneyburn have sent a message to NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government – go back and think again, we will not accept these proposals.”




SNP PROMISE ON POLICE NUMBERS “SHATTERED”

2 May 2018

The SNP’s promise to maintain police officer numbers has been “shattered”, Scottish Labour has said.

It has been revealed that the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is considering axing more than a thousand police officers over the next three years.

At the very least, the SPA will axe hundreds of police officers under the plans.

The move comes after the SNP spent years making civilian staff redundant and forcing frontline officers to take on civilian roles in their place, in order for the Nationalists to maintain their commitment to increase officer numbers.

Scottish Labour said any changes in Police Scotland staffing should see officers put on the frontline where they belong.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“The SNP’s promise to maintain police officer numbers has been shattered.

“The public will rightly be concerned that the Scottish Police Authority is now looking at cutting hundreds, if not more than a thousand, officers.

“The reality is, the SNP’s con-trick on police officer numbers has been exposed for what it was – pure spin and no substance.

“While SNP ministers maintained police officers, they sacked civilian staff and made officers who should be on the frontline do their jobs.

“The foolishness of that policy has now been exposed. Labour would make different choices: rather than cutting officers, we would ensure they are on the frontline where they belong.

“SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson must urgently explain to parliament and the public how many officers will be cut and what the impact will be on public safety.

“You can’t keep people safe on the cheap.”




OVER 3,000 OPERATIONS CANCELLED SO FAR IN 2018

1 May 2018

Over 3,100 operations have been cancelled due to capacity or non-clinical reasons so far in 2018 because hospitals could not cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 1,201 operations were cancelled in March. Added to the 1,248 cancelled in January and 711 in February, this takes the total figure to 3,160.

Labour said the figures piled pressure on under fire Health Secretary Shona Robison.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Behind each of these figures is a patients waiting in pain for treatment that hospitals have not been able to give.

“We have seen a staffing crisis develop in our health service, with huge unfilled gaps for consultants, nurses and midwives.

“This failure goes straight to the door of the Health Secretary. It is time for Shona Robison to step aside from the Health portfolio.”




OVER 52,000 PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG AT A&E SO FAR IN 2018

1 May 2018

1 May 2018 Over 52,000 people have waited too long at Scotland’s major A&E departments in 2018, new data released today shows.

Information published by ISD Scotland today show that 52,025 people waited longer than the 4 hour waiting time target in Scotland’s hospitals so far this year.

This is almost half of the number for the whole of 2017 - which saw over 107,000 people wait longer than the 4 hours in Scotland’s emergency departments.

More than 7,000 have waited more than 8 hours and almost 2,000 have waited more than 12 hours.

In NHS Lothian, which faces a funding gap of £31 million, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France recorded a performance of 68.6 per cent.

Meanwhile the flagship £850million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow recorded a performance of 76.4 per cent.

The performance of Scotland’s A&E wards over the winter was the worst on record, with staff increasingly under pressure.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“NHS staff are not getting the support they need from the SNP government in Edinburgh and as a result over 52,000 patients have had to wait more than the A&E standard so far in 2018.

“This pressure on A&E is a wider symptom of problems throughout the health service – from primary care and social care, to mental health services and public health policy.

“Shona Robison has lost control of her brief – and it is patients and staff who are losing out as a result. It is time for the Health Secretary to do the decent thing and resign.”




EXPOSED: A THIRD OF EMERGENCY AMBULANCES MISSED THEIR TARGET IN 2017

28 April 2018

A third of emergency ambulances missed their target in 2017, new analysis from Labour reveals.

Analysis of Freedom of information requests provided to Scottish Labour show that 23,751 ambulances failed to arrive to an ‘immediate life threatening incident’ within the 8 minute target last year – working out to 63 per cent of all that category of call outs.

In two instances in the West Central region, it took more than five hours for an ambulance to turn up.

Immediate life threatening situations apply to conditions such as cardiac arrests where every second counts.

Labour released the information following Richard Leonard raising ambulance response times at First Minister’s questions this week.

The Scottish Labour leader raised the case of Margret Goodman, who is receiving palliative care for brain cancer.

Margaret Goodman’s palliative care nurses phoned three times for an ambulance. After two hours her husband Gavin elected to drive her to A&E himself.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“This is utterly shocking. In life threatening stations every minute counts. Instead that 1 in 3 ambulances called out to an immediate life threatening incident missed their target.

“Our ambulance service, like the rest of our NHS, is currently understaffed, under resourced and under far too much pressure.

“We cannot go on like this. Every aspect of our health service is stretched to near breaking point. From A&E to social care, from primary care to mental health services, from ambulance response times to soar numbers of unfilled consultant posts.

“Enough is enough. Nicola Sturgeon has been in denial about the extent of the pressure on our health service for years now – but patients and staff alike are being failed. It’s time for her to stop making excuses for a Health secretary who is out of her depth and out of time.”




COMMENT ON RBS PROFIT

27 April 2018

Commenting on RBS announcing a further profit, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“The trebling of profits by RBS will be of no comfort to the communities across Scotland still facing local bank closures.

“RBS – and other banks – risk decimating high streets with these ill thought out closures, as well as depriving local people – particularly older people – of a vital lifeline service.

“RBS should urgently reconsider these planned closures.”




STURGEON “ANYTHING BUT HONEST” OVER CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA

26 April 2018

Email exchanges between the SNP and toxic data firm Cambridge Analytica reveal First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has further questions to answer about her party’s dealings with the company, Scottish Labour has said.

Neil Findlay MSP said the emails – released late on Wednesday night as MSPs debated the Social Security (Scotland) Bill – showed the SNP was far more involved with the company than it has previously admitted.

The emails show the SNP continued to maintain contact and discuss work with Cambridge Analytica after a meeting in London – despite Nicola Sturgeon claiming their engagement with the company was a one-off.

Scottish Labour’s campaigns spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP said:

“The release of these emails, far from drawing a line under this scandal, make it far worse.

“These exchanges - quietly published late on Wednesday night as MSPs voted to introduce Scotland’s new social security system - prove without doubt that Nicola Sturgeon has further questions to answer over the SNP’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica.

“It is now clear the SNP First Minister has been anything but honest about the SNP’s engagement with this sham firm. Her claims the SNP has been transparent are now as hollow as Cambridge Analytica’s claims to be a legitimate business.

“The SNP’s handling of this clearly shows it has something to hide. Enough is enough.

“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon must urgently return to parliament and set the record straight on the SNP’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica.”




LABOUR SECURES SPLIT PAYMENTS FOR UNIVERSAL CREDIT

25 April 2018

Speaking after Labour secured split payments for Universal Credit during the Stage 3 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Labour's Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“Labour has led the way in arguing that Universal Credit should be automatically split between the two partners in a relationship – and it is welcome the SNP government has, at the eleventh hour, finally agreed.

“Splitting payments will help women facing domestic abuse and ensure money for children goes to the main carer – and that is why this policy is supported by organisations such as Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid.

“Labour has long pressured for this simple, practical step to help vulnerable women and it is welcome it is now enshrined in law.

“This crucial change will help ensure we build a social security system that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP AND TORIES VOTE DOWN CHILD BENEFIT INCREASE

25 April 2018

Speaking after the SNP and Tories voted down Labour's plan to increase child benefit during the Stage 3 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Labour's Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“Labour’s plan to increase child benefit would have delivered an extra £5 per week to families across Scotland.

“That simple change would have lifted 30,000 children out of poverty with the stroke of a pen.

“But instead of backing Labour’s plans to make Scotland fairer, the SNP has joined forces with the Tories to vote it down.

“That is simply unacceptable. With food bank use in Scotland at record levels, it is clear Scotland needs urgent action to tackle poverty and inequality.

“Instead, the SNP disgracefully chose to back Tory austerity.

“It is clear it is only Labour that has the ideas and the courage to build a social security system that works for the many, not the few.”




HOLYROOD HEALTH SUMMIT HEARS FROM OVERWORKED DOCTORS

25 April 2018

A Health summit at Holyrood has heard about the fears of doctors over staffing and workload pressures, burnout, and a potential blame culture of overworked NHS staff.

Labour organised a meeting today of senior consultants, GPs and trainee doctors to discuss the pressure on staff with representatives from NHS Scotland, the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council and a cross-party group of MSPs.

Attendees were warned that doctors are facing burn-out and stress, with hungry, exhausted and overstretched doctors at risk of making clinical mistakes.

The meeting heard from the Scottish Action for Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba campaign group.

The cross-party meeting was attended by representatives of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Health Secretary Shona Robison did not attend, despite being invited.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“This summit highlighted the stresses our health service is facing, particularly on staff.

“Our dedicated NHS staff are being forced to work hours at end without any breaks, juggling multiple complex cases, with budget and staffing cuts placing them under incredible pressure. They are under strain like never before.

“Those on the frontline say there is now a ‘perfect storm’ with a culture lacking compassion, where doctors suffering stress and burnout do not feel supported and instead are concerned about a blame culture.

“It is inevitable that this increases the chances of mistakes, and unless we care for our doctors and nurses, care for patients will suffer.

“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by all parties – I am disappointed the Health Secretary elected not to attend the meeting at any point.

“This snub confirms how much the Cabinet Secretary is in denial about the pressure our NHS staff face.”




SNP CUT ALMOST £2MILLION FROM SCOTTISH WELFARE FUND

23 April 2018

The SNP government has cut almost £2million in real terms from the Scottish Welfare Fund, Labour can reveal. Between 2015/16 and 2018/19, the SNP has frozen funding for the welfare pot in cash terms.

According to figures provided by SPICe, that means there has been a real terms cut of £1.8million.

Analysis by Scottish Labour also reveals the cuts have fallen hardest in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities, including:

· Glasgow: -25 per cent

· Dundee: -14 per cent

· North Lanarkshire: -16 per cent

· Inverclyde: -13 per cent

The Scottish Welfare Fund is designed to provide a safety net for those on low incomes through mechanisms such as crisis grants.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security Spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that reveal the extent of SNP austerity in Scotland.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund does important work, but rather than getting the support it needs it has actually had its funding cut by almost £2million in real terms.

“The worst of those cuts are falling in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities, where the Scottish Welfare Fund is needed most.

“Scottish Labour has always argued for a social security system that properly protects Scotland’s most vulnerable people.

“That is why we would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and support our social security system – and why this week we will once again be pressing the SNP to support our plan to top-up child benefit.”




COMMENT ON UK GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR CHILDREN WITH ALCOHOLIC PARENTS

23 April 2018

Responding to the UK government announcing £6 million of funding to help children with alcoholic parents get support and advice, Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

“This is a fantastic result from the campaigning of the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth. It also shows what can happen when party politics are put to one side.

“My colleague Monica Lennon MSP has pressed for similar action in Scotland.

“The Scottish government should immediately consider the value of establishing a similar fund in Scotland.”




SNP DITCH OIL AND GAS BULLETIN

20 April 2018

The SNP government has scrapped its Oil and Gas Bulletin, Scottish Labour can reveal.

The bulletin was twice published in 2013 and then once in 2014 as part of a failed bid to justify an economic case for independence.

It was only published once – in 2015 – after the independence referendum vote and the oil price crash.

The Office for Statistics Regulation has now confirmed the SNP has no plans to publish a further bulletin.

Scottish Labour said the decision showed the SNP was now “actively disowning” the oil and gas industry.

Scottish Labour’s energy spokesperson Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is a disgraceful decision.

“It shows that not only have SNP ministers given up trying to help the oil and gas industry – but they are now actively disowning it.

“In the run up to the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon promised oil revenues of £8billion a year – and the SNP government published the Oil and Gas Bulletin twice in 2013 and once in 2014 in support.

“Since the oil price collapse, we have only had one Bulletin – as long ago as 2015.

That is simply a disgrace.

“With thousands of jobs lost and the industry still in recovery, we need as much information as possible on the state of the North Sea.

“Instead, Nationalist ministers have decided to bury their heads in the sand in an attempt to avoid a political humiliation.

“The SNP should reverse this decision and start helping the oil and gas industry rather than treating it as a political inconvenience.”

"If reports ahead of the publication of the SNP's growth commission are to be believed, the Nationalists no longer plan to use oil and gas in its creative accountancy around independence - it no longer serves the SNP's ends so the industry and workforce suffer the consequences.

"As always with the SNP, a choice between what is good for the Scottish people and what is good for Scottish independence has seen the people lose out.”




Comment on "school isn't free" reports

20 April 2018

Commenting on reports pupils are missing out on key subjects because of the potential costs involved in studying them, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“These revelations by the Child Poverty Action Group are the shameful reality of the SNP’s £1.5billion cut since 2011 to local councils, who fund our schools.

“That young people are making subject choices based on their ability to pay for materials should put to rest any pretence that education is the SNP’s ‘number one priority’.

“Even given evidence such as this, the SNP continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms.

“Our schools do not need an SNP power grab, they need a government which will get a grip of the situation, properly fund our schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve and the resources that they need.

"Anything less will simply ensure that these disgraceful situations remain.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




SNP POSTCODE LOTTERY FOR PUPILS FROM POORER BACKGROUNDS

18 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today accused the SNP of failing school pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Joesph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research, presented at Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee, highlighted the ‘postcode lottery’ that pupils in deprived areas face.

The research found that, despite similar levels of deprivation, pupils from some local authorities can be twice as likely to secure good grades as those from other areas.

Labour said cuts to councils were at the heart of the matter.

Scottish Labour’s Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This important research from the JRF highlights the SNP’s failings in education.

“It shows the real effects which their £1.5 Billon cut to council’s finances has had.

“The committee heard of the importance that teaching has on attainment. Our teachers do fantastic work in increasingly difficult circumstances, but the truth is that they have seen 4000 of their colleagues disappear, their class sizes increase and their pay drastically cut.

“The government needs to get a grip of the situation, properly fund out schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve. Anything less will simply ensure that the attainment gap remains.

“But instead, they continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms which will do nothing to solve these issues.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




Comment on Air Quality Debate

17 April 2018

Speaking after his speech during a debate on air quality, Scottish Labour MSP David Stewart said:

“We welcome the introduction of Low Emission Zones as a strategy to improve air quality in Scotland – but once again we see the SNP government failing to properly fund its commitments.

“As British Heart Foundation evidence shows, 80 per cent of deaths related to outdoor air pollution are due to heart disease or stroke.

“In Scotland, this deadly air pollution is most likely to come from traffic – particularly older, polluting diesel vehicles and that is why Labour supports the creation of low-emission zones.

“But the SNP has failed to properly and clearly fund its commitments to improve air quality. London alone is spending more than £80million to retrofit buses to make them less polluting, for instance, while the SNP has committed just £10million.

“SNP plans for a retrofitting station for buses have also stalled, while there are concerns about a lack of technical and financial support to implement Low Emission Zones.

“The reality is the financial burden for improving the quality of our air cannot fall on councils, who have suffered more than £1.5billion of cuts since 2011.

“Scotland needs real action from the SNP, not warm words.”




SNP REFUSING TO PAY THE REPAIR BILL FOR SCOTLAND’S COLLEGES

15 April 2018

The SNP is refusing to pay the repair bill for Scotland’s college campuses, Labour analysis reveals today.

Scotland’s colleges need over £360million in repairs over the next five years to bring campuses up to scratch.

However, the government only plans to spend £39.4 million on maintenance in the next year.

Further analysis shows that in the last five years only £131.4 million has been spent on college maintenance, just over a third of what is needed in the next five.

Labour said the figures highlighted the government’s appalling record on colleges and further education.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Iain Gray said:

“Colleges and further education continue to get a rotten deal from the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Any government serious about further education would be ensuring that there is a clear plan to make the campuses wind and watertight. Instead the SNP only plans to spend a fraction of what is needed.

“Refusing to pay this repair bill is just the latest sorry failure from the government on further education – a failure which sees 140,000 fewer college places since they came to power.

“Students deserve to learn in safe, secure and comfortable facilities. The SNP must quickly explain how they are going to give colleges the vital funds they need for these urgent repairs.”




RAPE CLAUSE HELPS WOMEN – MCVEY

16 April 2018

The controversial rape clause helps women, according to Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

The astonishing claim was made by McVey in a shambolic appearance in front of Holyrood’s Social Security Committee.

Speaking about the rape clause, Esther McVey said:

“People will be supported and shown to the various other organisations - and again this could give them an opportunity to talk about maybe something that’s happened that they never had before.

“So, it’s potentially double support there - they’re getting the money they need and maybe an outlet they might possibly need.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary also defended the shambolic roll out of Universal Credit, ignoring Labour calls to pause and fix the system.

Labour said the performance underlined how out of touch the Tories are on social security.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said:

“This was a disgraceful performance from a Work and Pensions Secretary who is completely out of touch with the reality of life for low income women on tax credits.

“To badge up the vile rape clause as some sort of virtuous policy to provide support is simply skin-crawling.

“The rape clause is a policy created by the Tory government’s ideological obsession to deliver tax cuts for the richest and big business paid for by cutting support for the poorest.

“Scotland has an opportunity to build a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. Tory attempts to justify their welfare reform are getting more ludicrous by the day. The Tories should abolish the rape clause.”




LABOUR PLEDGES CAP ON NHS AGENCY SPENDING AS COSTS SOAR

15 April 2018

Labour will look to use the SNP government’s forthcoming NHS safe staffing legislation to cap private agencies profiting from the health service.

The SNP government is developing a ‘safe staffing’ Bill for the health service to enshrine in law the principles of safe staffing in the NHS, starting with nursing and midwifery workforce planning.

Labour is supportive of the aims of the proposed legislation, but said any new law had to help ensure staff had the support and resources they need on shift. As a result, the party will consider how to amend the Bill to stop private agencies profiting excessively from the health service.

The party announces the plans as new analysis shows spiralling agency spending in the NHS, with a 522 per cent increase in agency nursing and midwifery spending since the SNP government formed a majority in 2011.

The figures underline the impact of Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to cut training places for nursing and midwifery staff in 2011.

Labour has established a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to solve the staffing crisis.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar, said:

“The soaring costs of agency spending for nursing and midwifery jobs in the past ten years shows the absolute mess the SNP government has made of workforce planning.

“It was Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary who force through cuts to training places for nurses and midwives.

"We are seeing the effects of that now with a 522 per cent increase in agency spending since.

“This cannot go on. The health service is our most valuable public service – it shouldn’t be boosting the profit margins of private companies.

“Richard Leonard has pledged that the next Scottish Labour government will legislate to cap the profits of private agencies in the health service – If the SNP wants to start fixing this workforce crisis it should work with Labour to deliver this cap in the safe staffing bill.”




ROBISON HAS LOST THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC AND IS LOSING THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PARLIAMENT

15 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today demanded that the First Minister oversee a Scottish Government investigation into misuse of charitable funds at NHS boards and that the final report be presented to her.

The party said that following a pattern of financial mismanagement at NHS Tayside, over a number of years, there was no confidence that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison would carry out the inquiry competently.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Shona Robison has lost control of her brief, has lost public confidence and she should consider her position.

Scottish Labour says Nicola Sturgeon must take ownership of the investigation into the spending of charity funds, and that it should report directly to her.

The party is also demanding a government statement on the issue. If the government fails to agree, then Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar will table an urgent question.

It emerged recently that more than £2million from NHS Tayside’s charitable trust was used to fund a new back office computer system.

That incident follows years of financial mismanagement at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the SNP government during Shona Robison’s tenure as Health Secretary.

There are also now reports that this behaviour is not just isolated to NHS Tayside.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“The ongoing crisis at NHS Tayside is a national scandal. That this has happened on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch, and in her own backyard, shows that she has lost control of her brief.

“Under her failed leadership our amazing NHS staff have been let down, too many patients have been failed and now public trust has been breached.

“We still don’t know if this is just an isolated incident or a more widespread practice. That is why we are demanding a swift and thorough national investigation. The public expects nothing less.

“But the reality is, it is Shona Robison’s ineptitude that has caused this mess – the public have lost confidence in her - so she cannot be the one to lead this investigation. It can’t report to her.

"She is out of her depth, out of ideas and out of time – and her position is now untenable.

“The SNP government must come to Parliament at the earliest opportunity and make a full statement. Anything less would be a betrayal of our NHS staff, patients and the public.

“The public deserve proper answers, not an SNP Health Secretary only concerned with trying to cover her own back.”




GOVERNMENT MUST EXPLAIN DISGRACEFUL PLANNING APPLICATION DECISION - IAIN GRAY

12 April 2018

The Scottish Government's decision to over-ride the local planning process in East Lothian so it can decide on a wind energy substation plant application was today branded a disgrace by Scottish Labour.

Iain Gray MSP said he would be writing to SNP Ministers demanding why the application by Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL), had been taken out of the hands of East Lothian Council before any decision had been made.

And he raised concerns about the timing of the decision, as it has been announced while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in China promoting business links.

ICOL is owned by Red Rock Power Limited, a subsidiary of China's State Development and Investment Corporation. Nicola Sturgeon opened Red Rock's Edinburgh offices back in November 2016.

The company's application for the old Cockenzie Power Station site is to build a substation to bring offshore energy from a planned windfarm into the National Grid. However it would be operated remotely providing no local jobs.

Iain Gray said: “This decision is a disgrace. I have spent years arguing that local planning decisions must be taken in East Lothian, not by Scottish Government ministers.

"I am very concerned that ministers have chosen to remove this decision from our local representatives. The Cockenzie site is critical for local job creation and that could be jeopardised by the placing of a substation right in the middle of it.

"In the interests of democracy this is a decision that should be taken in East Lothian, with local interests put first, and I will be seeking an explanation from Ministers as to why they have taken it out of the hands of the council and the community and why this has occurred just now while the First Minister is in China."




Comment on High Street Closures

11 April 2018

Commenting on research from PWC showing more than five businesses a week are closing on Scottish high streets, Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“Small businesses are essential to our economy and the lifeblood of local communities.

“To see such extensive closures of high street shops is not just deeply troubling, it is economically damaging.

“The reality is the SNP has not done nearly enough to support small businesses. Its shambolic business rates changes have sent many firms to the wall.

“The number of appeals against revaluations are through the roof – and thousands have still to be processed.

“If the SNP really cared about our economy, it would support our small businesses and invest in our economy.”




SNP SET TO MISS CHILDCARE STAFFING TARGET BY FOUR YEARS

11 April 2018

The SNP is set to miss its childcare staffing target by four years, new analysis from Labour reveals.

The Scottish government has committed to increase the number of free childcare hours to 1,140 by 2020.

In a letter of guidance issued to the Scottish Funding Council, the government outlines plans to train an additional 1,813 childcare practitioners in the forthcoming academic year.

However, Scottish Labour analysis shows that this is just a fifth of the 8,000 extra childcare staff the government says it will need.

By 2020, the year the policy is meant to be in place, not even half of the additional number of staff needed will be trained based on current figures.

In fact it will take until 2024 to train the additional practitioners if current trends are kept.

The SNP’s childcare minister was previously embarrassed at Holyrood’s education committee by admitting she did not know how many staff presently worked in the sector.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Scratch beneath the surface of the SNP government’s spin and we are seeing huge problems with the implementation of this childcare policy.

“The government says it needs 8,000 additional staff to deliver this flagship pledge – but will be four years late in training them all if currently levels are not significantly increased.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis, but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“But as it stands there is not enough money, there are not enough staff, and there are not enough buildings to deliver it.

“The SNP minister needs to get across this urgently.”




FRESH PRESSURE ON SHONA ROBISON

10 April 2018

Pressure is mounting on embattled SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison after it emerged A&E targets have been missed again and another health board is demanding emergency funding.

An average of just 87.1% of people attending A&E in Scotland in the last week of March were admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target.

At the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, almost a third of patients had to wait longer than four hours. Meanwhile, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has appealed to the SNP government for emergency funding of £4.5 million in order to maintain services.

SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has been facing mounting pressure after it emerged cash-strapped NHS Tayside had used funds from its charity to pay for a back office computer system.

Scottish Labour said today’s revelations showed Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar, said:

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS in Scotland.

“Once again, A&E targets have been missed under her watch – and it is clear she has lost control of health boards across Scotland as well.

“While NHS Tayside stands accused of using charity money to make ends meet - and now NHS Dumfries and Galloway is desperately seeking £4.5 million from the SNP government just to keep services ticking over.

“On Shona Robison’s watch targets are being missed, standards are not being met and the SNP’s financial mismanagement of the NHS in Scotland is being repeatedly exposed.

“She has continually let down hard-working staff and patients – how can we expect her to fix the crisis in health boards when she can’t even properly fund NHS Tayside in her own backyard?

“Shona Robison is out of her depth, out of ideas and out of time. She should be considering her position.




ALMOST 4 IN 10 WORKERS FACE VIOLENCE AND ABUSE

9 April 2018

New figures have revealed the extent of violence and abuse against shop and bar staff in Scotland.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows four-in-10 workers faced verbal abuse and one-in-12 suffered physical abuse in 2016/17.

Visiting the Hermitage Pub in Morningside today, Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson, Daniel Johnson, said the figures strengthened the case for his Member’s Bill aimed at tackling abuse of shop and bar staff.

His Bill proposes giving protection to workers from physical and verbal violence, particularly when, in the course of their job, they have to ask for ID.

Mr Johnson has also written to hundreds of pubs across Scotland urging them to back his Member’s Bill, the consultation for which closes on April 20.

Mr Johnson said: “Violence and abuse at work is unacceptable – wherever you work, whatever the circumstance. It is never ‘just part of the job’.

“But these figures show too many Scots are experiencing violence and abuse while at work.

“Bar staff are particularly vulnerable given they often have to ask for identification when selling alcohol. That can trigger violence and abuse, and those staff deserve extra protection.

“My Member’s Bill aims to give those staff the extra protection they deserve and I am urging as many people as possible to respond to the consultation before April 20.”




COMMITTEES MUST INVESTIGATE IN WAKE OF NHS TAYSIDE SCANDAL

8 April 2018

Scottish Labour has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Audit and Health Committees urging them to take immediate action in the wake of the scandal at NHS Tayside.

Scottish Labour is calling for the Health Committee to take evidence from NHS boards across the country in a bid to reassure the public that charitable donations are being used as intended.

It is also calling on the Audit Committee to reinvestigate the financing and accounts at NHS Tayside in the wake of the scandal.

More than £2million from NHS Tayside’s charitable trust was used to fund a new back office computer system. That incident follows years of financial mismanagement by the SNP at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the government.

Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar is also backing the call by the chair of the Audit Committee, Jenny Marra MSP, that there should be no so-called golden goodbyes for the senior managers who have left NHS Tayside following the scandal.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“The scandal at NHS Tayside has seriously damaged public confidence in our NHS.

“That is why it is essential all NHS Boards are now called before the Health Committee to establish how this came to happen and if it is more widespread – starting with NHS Tayside.

“The public need and deserve urgent clarification from other health boards on whether any funds have been misspent elsewhere.

“The Audit Committee must also urgently reinvestigate the SNP's financial mismanagement of NHS Tayside, which caused this scandal in the first place.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison appointed John Connell to sort out NHS Tayside after years of chronic mismanagement by the SNP. It would be an outrage if senior managers now received any kind of golden goodbye.

“The reality is millions of pounds has gone missing from a charitable trust on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch.

“That is a national scandal - and she must take full responsibility for it and consider her own position.

"If she can't manage the health board in her own backyard, how can she run the NHS across the country?"




COUNCIL WORKERS AT LOWEST LEVEL SINCE DEVOLUTION

8 April 2018

The number of local government employees in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since devolution, Labour analysis has found.

In 1999 there were 210,000 local government employees, excluding police and fire staff – that grew to 230,000 under the Scottish Labour Governments before the SNP came to power in 2007.

The most recent figures, however, show that local government employee numbers have fallen even further to 198,000.

This is a 14 per cent drop in council employees since the SNP came to power.

Scottish Labour said that in any other sector the scale of job losses would have prompted a taskforce from SNP Ministers to protect jobs and help workers find other work, and that the figures make a mockery of claims that local government is getting a fair deal from the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson Monica Lennon called for the Scottish Government to undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Monica Lennon said:

“The only way we can build a Scotland that works for the many, not the few, is by ensuring vital local services that people rely on are properly resourced.

“Instead, the SNP government has taken Tory austerity and passed it straight on to Scottish councils and the communities they serve.

“Council services are crucial in the fight against poverty and inequality and these job losses hurt the poorest the hardest with lifeline services stripped back year after year because of the cuts.

“That’s why Scottish Labour has set out plans to re-empower local government including new powers to raise income including a tax on vacant land, a tourist tax and a social responsibility levy on alcohol sales.

“The Scottish Government should urgently undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts to understand how they are contributing to growing poverty and inequality and open its mind to the solutions Scottish Labour, councils and trade unions are suggesting.”




SHONA ROBISON MUST APOLOGISE TO NHS TAYSIDE CHARITY FAMILIES

7 April 2018

Scottish Labour has demanded SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison apologise to families who gave money to NHS Tayside’s charitable trust, as pressure mounts on her over the scandal at the health board.

More than £2million from the trust was used to fund a new back office computer system. That incident follows years of underfunding at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the SNP government.

Scottish Labour is also demanding a speedy investigation by the charities regulator OSCR into the actions at NHS Tayside, as well as a national probe in order to urgently determine whether such behaviour is happening at other health boards and to ensure we can maintain public trust in charitable activity.

The party’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said that public confidence in the NHS was being seriously damaged by Shona Robison’s mismanagement.

Mr Sarwar said:

“Patients across Scotland are growing used to SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s mismanagement of the NHS meaning missed waiting times.

“But they will not stand for missing millions from charity funds under her watch.

“She should immediately apologise to the families who donated money in good faith - and explain when the SNP Government will properly fund NHS Tayside.

“This scandal took place on her watch, in her own backyard. It is absolutely essential there is a full and swift investigation by OSCR, as well as a national probe to reassure the public this is not going on elsewhere.

"If she thinks simply sacking a chairman she herself appointed just two years ago will resolve this scandal, she is not just incompetent but negligent.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison cannot wash her hands of the scandal at NHS Tayside. It is her responsibility and, if she had any sense of decency, should be considering her own position.”




Comment on NHS Tayside

7 April 2018

Commenting on the latest developments at NHS Tayside, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"I think it is right that the NHS Tayside chair and chief executive resign from their positions.

"They have let down local staff, they have let down local patients and they have broken the trust of local people by misusing charitable money in this way.

"But there are also still serious questions for SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to answer.

"This is not an isolated incident – there has been a series of incidents over a number of years, reflecting a complete lack of leadership and mismanagement of our NHS by the SNP minister. "Shona Robison must now consider her own position as she has serious questions to answer."




HOUSING CRISIS HAS PUSHED 50,000 ADDITIONAL CHILDREN INTO POVERTY

6 April 2018

Scotland’s housing crisis has pushed 50,000 additional children into poverty in the last three years, according to analysis from Scottish Labour.

According to the latest three-year average, 50,000 additional children are living in poverty because of high housing costs.

Analysis of the most recently produced poverty statistics shows that there were 180,000 children living in relative poverty before housing costs were taken into account in the three-year period between 2014 and 2017.

However, after housing costs have been taken into account the figure increases by 50,000, to 230,000.

Labour said the figures underlined the SNP government’s failure to halt Tory austerity.

In his keynote speech to Scottish Labour conference last month, Richard Leonard outlined a vision to end the housing crisis by building more homes for social rent and reforming the private rented sector with a ‘Mary Barbour Law’.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“A home should be a basic fundamental human right. That’s why a Scottish Labour government would ensure access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home.

“But a decade of SNP complacency on housing and rising rental costs is pushing additional children into poverty.

“The shameful levels of child poverty in this country may be driven by Tory austerity – but they are amplified by the failures of the SNP government at Holyrood.

“Ending the housing crisis would be a huge step towards tackling child poverty, and it is entirely within the gift of the Scottish Parliament.

“That is why, under my leadership, housing has been put front and centre of our plans to transform Scotland. Labour will argue for more innovative ways to build homes for social rent, and deliver the radical reforms the private rented sector needs to make it work for tenants.”




PRESSURE MOUNTS ON ROBISON OVER NHS TAYSIDE SCANDAL

5 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today written to SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to demand an investigation into the finances of health boards in the wake of the NHS Tayside scandal.

The party’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said a full investigation was necessary to ensure other health boards are not misappropriating charitable donations.

Earlier this week, it emerged NHS Tayside had used money from its charitable trust to fund a new computer system.

Scottish Labour is also demanding an urgent investigation into the NHS Tayside case – and is urging Ms Robison to make sure other health boards are not engaging in similar practices.

In his letter, Mr Sarwar said:

“Public confidence in our NHS has been damaged by this incident. An investigation would, at the very least, help restore some of that lost confidence, particularly for those families who have given money to NHS Tayside’s charitable trust in good faith.

“The reality, however, is it is not just the patients and residents of Tayside who have been affected by this incident. Such behaviour clearly has national ramifications and will cause deep concern across the country.

“That is why, while an investigation into NHS Tayside specifically is essential, we also need to establish whether or not such practices have been carried out more broadly.”




FURTHER FAILURE ON DELAYED DISCHARGE AS BROKEN PROMISE TOPS £370 MILLION

4 April 2018

The cost of the SNP’s broken promise on delayed discharge has now cost Scottish taxpayers more than £370million.

Scottish Labour recently revealed that at least £360million had been lost to delayed discharge since SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s pledge.

But new figures for February 2018 reveal 38,394 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed.

That means that a total of 1,596,175 days have been lost to delayed discharge since Ms Robison pledged to eradicate it, costing the NHS an estimated £371,908,775.

On Wednesday February 25 2015, the SNP Health Secretary told the BBC Good Morning Scotland Programme that: “I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

Meanwhile, A&E wards across Scotland have also once again failed to meet the SNP government’s waiting times target, and the number of operations cancelled because hospitals could not cope has increased compared to this time last year.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Just last week, Scottish Labour revealed that, despite SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s promises, her failure to get a grip of delayed discharge has cost our health service more than £360million.

“Now these latest figures prove that the problem continues to cost our NHS millions of pounds. Shona Robison’s broken promise on delayed discharge has now cost Scottish taxpayers more than £370million.

“That is a staggering figure that could have been reinvested in our NHS to deliver better patient care and staff support.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of years of an SNP government slashing local authority budgets, with £1.5billion cut since 2011.

“Labour’s alternative would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a National Guarantee for care workers, ensuring all care workers are given appropriate training, paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel.

“That’s the kind of radical change our health and care services need.”

Commenting on the latest A&E figures, Mr Sarwar added:

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s silence on the delays in our A&E wards is deafening.

“It is clear there are real pressures in emergency wards across Scotland. The fact that almost a half of patients had to wait longer than four hours at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary is extremely concerning.

“The reality is the SNP has left our doctors and nurses over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced.

“We have already established a Workforce Commission to tackle the SNP’s staffing crisis in our health service – and Labour would use the power of the Scottish Parliament to deliver more investment to build an NHS that works for the many, not the few.”

Responding to the figures for cancelled operations, Mr Sarwar said:

"Patients are not getting the care they need because hospitals simply do not have the capacity to cope.

"SNP ministers need to ask hard questions as to why staff are not better supported. We know that NHS staff don't believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, and the numbers of cancelled operations show that SNP ministers need to act.

"With so many patients being denied treatment and living in pain it is not sustainable for ministers to bury their heads in the sand any longer."

Note : Delayed Discharge

In February 2018, 38,394 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is a decrease of 5% compared with 40,246 days in February 2017.

This means a total of 1,596,175 days have been lost to delayed discharge since Shona Robison pledged to eradicate it. This has cost the NHS an estimated £371,908,775

The average number of beds occupied per day in February 2018 was 1,371. In January, the daily average was 1,248.

At the February 2018 census point, there were 1,297 people delayed.

Of those delayed at the February 2018 census point, 1,077 were delayed more than three days. The most common reason for delays over three days was health and social care reasons (798), followed by complex needs (253), then patient and family-related reasons (26).




REVEALED: THE INDIVIDUAL COST OF SNP AUSTERITY

4 April 2018

Scottish Labour can today reveal the cost of SNP austerity to individual people across Scotland.

Analysis commissioned by the party shows that SNP cuts to council budgets since 2013-14 have cost residents in Edinburgh and Glasgow more than £200 a head.

Residents in Aberdeen are £111 a head worse off, East Lothian £129, East Renfrewshire £133 and Stirling £148.

Scottish Labour said the figures, provided by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), showed the price of SNP austerity for individuals across Scotland. Across all 32 local authorities in Scotland, spending has been cut by an average of £137 per head over the same period.

Scottish Labour has persistently called on the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and invest in lifeline services.

Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“These figures show the price of SNP austerity for individuals across Scotland.

“The SNP has slashed funding for lifeline services in recent years – and that translates as more than £200 a head since 2013-14 for people in Edinburgh and Glasgow. “It means residents in places such as Aberdeen, East Lothian and Stirling have lost more than £100 of spending per head over the last five years.

“That is simply shocking.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and invest in our lifeline services for the many not the few.”




SCOTLAND’S SQUEEZED PRIVATE RENTERS

2 April 2018

Scotland’s private renters are increasingly being squeezed into properties, as new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals that the number of overcrowded households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since 2012.

In 2012 10,000 households in Scotland’s private rented sector were defined as overcrowded. By 2016, the year for which the latest figures are available, that figure had soared to 23,000.

A property is considered overcrowded if there are insufficient bedrooms to meet the occupants’ requirements.

Labour has made reforming the rented housing a priority and has pledged a ‘Mary Barbour law’ to radically change the private sector.

Named after the leader of the historic Glasgow rent strikes, the law would ensure proper standards in the private rented sector.

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill said:

“More and more of Scotland’s private renters are finding themselves squeezed into unsuitable accommodation. We cannot continue to ignore conditions in the fastest growing part of the housing sector.

“The private rented sector has grown dramatically in last 15 years but our laws haven’t kept pace to support tenants.

“Renting should be a secure and viable long term housing option, the means to live in a location that you choose and a way to save up for a deposit if you want to buy a home. However, for too many people it is none of these things.

“That’s why Labour is proposing a ‘Mary Barbour law’ to reform the private rented sector, so no one is overpaying for an overcrowded property.”




THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

1 April 2018

Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over a ‘great train robbery’ as analysis reveals some commuters in Scotland will spend 20 per cent of their monthly wage on rail fares.

Analysis from the party has revealed that someone on the typical gross salary in Scotland traveling from Edinburgh to Glasgow Central will have to fork out 20 per cent of their monthly wage for a season ticket – about £380 per month.

In comparison, a worker commuting from Étampes to Paris would spend just two per cent of the average monthly pay in France on rail tickets.

Labour said the figures strengthen the case for public ownership, where profits could be reinvested to reduce fares.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Colin Smyth said:

“SNP Ministers are presiding over a great train robbery – passengers are having their pockets picked in comparison to commuters on the continent.

“Ministers used to claim that the deal they agreed with Abellio was world leading – instead it is lagging behind other parts of Europe.

“Passengers are paying a fortune, often for delayed and overcrowded trains and when their train isn’t cancelled they can't be even be guaranteed to stop at the stations they are supposed to.

“This strengthens Labour’s case to bring the railways back into public ownership.

“While SNP Ministers are acting as cheerleaders for the privatised rail system, Labour is making the case to nationalise our railways including ScotRail at the earliest opportunity and deliver a public transport service that works for the many not the few.”




SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT NEED TO RISE TO BREXIT ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

29 March 2018

The SNP government needs to strengthen Scotland’s economy to prepare for Brexit, Scottish Labour said today.

With today marking a year to go until the UK leaves the EU, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said that Brexit made the challenge of tackling Scotland’s sluggish economy even more vital.

His comments come after two concerning economic reports published this week. The FSB reported that small Scottish businesses are not optimistic about the future compared to those in the rest of the UK and a Fraser of Allander report said the number of Scottish Government strategies and consultations were getting in the way of economic growth.

Mr Leonard said: “Both the UK and the Scottish governments need to be focused on ensuring the best deal for workers and the economy from the Brexit deal. Labour has consistently put them at the heart of our arguments around the deal that needs to be negotiated so we can rise to the challenges Brexit will undoubtedly present.

“Scottish Government analysis has forecasted a decline in productivity which will account for a 5.8 per cent reduction in our GDP. So, the challenges of Brexit reinforce a belief I have held for a long time - that a more pro-active approach to the economy is needed.

“Scotland has got to change. It has got to change in terms of how economic power is exercised and by whom. It needs a different and more active approach from government and the public sector. Critically it needs new forms of ownership and higher levels of investment and an economy where the proceeds are shared more equitably.

“Brexit, with all its challenges, only reinforces this need for a step change in how we sustainably develop jobs and our economy.

“The Scottish Government needs to act. Only Scottish Labour has an industrial strategy which will deliver the high skill, high wage economy Scotland needs, an economy that works in the interests of the many not the few.”

Mr Leonard was backed by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, who said the devolution project also needed new urgency as a result of Brexit, to re-empower Scottish councils and enable them to strengthen local economies.

On the final destination of powers returning from Brussels she criticised the Tories attempted power grab - and the centralisation of powers by the SNP at Holyrood.

Ms Laird said: “Labour established the Scottish Parliament and has led the way in adding to its powers. We have no intention of seeing that progress threatened in any way by Brexit.

"The governments should be working constructively now to ensure that additional powers coming back from Brussels end up where they belong. The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong. But we must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“Amid all of the challenges of our withdrawal from the EU, there is a wider opportunity here to take devolution to the next level - to re-empower and reignite the spark that local government provides to local communities.

“Now is the time to seriously devolve powers and funding to local government. Now is the time to develop stronger, local delivery channels, particularly in the areas of economic and skills development and industrial strategy.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to seize this opportunity and work with CoSLA on this issue.

“It is the many not the few who depend most upon council services, it is the many not the few who are hardest hit when these cuts are forced upon councils.

"The Scottish Government now has the opportunity to take bold and decisive action, to work with CoSLA about the powers and the funding that can be devolved directly to local government and invigorate economies and communities across Scotland.”




SNP AND TORIES UNITE TO BLOCK DEMANDS TO SCRAP UNFAIR COUNCIL TAX

29 March 2018

SNP and Tory MSPs have united to vote down a motion which said the unfair council tax must end.

The SNP came to power in 2007 pledging to abolish the tax – but after more than 10 years has not done so.

Labour supports calls to scrap council tax and has proposed replacing it with a new property tax that would see 80 per cent of homes pay less.

But SNP and Tory MSPs joined forces to block a motion calling for the current council tax system to end.

Scottish Labour’s Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said: “Like much else, instead of being radical, the SNP has joined forces with the Tories to oppose the principle of abolishing the hated council tax.

“The SNP came to power more than ten years ago promising to scrap the unfair council tax yet its successive governments have failed to do so.

“Now SNP MSPs have joined forces with the Tories, it is clear they simply can’t be trusted on council tax reform.

“Scottish Labour has put forward proposals which would see the council tax abolished and a new property tax introduced which would make 80 per cent of households better off and support councils having the choice to raise income in different ways including a tax on vacant land, a tourist tax and a social responsibility levy on alcohol sales.”




SNP KEEP SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS TO DWP SECRET

29 March 2018

29 March 2018 The SNP is keeping its payments to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for Scotland’s new social security system secret, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Nationalist ministers have agreed to pay the DWP for the use of its IT systems to administer payments – but are refusing to reveal how much this will cost Scottish taxpayers or the details of the deal.

The revelation comes after Audit Scotland suggested SNP ministers have not adequately budgeted for the implementation of the new social security system.

There are also concerns about the reliability of the DWP’s IT system, which will be depended on to deliver payments in Scotland.

Earlier this week it emerged some welfare payments were delayed because of what the DWP described as a “computer glitch”.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“This veil of secrecy from the SNP is deeply concerning.

“Audit Scotland has already warned that SNP ministers have not properly budgeted to deliver the new powers over social security.

“Now it emerges they won’t even be honest about how much taxpayers are handing over to the callous DWP to deliver payments for up to 5 years.

“There are also widespread concerns about the capability of the DWP systems, with payments not being delivered on time because of a glitch just this week.

“Scotland has the opportunity to build a radically fairer country with these powers – but SNP ministers must be honest if we are going to ensure we get the foundations of this new system right.”




LAIRD CALLS FOR DEVOLUTION OF POWERS TO COUNCILS AFTER BREXIT

28 March 2018

The Scottish Government should "take devolution to the next level” after Brexit, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird said today.

Ms Laird said it was time for a re- empowering of local authorities to “reignite the spark” they provide to local communities.

On the final destination of powers returning from Brussels she criticise the Tories attempted power grab - and the centralisation of powers by the SNP at Holyrood.

Ms Laird said: “Labour established the Scottish Parliament and has led the way in adding to its powers. We have no intention of seeing that progress threatened in any way by Brexit.

“The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong, but we must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“But amid all of the challenges of our withdrawal from the EU, there is a wider opportunity here to take devolution to the next level - to re-empower and reignite the spark that local government provides to local communities.

“Indications are that the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies will end up with more powers. That’s why Labour has and will continue to resist any power grab as a result of Brexit.

“But we also believe we should be working constructively now to ensure that additional powers coming back from Brussels end up where they belong.

"The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong.

"We must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“Now is the time to seriously devolve powers and funding to local government.

"Now is the time to develop stronger, local delivery channels, particularly in the areas of economic and skills development and industrial strategy.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to seize this opportunity and work with CoSLA on this issue.

“It is the many not the few who depend most upon council services, it is the many not the few who are hardest hit when these cuts are forced upon councils.

"The Scottish Government now have the opportunity to take bold and decisive action, to work with CoSLA about the powers and the funding that can be devolved directly to local government and invigorate economies and communities across Scotland.”




CONCERN OVER VIOLENT CRIME

28 March 2018

A new Scottish Government report suggests that the number of violent crimes are on the rise.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey has estimated there were 231,000 violent crimes over the course of 2016/17 – up from 186,000 in 2014/15, the date of the last survey.

This trend is supported by the number of reported violent crimes, which have also risen over the same period.

Scottish Labour said the figures suggested progress on reducing crime has stalled.

The figures also revealed a decline in the number of adults who believed the police were doing a good or excellent job.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“These are worrying figures that will concern people across Scotland.

“Surveys are just one way to measure crime, but it does appear to suggest that recent progress on reducing crime may be stalling.

“We already know that recorded violent crime is up, but this survey suggests a much larger increase – up by almost 1,000 cases a week.

“This report makes clear the SNP cannot simply rest on its laurels and tell us everything is fine.

"We need continued action to ensure crime rates fall, and that includes making sure police officers are properly resourced.”




Comment on Fraser of Allander report

28 March 2018

Commenting on the Fraser of Allander's latest Economic Commentary, Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The SNP has held back Scotland's economy for more than a decade, doing nothing but tinkering around the edges.

"SNP ministers' handling of business rates has been shambolic, their economic strategy is out of date and they are complacent about the lack of growth in the economy.

“Even the Nationalists own economic advisors are now warning that growth is so low that independence is even less feasible than previously thought.

"Labour is the only party to have developed an industrial strategy that will create high-wage, high-skill jobs - and we are the only party that would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and boost economic growth."




COMMENT ON AUDIT SCOTLAND SOCIAL SECURITY REPORT

28 March 2018

Commenting on the Audit Scotland report ‘Managing the implementation of the Scotland Acts’, which warns about the implementation of Scotland’s Social Security system, Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“This report must be taken seriously by the Scottish government.

“This is a vital year for delivering Scotland’s new powers over social security but it appears ministers have not adequately budgeted for how much this implementation will cost.

“Finding skilled staff is also a serious concern.

"Our public services are full of examples of the SNP government not being able to workforce plan adequately - that must not be replicated for Scotland’s new social security powers.

“Scotland has the opportunity to build a radically fairer country with these powers.

"The ability to do that must not be undermined by a failure to get the foundations right.”




SNP ACCUSED OF TRYING TO “STRONG-ARM” LOCAL GOVERNMENT ON PAY

27 March 2018

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of trying to “strong-arm” local government after COSLA offered a “take it or leave it” pay rise of three per cent to workers.

The offer made by COSLA, which includes pay for teachers, is to increase pay by 3 per cent for those earning less than £36,500.

But the group has refused to listen to any trade union representations on pay, choosing instead to make a “take it or leave it “offer.

Scottish Labour said the move was an attempt to strong-arm local government and absolve the SNP government for cutting more than £1.5billion from lifeline services since 2011.

The comments come after it emerged today that teachers could strike over a best and final pay offer.

Councillor David Ross, Leader of the Scottish Labour Group of councillors on COSLA said:

“As a Labour Group, we are disappointed by the terms of the pay offer made to local government workers, including teachers, by COSLA.

“This offer falls short and, by making this a ‘best and final’ offer, COSLA is undermining the process of collective bargaining that has been in place for many years.

“It is effectively saying ‘take it or leave it’ without being prepared to enter into any discussion on the merits of the trade union submissions.

“We all know that local government in Scotland is under severe financial pressure and has seen its funding cut and cut again over the past 10 years.

"It is clear that local government on its own, can’t afford to meet the trade union pay claims without further significant cuts to local services and jobs.

“But we should be prepared to sit down and discuss this with the trade unions, and further, we should be going back together to the SNP Government to press the case for additional funding for the pay settlement.”

Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP added:

“The reality is that tens of thousands of council jobs have already been lost to the SNP cuts to local budgets and the remaining council workers have had their wages frozen for far too long.

"Once again, we see the SNP government trying to strong-arm local government, ignoring the concerns of councillors and trade unions.

"Scottish Labour is the only party that argued for additional money for local government to deliver a pay rise and rather than issuing ‘take it or leave it’ threats to local councils, the SNP should be listening to the concerns of the workforce.”




Comment on AWPR

23 March 2018

Commenting on the announcement of the delay to the AWPR, Lewis Macdonald MSP said:

“This is a deeply worrying revelation that will concern businesses and families across the north-east.

“SNP Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Keith Brown has repeatedly insisted the AWPR works will not be affected by Carillion's collapse - but that now seems to be anything but true.

“The SNP has been sleepwalking through this crisis, leaving workers and businesses in the supply chain facing uncertainty.

“Even now, Keith Brown cannot give a definitive date for completion – and, given the SNP’s history of spinning completion dates, late Autumn could mean Christmas.

“SNP minister Keith Brown must immediately visit the north-east to reassure residents and businesses this will be the final delay to the AWPR.”

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP added:

“SNP Economy Secretary Keith Brown statement went on for 10 pages but failed to mention even once the rights of workers employed on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

“Last week, Labour raised the allegations of bullying and harassment of the workforce on the project, the breach of agency worker regulations, health and safety staff ignored and a sub-contractor who had deployed gangmasters in the past.

“At First Ministers Questions, we raised the use of umbrella companies and bogus self-employment.

“Nicola Sturgeon said it was a matter of choice – but it’s not a choice if you struggle to pay your mortgage, it’s not a choice if you don’t get sick pay, it’s not a choice when you don’t have a decent pension.

“We need urgent action from the SNP now, not warm words.”

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s comments around workers having a choice to be employed directly or not, Stevie Dillon, Unite Regional Officer, said:

“Unite Scotland has no knowledge whatsoever of workers on major infrastructure projects in Scotland being offered a choice of direct employment with major contractors.

“One system dominates this entire section of the industry. A recruitment agency approaches the worker with a job offer. If the offer is accepted the worker is then directed to sign up with a specific company – which will be one of the rip-off ‘umbrella’ contractors.

“The only choice the worker gets in this process is ‘take it or leave it.’ To suggest otherwise is frankly, mistaken.”




FMQS: EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS ON PUBLIC CONTRACTS MUST END

- Union disputes Sturgeon claims on employment


23 March 2018

The exploitation of workers on government funded contracts must end, Richard Leonard said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour leader again raised the issue of umbrella companies, funded by public contracts, charging workers to access their wages.

And he revealed that the practice not only happened on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route but also on the Waverley Platform Extension in Edinburgh.

A pay slip from a worker on the project reveals a ‘Sterling margin’ of £23 deducted from wages – Sterling the name of the umbrella company through which he was employed.

It was also revealed that no government minister or agency has approached the on site trade union following Richard Leonard raising concerns about worker exploitation on the AWPR.

The call comes as the Waverley Platform Extension is set to be handed to a new contractor, following the collapse of Carillion.

In her answer at First Minister’s Questions Nicola Sturgeon claimed that workers on the AWPR contract had a choice of whether or not to take up work as agency staff or as a direct employee – this is disputed by Unite the Union.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Last week I raised the serious issue of umbrella companies charging workers on Scottish Government contracts for the privilege of being paid their wages.

“Nicola Sturgeon said she was outraged by it but no one from her government contacted a trade union to investigate it.

“This exploitation is not confined to just one project. Workers on the Waverley Platform Extension just half a mile from the Scottish Parliament have also been charged just to get their wages.

“This is taxpayers’ money exploiting workers through unethical business practices half a mile from this Parliament and it is just not good enough.

“The Scottish Government should never underwrite the immoral exploitation of working people.

“That’s why Nicola Sturgeon should work with trade unions to protect the workforce, and ensure that no worker on government funded contracts is charged to receive their wages.”

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s comments around workers having a choice to be employed directly or not, Stevie Dillon, Unite Regional Officer, said:

“Unite Scotland has no knowledge whatsoever of workers on major infrastructure projects in Scotland being offered a choice of direct employment with major contractors.

“One system dominates this entire section of the industry. A recruitment agency approaches the worker with a job offer. If the offer is accepted the worker is then directed to sign up with a specific company – which will be one of the rip-off ‘umbrella’ contractors.

“The only choice the worker gets in this process is ‘take it or leave it.’ To suggest otherwise is frankly, mistaken.”




COMMENT ON CHILD POVERTY FIGURES

23 March 2018

Child poverty is rising in Scotland, according to new figures released .

The statistics show one in four children and one in five adults are now living in poverty.

Scottish Labour said the figures should shame the SNP and Tory governments.

Commenting on the figures, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson Elaine Smith MSP said:

“No one in 21st century Scotland should have to live in poverty –especially children.

“But these figures show that poverty rates in Scotland are continuing to rise.

“It is simply unacceptable that one in five people and one in four children are forced to live in poverty.

“That is why Labour proposed using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit and immediately lift 30,000 children out of poverty – but the SNP is joining with the Tories to block it.

“It is why we would end austerity, invest in our public services - and why we have presented an industrial strategy that would create more high-skilled, high-paid jobs.

“With 1,000,0000 people in Scotland living in poverty, we cannot afford to continue to tinker around the edges. The SNP reconsidering its alliance with the Tories to oppose Labour’s plan for a £5-a-week child benefit top-up would be a good place to start.”




TORIES ALL AT SEA ON BREXIT FISHERIES POLICY

23 March 2018

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland today slammed the Tories' approach to Brexit and UK fishing policy as "incoherent".

Lesley Laird said the pledge by Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove to “take back control of our waters” just a week ago had “spectacularly backfired”.

And she said the fishing communities of Scotland would no longer be able to trust the Tory MPs they had put their faith in at the last General Election, who had pledged that Scotland would be out of the Common Fisheries Policy by March 2019.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

"Today's fish-dumping stunt on the Thames by Nigel Farage – while the Scottish Tory MPs were all at sea with their chum, Jacob Rees-Mogg – exposes the truth about their party's incoherent approach to Brexit.

"Just as with their demands on Clause 11 and the need to protect the devolution settlement, they have once again been outmanoeuvred, outvoted and ultimately overruled.

"Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove's tough posturing on fisheries policy has spectacularly backfired. It’s proved as false as Mr Gove’s referendum fibs about extra millions for the NHS.

"Either they completely misjudged their party's position or that position has shifted dramatically in a matter of days.

"Scotland's fishing industry is either being sacrificed as a pawn in a much bigger game or it is not on Theresa May's radar at all.”

She added: "Every time the Scottish Tories fail to deliver for Scotland they are playing into the hands of the SNP and its politics of grievance.

"It is becoming clear that making any progress in Brexit talks will require compromise, but is the Scottish Tories themselves who have been left compromised by this latest fiasco.

"The SNP would like to posture on this too, but the truth is that their preferred option is to go straight back into the EU and therefore the Common Fisheries Policy.

"Only the Labour Party has a grown up approach to Brexit which is informed by the concerns of the fishing industry and would negotiate the best deal to support fragile coastal communities."




SWEENEY BLAST AT SNP'S 'SQUANDERED' WELFARE BILL

20 March 2018

The Social Security Bill, which is currently at Stage 3 of the Scottish Parliamentary process, transposes 11 reserved benefits into Scottish legislation and introduces powers to top up reserved benefits among other powers.

But the bill has been criticised as a ministerial power grab and a timid attempt to address poverty and the vicious targeting of the most vulnerable in society by the Tory government at Westminster.

At a Westminster Hall debate today on Scottish Welfare Powers, Shadow Scotland Minister, Paul Sweeney MP, attacked the empty rhetoric of a Scottish National Party which talks left in London and acts right in Edinburgh.

Mr Sweeney said: "The SNP resisted attempts to improve the Social Security Bill at every turn. It is further proof that they talk left and act right.

"Labour has won important concessions including preventing a means test on winter fuel payments, disability and industrial injuries benefits.

"But the SNP blocked a £260 a year child benefit top-up by joining forces with the Scottish Tories, and did the same to an amendment which would have enshrined the automatic splitting of Universal Credit to protect women from financial abuse – only to then introduce their own bill in Westminster days later that would achieve the same outcome.

"The only way to ensure real change and properly tackle poverty is by electing Labour governments north and south of the border.

"This another missed opportunity to deliver for the people of Scotland. Once again, powers have been devolved to Edinburgh then squandered.

"The Scottish Parliament's mission statement is 'to make a positive difference to the lives of the people of Scotland'. Sadly the SNP, in league with the Tories, have failed that test."




LABOUR DEFEAT GOVERNMENT PLANS TO ABOLISH FORESTRY COMMISSION

20 March 2018

Scottish Labour has defeated SNP Government plans to abolish the Forestry Commission in Scotland.

Successful amendments from Scottish Labour to the Forestry and Land Management bill during Stage 3 of the bill today (Tuesday 20 March) blocked the SNP government’s proposals to centralise forestry into government department.

Many organisations within the forestry sector, including the Royal Scottish Forestry Society, the Woodland Trust, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Ramblers Scotland, Reforesting Scotland, and the Forest Policy Group oppose the SNP’s plans for new forestry structures due to fears that it will see the loss of decades of forestry expertise.

Scottish Labour tabled amendments to the bill to effectively maintain the existing structure but to devolve it to the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Colin Smyth said:

“The handling of the devolution of forestry by the SNP government has been a shambles.

“Labour backs the overall Forestry bill but it was vital that it was amended to address the concerns of key stakeholders who fear that taking powers currently with the Forestry Commission and passing them to a government department was simply more centralisation.

“It was also clear that SNP plans would have made it easier to privatise the forestry estate which they tried to do in 2009.

“The SNP’s unsavoury attempts to push people into line behind those plans backfired spectacularly and failed to address the real concerns that their proposed new structures would lead to a loss of expertise.

“The Forestry Commission has been a successful brand and that would have been lost under the SNP’s centralisation agenda.”

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Claudia Beamish added:

“Scottish Labour fully supports the devolution of forestry but we need to get the new structures right.

“Labour’s amendments maintain the Forestry Commission but within a devolved settlement and adds a vital layer of parliamentary scrutiny.

“We don’t agree that turning the Forestry Commission into a department of the Scottish Government would have been the best way forward for forestry in Scotland.

“After 100 years of success by the Forestry Commission, forestry’s long term vision must be free from ministerial whim.

“In addition to blocking the SNPs plans to scrap the Forestry Commission, Labour also successfully amended the bill to ensure that climate change, deer management and biodiversity must be considered in the forest strategy.”




"RUST BELT" TORIES HAVE BRASS NECKS - ROWLEY

20 March 2018

The Labour Party's youngest MP, Danielle Rowley, today launched a scathing attack on a new attempt by the Tories to woo young voters.

The Conservative campaign, called FREER, launched by so-called "rust belt" Tory MPs, claims millenials can be won over by offering "social freedom and economic liberalism."

But Ms Rowley, MP for Midlothian, said it was already clear that younger voters rejected Tory austerity.

At last year's General Election 66 per cent of young people aged 18 and 19 voted for Labour, compared to just 19 per cent for the Tories and 62 per cent of those aged 20 to 24 voted Labour, compared to just 22 per cent for the Tories.

Danielle Rowley said: "These MPs have brass necks trying to sell free market economics to the generation most blighted by the damage those unfettered markets have done.

"This is the first generation who will end up poorer than their parents. They will not get the job security enjoyed by baby boomers and indeed are more likely than any other to be trapped in the zero-hours gig economy or on a minimum wage which bears no relation to the real cost of living.

"They will not enjoy the comfort of home ownership and, in a further bitter irony, the money young people pay in inflated rents to private landlords is often subsidising the kind of retirement lifestyle they will never know.

"And all this from the party which actively campaigns against giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote - because they know that young people will reject their false overtures when they are finally considered old enough to have an opinion.

"The Labour Party has, throughout its history, argued for policies which support working people from the cradle to the grave. We have always fought for the many and our manifesto at the last general election was incredibly attractive to young people across the UK which showed in the numbers who voted for our positive message."




RAIL INVESTMENT STRATEGY

19 March 2018

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government's rail investment strategy, Scottish Labour's Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"The reality is that for more than a decade the SNP has failed rail travellers across Scotland and passengers simply won’t believe a word when improvements are promised now.

"Passengers have been left facing delayed, cancelled and overcrowded trains thanks to SNP blunders and a failure to properly invest in our rail network.

"Major infrastructure projects are consistently behind schedule and over budget.

“While an initiative such as the Local Rail Development Fund is welcome, it is just a sticking plaster on a broken railway system that cannot be fixed by simply publishing a new strategy.

"Scotland's railways need the real change only Labour can deliver, including bringing ScotRail back into public ownership and radically reforming the way we procure major infrastructure projects.”




LABOUR REPEALS THE FOOTBALL ACT

16 March 2018

The SNP has been defeated and the controversial Football Act repealed thanks to a Scottish Labour bill.

Labour united opposition parties behind James Kelly MSP’s member’s bill, which has repealed the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (Scotland) 2012.

SNP ministers used their parliamentary majority between 2011 and 2016 to force through the Football Act.

It was the first piece of legislation passed at Holyrood with no cross-party support and has been repeatedly criticised by legal experts, fans’ groups and equalities organisations.

The repeal of the Football Act is the first major reverse of any SNP legislation since the SNP first formed a government in 2007.

Scottish Labour has now urged all parties to support proper investment in anti-sectarianism initiatives.

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly said:

“This legislation has been completely discredited and I am delighted that my bill has led to its repeal.

“Since the SNP government used its previous parliamentary majority to force the legislation through, it has been repeatedly criticised by legal experts, fans’ groups and equalities organisations.

“The law was a simplistic attempt to solve a complex problem. Sectarianism is a problem in Scotland that goes back generations. It can’t be solved in 90 minutes on a Saturday. The way to fix it is in classrooms and community groups.

“Now the Football Act has been repealed, I hope all parties can get behind the need to support proper investment in anti-sectarianism initiatives, which have seen their funding cut under the SNP.

“Opposition parties have united to defeat the SNP and repeal the Football Act – it is now essential every party unites to tackle sectarianism at source.”




WORKERS EXPLOITED ON FLAGSHIP GOVERNMENT PROJECT

15 March 2018

Labour today reveals worker exploitation on a flagship government infrastructure project.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard revealed the practice of umbrella companies charging workers to access their wages on the flagship Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

The practice sees money deducted from payslips and described as a ‘company margin’.

He also told how construction companies in Scotland use umbrella companies, including employment agencies, to pay staff working on government contracts, which allows them to dodge tax, cut costs and exploit workers.

In the case of the AWPR, workers employed on constructing the route, have been charged to be paid their wages from a number of umbrella firms, including DLP Payroll Solutions.

Workers have shared their payslips with Unite the Union, showing the “margin charge”.

The revelation follows a Labour led debate on public procurement earlier in the week, where the party raised concerns over workers’ rights on government contracts.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP government is handing over millions of pounds of public money to these companies and they are treating workers shamefully.

“Redacted pay slips from workers on the flagship Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route project show that they were being charged for the privilege of being paid.

“Workers have been blatantly exploited on a contract funded by the SNP government. SNP ministers now must take steps to ensure this never happens again.”




SPRING STATEMENT: AUSTERITY BRANDED A 'FAILED EXPERIMENT'

14 March 2018

Commenting on the Spring statement, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“It is time once and for all to end the failed experiment of austerity.

“The Tory handling of our economy has hammered wages and living costs. Workers are stuck in low paid, insecure work while the price of housing and rents have soared.

“Nothing sums up the Tory failure on the economy more than the shameful levels of poverty and inequality our country faces. All Philip Hammond has ever offered are tax cuts for big business and the rich, and public spending cuts for the rest of us.

“It’s time the economy started working for people, rather than people working for the economy.

“A Labour government would do things differently. We would ask the richest to pay their fair share and ensure the billions we spend on procurement works for the economy, not the shareholders of big business. Scotland could see a stimulus of £70 billion from a Labour government in the next decade.

“That’s the kind of radical change our country needs, to build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“Today’s Spring Statement showed more breathtaking complacency from a Chancellor who claims he can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“But his party’s discredited economic policies have brought the darkness of austerity to communities across the country.

“The underlying economic picture tells the true story – we now have the lowest growth in the G7, wages are stagnating and are still lower than in 2010 and every household is shouldering £22,000 of national debt.

“In Scotland, the only growth we see is in the use of food banks with a rise of 20% in the last year, and the numbers of children living in poverty – 260,000 children right now, with another 100,000 expected to be added to that number in the next four years.

“The roll-out of Universal Credit will go down in history as this government’s poll tax – this time targeting misery and devastation on the most vulnerable in our society.

“Mr Hammond asked us to judge him on his record – well we are, and those in insecure work and low paid jobs, and those in poverty will be doing the same.

“Only Labour will govern for the many. The Tories continue to – and have only ever – looked after the few.”




PLUMMETING ASN TEACHER NUMBERS BRANDED A ‘NATIONAL DISGRACE’

13 March 2018

Commenting on new analysis from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition showing escalating numbers of children needing additional support as specialist teacher numbers slump to a record low, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

"The plummeting number of ASN teachers under the SNP is a national disgrace.

“A government that has preached for years that education is the top priority has systematically cut off opportunities for vulnerable young people.

“This is the result of years of SNP cuts to local councils and the only way to fix this problem is to provide the funds councils need. That's why Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education."




LABOUR DEMANDS REVIEW ON CHRONIC PAIN WAITING TIMES

13 March 2018

Responding to the latest set of chronic waiting time figures, which have never been met since the government started regularly reporting performance in 2015, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“It is now time for a review on chronic pain waiting times. The standard has not been met since the government began regularly reporting performance, and there are clearly issues in certain health boards.

“Across Scotland over 7,000 patients had to wait longer than they should have to for their first appointment

“Ministers now need to ask tough questions about why this is happening. The failure on chronic pain waiting times ultimately just piles more stress onto other parts of the heath service.

“After a decade of SNP government, these figures are simply not good enough.”




A&E FIGURES REVEAL A HEALTH SERVICE UNDER SEVERE PRESSURE

13 March 2018 Commenting on A&E performance figures published today, which shows the SNP 4-hour target missed and more than 300 people waiting more than 8 hours for the week ending 04 March 2018, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS understaffed and under pressure. Patients aren’t getting the care they deserve because staff aren’t getting the support they need.

“A&E is the front door of the hospital but the all-round health service is not getting enough support – be it through public health, primary care or social care.

“Improving these key areas will reduce the pressure on our waiting rooms. Instead the SNP is lurching from one sticking plaster solution to another. It isn’t good enough and it lets patients down.

“That’s why Labour has launched a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint that will fix the SNP NHS staffing crisis and deliver better care for patients.”




MCDONNELL: £70 BILLION COULD GO TO SCOTLAND UNDER THE NEXT LABOUR GOVERNMENT

13 March 2018 The Shadow Chancellor speaking to the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee today (Sunday), set out plans for how the next Labour government will help to transform Scotland.

John McDonnell will explain how under Labour’s proposed spending plans, Scotland could get a “Labour dividend” in additional investment of up to £70 billion over ten years.

This will come from Labour’s plans for Scotland within our UK investments plans: £30 billion in Barnet consequentials if Labour’s 2017 general election plans were maintained over ten years.

£20 billion in capital investment for Scotland from Labour’s National Transformation Fund.

£20 billion in capital from Labour’s UK National Investment Bank proposals for a Scottish Investment Bank.

When taken together this amounts to a £70 billion dividend for Scotland in additional resources under the next Labour government.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, will say:

“Our commitment to additional spending on public services in non-devolved areas such as education, health, social care, and childcare, meant an additional three billion pounds of Barnett consequentials in 2022 for the Scottish Government.

“We also pledged an additional two hundred and fifty billion pounds of investment spending over ten years across the UK through our National Transformation Fund.

“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, delivering key investment such as extending HS2 to Scotland, and investing in the industries of the future by boosting research and development.

“Again, through the settlement on devolved funding, that would mean twenty billion pounds of additional investment in Scotland over ten years.

“And that’s not all.

“Our UK National Investment Bank will be capitalised and built up to deliver another two hundred and fifty billion pounds of lending over ten years.

“Investing in small and medium sized business … environmentally transformative projects … supporting industrial strategy and rebalancing Britain’s economy away from London and the South East.

“This could mean an additional twenty billion for the Scottish economy over ten years. “Compare that, by the way, with the measly three hundred and forty million pounds of initial capital budgeted by the SNP for their so-called Scottish Investment Bank.

“Taken together, our commitments over a decade could mean an additional seventy billion pounds for the Scottish economy.

“That’s seventy billion pounds of potentially additional spending to support a Scottish industrial strategy, to support renewable energy generation, to build more houses, create jobs, and support growth.”




SCALE OF NHS MISMANAGEMENT EXPOSED

7 March 2018

• Almost 1,000 operation cancelled because hospitals could not cope.

The scale of SNP mismanagement of the health service has been exposed, Labour said today, as new statistics reveal problems across the NHS.

Figures released by ISD Scotland reveal:

• Almost 1,000 operations cancelled because hospitals couldn’t cope in January.

• The national A&E target missed, with the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary falling below 70 per cent.

• An increase in nursing and midwifery vacancies in the health service.

• A decrease in GP numbers.

• Only 71 per cent of patients seen within the waiting time target for child and adolescent mental health services.

• Only 76 per cent of patients seen within the waiting time target for psychological therapies.

Labour said the sheer scale of the problems within the health service points to fundamental mismanagement of the NHS by the SNP over the last decade.

Scottish Labour has established a workforce commission to consider the staffing crisis in the health service and develop a blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“These figures point to a SNP government that has fundamentally mismanaged our health service for a decade. The time for short term, sticking plaster solutions must stop. These figures should be a makeup call for Health Secretary Shona Robison – the lack of support for staff means patients are not getting the care they need.”

On almost 1,000 cancelled operations in January because hospitals did not have the capacity to cope, Anas Sarwar said:

“More than 30 operations cancelled a day because our hospitals didn’t have the capacity to cope should shame this government. It is clear hospitals do not have the resources they need but ministers seem determined to bury their heads in the sand."

On staffing, Anas Sarwar said:

“This is shambolic workforce planning. We are seeing an increase in unfilled posts for nurses and midwives across the country while the number of GPs fall. It is no wonder health boards cannot hit the targets the SNP government set them – they don’t have the staff to do it.

“Our NHS staff do lifesaving work, but they are overworked and undervalued because the SNP has created a workforce crisis in our health service.

“That is why Labour has established a workforce commission to answer the long term problems with staffing in our health service, and give our NHS staff the support they need to deliver the care that Scots deserve.”

On mental health waiting times, Anas Sarwar said:

“There is a crisis in mental health services across Scotland and it letting vulnerable people down. Scotland is gripped by a mental health crisis.

"The figures for children and young people are especially worrying. Early intervention is needed, giving children and young adults the support they need, before anybody reaches the stage of needing clinical treatment.

"That is why Scottish Labour is calling for access to school-based counselling, a proposal the SNP government should finally listen to.”




Comment on adult apprenticeships

7 March 2018

Commenting on an FSB report that adult apprenticeships could help fill skills gaps, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“The SNP government too readily treat the apprenticeship programme as a numbers game, complacent on the detail and quality of the programme.

“Apprenticeships are a great way into work for people – but businesses need support to deliver them.

“A few years ago the SNP restricted apprenticeships to young workers, and although it reversed that to a degree, there is still a problem here.

"Apprenticeships are critical for young people getting into work, but that should not come at the expense of those looking to retrain or return to work.

“If Scotland is going to have a strong economy, we need people in skilled jobs at all ages.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to build a high-wage, high-skill economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP accepted a 'Budget for bankers' - Laird

6 March 2018

The SNP at Westminster accepted a 'Budget for bankers', Lesley Laird has said.

Writing for The Red Robin website, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird criticised SNP MPs for abstaining on the third reading of the Finance Bill.

The excuse given by the Nationalists was that they did not want to oppose measures which remedied the issue of police and fire service VAT liability.

However this partial fix for a problem of the Scottish Government’s own making was just a tiny part of the bigger Budget picture.

Lesley Laird said:

“The SNP, the party of perpetual grievance, which rightly condemned this Budget for its £500million cut to the resource block grant over the next two years, decided not to oppose it after all.

"Their spurious excuse for doing so was that the Budget resolved an earlier SNP Scottish Government blunder in centralising the police and fire services in Scotland without first securing an exemption from VAT.

"Emboldened by the SNP's compliance, the Tories have chosen to give a windfall to bankers rather than invest in public services, tackle poverty or inequality or invest in our young people.

"How cheaply the SNP's silence was bought – a resolution to the VAT farce going forward, but no refund of the millions already lost from police and fire budgets in the past four years.

“Silence too on a Budget which, combined with earlier cuts to the bank levy by George Osborne, amounts to a £4.7billion bonanza for bankers."

Lesley Laird added:

“Let there no longer be any doubt – there is only one party standing up to austerity at Westminster and at Holyrood and it is not the SNP.

“Opposing austerity means not rolling over for the Tories to tickle your tummy and throw you a few scraps.

“It means offering a principled alternative, not a watered down version of a bankrupt agenda.”




COMMENT ON IPPR SCOTLAND REPORT : ‘How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?'

5 March 2018

Commenting on How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?
, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality, Elaine Smith, said:

"This is an important contribution to the debate around tackling child poverty in Scotland.

“It is all very well for the SNP government to set targets for reducing child poverty by 2030, but this report highlights the scale of that challenge. It shows that bold action is needed right now.

"Labour agrees that we need a whole Scotland approach to tackling poverty.

"That's why our anti poverty strategy isn't just about social security, but also includes fixing our broken housing and energy markets, and ensuring better paid work with guaranteed hours.

"Reducing child poverty should be the overriding mission of every government, and run through the work of every government department.

“It is only a Labour government that will end austerity and poverty proof all policies to deliver the real and radical change that Scotland wants and needs."




LABOUR URGES LOW EARNERS TO CLAIM COUNCIL TAX EXEMPTION

5 March 2018

- Fewer than 2,000 households claim support

The SNP Government should be doing more to ensure low earners are claiming council tax exemption, Labour said today.

Freedom of information requests by Mark Griffin show that fewer than 2,000 households out of a potential 54,000 have been awarded the new benefit, which was introduced in April 2017.

The scheme was introduced to protect low income households being hit by changes to Council Tax band changes, was designed to exempt some households from the £110m Council Tax increases.

Up to a third of those eligible for the reduction are pensioners.

Labour has consistently pushed for Scotland’s new social security powers to deliver better cost of living support.

Scottish Labour’s social security spokesperson, Mark Griffin said:

“Over 50,000 households were meant to benefit from this exemption from higher council tax charges, but just a handful actually are.

“Struggling families and pensioners are missing out of key support and facing massive Council Tax bills as a result.

“Just days after voting down plans to top-up child benefit by £5 per week these figures show once again the SNP like to talk the talk on poverty, they aren’t up to the job of helping Scotland’s poorest.

“Labour pushed the SNP into doing more work to ensure everyone gets the benefits that they are entitled to, but these figures highlight just how little they are doing to help.

“We need to see more action from the SNP to boost take-up, and getting people the support they deserve."




SNP MUST START LISTENING TO NHS STAFF - SARWAR

3 March 2018

SNP ministers must start listening to NHS staff, as a new survey reveals the strain on health service workers.

The Health and Social Care Experience report reveals that only around a third of staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly – a figure which drops to 20 per cent for Scottish Ambulance Service staff.

Meanwhile, less than half believe they have enough time to do their job properly.

The results are published days after Labour revealed a huge increase in unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar has established a workforce commission to look at the staffing gaps in the health service and deliver a blue print to fix it.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“This week we have seen extraordinary stories about NHS staff battling through the snow to get to the hospital and deliver the care patients need.

“That shows the incredible commitment NHS staff have to their jobs, but they are being badly let down by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame that only a third of health service staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, with less than half believing they have the time to do their job properly.

“Labour has been warning about a staffing crisis in our hospitals for years – if Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t listen to us she should listen to the staff, and make a start in fixing this mess.”




SNP DAY OF SHAME ON CHILD BENEFIT

1 March 2018

The SNP has voted with the Tories to block a Labour amendment to deliver a child benefit top up of £5 a week.

Nationalist MSPs joined forces with Conservatives to vote down amendments by Scottish Labour to help over 500,000 families in Scotland.

Labour’s amendment would have deliver the ‘Give Me 5’ campaign call to top-up child benefit, which would have immediately lifted 30,000 children out of poverty.

But in a vote in the social security committee, the SNP and the Tories aligned to defeat Labour’s plan.

Scottish Labour’s social security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“The SNP has joined forces with the Tories to stop a plan that would have lifted 30,000 children out of poverty.

“Labour’s amendment would have delivered a child benefit top up of £5 a week, which would help families right across Scotland.

“SNP MSPs like to talk the talk on child poverty, but now they have shown their true colours by not putting their money where their mouth is.

“The SNP and the Tories had the chance to lift 30,000 children out of poverty – but instead they aligned to stop it.

“Only Labour will deliver real change for Scotland’s children.”




POSITIVE DESTINATION FIGURES EXPOSE SCOTLAND’S CLASS DIVIDE

28 February 2018

New figures outlining what young people do after they finish secondary school has revealed Scotland’s class divide.

A new statistical publication, ‘Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers’ reveals that the poorest young people had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to further education at 37 per cent.

Colleges have been hammered by ten years of SNP government, with 140,000 fewer college place under the Nationalists.

Meanwhile young people from the richest backgrounds had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to university.

Just 24.9 per cent of the poorest school leavers go on to higher education, compared to 60.6 per cent of those from wealthier families.

The figures are the latest set of school leaver statistics to include zero-hours contract jobs as a positive destination for young people, after the SNP voted against Labour proposals to remove the jobs from the figures.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP promised a more equitable education system, but instead the stubborn gap between the richest and rest remains.

“In Scotland today,young people from the poorest backgrounds are more likely to go to college and less likely to go straight to university after school – but the SNP has slashed college places, with 140,000 fewer since 2007.

“That cut has closed off opportunities for working class young people – who are told by this government that a zero-hours contract is a ‘positive destination’ for them after school.

“The SNP should remove zero-hours jobs from these stats in the future, even if it makes it more difficult for them to spin the numbers. In the long term further education needs to properly funded.”




MISSED TARGETS AND FALLING PERFORMANCE ON KEY SNP NHS PROMISE

28 February 2018

A key Scottish Government promise on the NHS has seen missed targets and falling performance year on year, new figures released today shows.

In 2012 the SNP introduced the Treatment Time Guarantee, which gave patients a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

However new figures today show that only 80.4 per cent of patients were seen within the 12 week waiting time.

This compares to a performance of 86.8% during the equivalent quarter in 2016.

Other data just released shows: • Declining performance for outpatient waiting times

• The 18-week referral to treatment standard missed

• Declining performance and a missed target for key diagnostic test waiting times

• The A&E target missed again, with 201 patients waiting more than 8 hours

Labour said the figures revealed a health service bucking under pressure, and said a decade of SNP mismanagement had left the NHS understaffed and under pressure.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP made a promise – in fact ministers made a legal guarantee – that inpatient or day case treatment patients would receive treatment within 12 weeks for certain conditions.

“Instead new figures reveal that promise has been broken and that performance is sliding.

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS under staffed an under pressure.

"Patients aren’t getting the care they deserve because staff aren’t getting the support they need.

“That’s why Labour has launched a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint that will fix the SNP NHS staffing crisis."

On A&E performance Anas Sarwar said:

“A&E is the front door of the hospital but the all-round health service is not getting the support it needs – be it through public health, primary care or social care.

“Better support for our health service in these key areas will reduce the pressure on our waiting rooms. Instead the SNP is lurching from one sticking plaster solution to another. It isn’t good enough and it lets patients down.”




Commenting on the SNP government’s announcement of a Scottish Investment Bank

28 February 2018

Commenting on the SNP government’s announcement of a Scottish Investment Bank, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“After years and years of announcements but little action, the SNP is finally bringing forward plans for a Scottish Investment Bank.

“While this is welcome, it is disappointing that, even after all this time, the SNP is being so timid.

“Scotland’s economy desperately needs something much bolder and more ambitious.

“The SNP’s proposed Scottish Investment Bank is in danger of not having enough money to do the job required, to invest in business and grow our economy.

“The SNP should listen to Jim McColl - a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers - who was very clear in his evidence to the Economy Committee that we need to be much more ambitious.

“Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a Scottish Investment Bank worthy of the name, with £20billion of funding over the next decade – ten times more than the amount proposed by the SNP, because that’s what it takes to really transform our economy.”

Note :

Extract from Scottish Labour’s Industrial Strategy

The Scottish Investment Bank should become the industrial investment bank for Scotland, providing loans and equity shares, not as a last resort on the occasion of market failure, but as part of a much more proactive agent of economic change. Its function and capacity to act as a catalyst to stimulate investment from other sources should be strengthened. At the 2017 General Election Labour pledged to create a National Investment Bank – which would ensure that its Scottish equivalent had £20 billion of capital to lend. However, the result doesn’t mean the SIB should stand still. Scottish Labour believes the SIB can have a greater reach into local business communities. This could be done through utilising the resources of local financial institutions, Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and local government to ensure local opportunities are being maximised.





COMMENT ON MINIMUM UNIT PRICING

26 February 2018

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s recommendation that the minimum price per unit of alcohol should be set at 50 pence, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar said:

"Minimum unit pricing on its own will not be a sliver bullet to fix the harmful relationship many have with alcohol, we must also look to tackle the root causes of that relationship.

“As it stands the implementation of minimum unit pricing is set to hand the supermarkets a multi-million pound profit windfall. We believe that money should be clawed back and reinvested in improving public health.

“The legal provisions to enact a social responsibility levy have existed for seven years now, but SNP ministers have left them gathering dust on a shelf.

“The time has come to consider the levy as a way of investing to tackle inequality and Ill health. The SNP should not be afraid to stand up to big business when it comes to Scotland's health.“




COMMENT ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY COMMISSION REPORT

26 February 2018

Commenting on the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s report ‘Advice on the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Delivery Plan’, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality Elaine Smith said:

"This is an important report from the Commission, which correctly highlights the potential of Scotland's new social security powers to tackle child poverty in Scotland.

“After a decade in power there has been a sense of complacency from the SNP government when it comes to lifting children out of poverty.

"Labour would use the new powers to increase child benefit by £5 a week. That's a move that would lift 30,000 children out of poverty. We would take action to end the brutal impact of the benefit cap on families across Scotland.

"The Commission is also right to highlight the need for a cross-departmental approach – we need to see better quality housing in the right places and the use of the powers of procurement to drive up wages while ending zero hours contracts.

"Instead we have an SNP government that takes Tory austerity and passes it on to Scottish communities.

“Councils have faced £1.5billion of cuts since 2011 - but councils remain the last line of defence against austerity, and the frontline in tackling poverty. “




REVEALED: 20 YEAR WAIT FOR WASPI WOMEN FOR ANSWERS TO COMPLAINTS

26 February 2018

It could take two decades for complaints by WASPI women to be investigated by the DWP, Scottish Labour revealed today.

Freedom of Information requests from campaigners and Parliamentary questions from Labour’s Ged Killen MP, have shown there are just three people dealing with more than 2200 complaints from women who have missed out on their pensions.

At the rate of progress it could take the government’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE) 20 years to clear the backlog.

Scottish Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Ged Killen said: “The Tory government has once again seriously underestimated the scale of the problem incurred by its reforms to the equalisation of the state pension age.

“The snail’s pace at which the government is processing complaints by WASPI women, because of woeful understaffing, means that these women may have to wait longer to get a response to a complaint than they would have to wait to receive their pension.

“Once again the government has shown its willingness to legislate without taking full account of the human cost.”

ICE was set up to investigate complaints from WASPI women regarding the equalisation of the state pension age.

According to FOI answers received by the WASPI campaign in November, the DWP has just three staff members investigating thousands of complaints.

But the scale of complaints and under resourcing has been further highlighted in answers to Parliamentary questions received by Ged Killen.

There are currently 2,205 complaints which are currently being processed by ICE. This includes 369 being assessed by the department on whether the case should be examined, 36 currently being investigated and 1,800 awaiting investigation.

Mr Killen added: “Since ICE was tasked with examining WASPI women complaints at the beginning of October, just 44 investigation reports into complaints about the equalisation of state pension age have been issued.

“The average waiting time for a response to a complaint is currently 9.75 weeks. At this rate, it would take 20 years for the DWP to finish examining the 2,205 outstanding cases.

“WASPI women already face huge disruption to their future financial plans.

“ The government needs to introduce a service standard so that WASPI women are not required to wait, wait and wait some more when they raise a grievance.

“The Department for Work and pensions has, however, refused them even that courtesy”.




FOUR-FOLD INCREASE IN UNFILLED NURSING POSTS

25 February 2018

Unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service have increased four-fold since Nicola Sturgeon cut training places as Health Secretary in 2011.

The nursing and midwifery student intake dropped from 3,505 in 2010/11 to 2,713 in 2012/13.

That generation of students is soon to finish graduating – with the latest figures showing 2,789 unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.

That represents a 353 per cent increase since 2011, when the first round of cuts began and the vacancies have steadily grown every year since.

Speaking in 2012, as she announced a cut of around 300 places for the 12/13 academic year Nicola Sturgeon said: “A reduction in intake for the 2012 academic year is a sensible way forward. The intake sets a balance between ensuring the right number of nurses and midwives for the future while also minimising the risk of oversupply and graduate unemployment.”

At the time the Royal College of Nursing warned: “...all the evidence we’ve gathered shows that this further cut in numbers in 2012-13 risks there not being enough professionally qualified nurses graduating to meet the demand for health services in the future and that this cut will be bad for patient care.”

Labour has set up a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fix the staffing crisis in the health service.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“When Nicola Sturgeon decided to slash training places for nurses and midwives, she claimed it was a sensible decision.

“Instead that generation of students graduate to a health service that has seen the number of unfilled posts soar every year since.

“During that period nurses, along with the wider public sector workforce, have faced a pay restraint policy which has forced staff out of the profession or into private agencies.

“Our hospitals simply don’t have enough staff – and that is a consequence of decisions made by Nicola Sturgeon when she was Health Secretary.

“It was a spectacular error of judgement that has piled the pressure on our hospitals, and let patients down.

“Labour has established a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fox the staffing crisis in our health service.”




MCDONNELL CALLS ON THE SNP TO TRULY END AUSTERITY IN SCOTTISH COMMUNITIES

24 February 2018

The Shadow Chancellor is out on the stump today (Saturday) in Midlothian, Clackmannanshire and Glenrothes speaking to activists and local councillors.

He will call on the SNP to truly end austerity and provide the funding local communities desperately need in Scotland as a result of failed Tory economic policy and the SNP’s public sector pay restraint.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“Communities across Scotland have been suffering for too long under the impact of austerity. The SNP could have adopted Scottish Labour’s plans to halt austerity in Scotland, but they chose instead to pass a budget that doesn’t deliver a pay rise for the local government workforce and will leave lifeline local services under pressure.”

“Scottish Labour offered a budget for real change for Scotland that would have delivered a near £1 billion stimulus for the Scottish economy, secured an additional £100 million for the NHS in Scotland and a fully funded pay rise for all public sector workers. The SNP should stop playing politics with people’s lives, and listen to Richard Leonard’s plans to truly end austerity in Scotland.

“The truth is that only Labour at Holyrood and Westminster can provide the investment that the NHS, councils, higher education and all other public services in Scotland desperately need."




MCDONNELL CALLS ON UNIVERSITIES TO GET BACK ROUND THE TABLE WITH UNIONS

23 February 2018

The Shadow Chancellor attended a “teach-in” organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) today in Glasgow, where workers were protesting against plans by universities to reduce their pension rights.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“I went to the teach-in at Strathclyde and the picket line at Glasgow to express my solidarity with lecturing staff fighting to protect their pensions.

“I am also today meeting with university principals in Glasgow and I intend to directly raise my concerns about this attack on staff pensions with the principals when we meet.

“I will impress on them the urgent need for employers get back around the table, negotiate a decent settlement and stop threatening the pensions these lecturers now have.

“Higher education is entirely depended on recruiting and retaining staff and attacking and undermining pensions can only impact on that.

“Rest assured the next Labour Government will do everything to protect workers and their pensions while providing the investment that all our public services need to function and recruit and retain the staff that are the very lifeblood of all our public services.”




COMMENT ON EDUCATION CUTS

24 February 2018

Commenting on analysis from TES Scotland which shows education spending set to face cuts, including reductions in teacher numbers and local education budgets, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government claims that education and closing the attainment gap is its number one priority yet it is introducing a budget that will have a devastating impact on schools across Scotland.

“Local council budget plans show that councils across Scotland are being forced to look at cost cutting measures, some as severe as reducing the number of teachers. We’re already 3,500 teachers down since the SNP came to power and schools are already struggling because of the £1.5 billion cuts in local authority budgets in recent years.

“Further cuts to education services will have a direct impact on the attainment of our children.

“It is time the SNP used the powers of the Parliament to invest in local services and the future of our children.”




RBS SHOULD REVERSE BRANCH CLOSURES

23 February 2018

Commenting on today’s news of RBS profit figures, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“Today, the Royal Bank of Scotland reports a profit for the first time in a decade.

“However, it is concerning that the benefits of these profits do not seem to have filtered down to customers.

“This year, we’ve seen announcements of local branch closures to save £9 million while profits of £752 million are posted by the company, the CEOs salary hit £3 million and fatcat bonuses have sky rocketed.

“It is increasingly clear that the taxpayers who bailed the bank out to the tune of £45 billion are at the very bottom of their list of priorities.

"In light of these profits, people will be increasingly angry that RBS plan to go ahead with branch closures. They should reverse these plans and keep the branches open."




LABOUR VICTORY ON WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS


22 February 2018


Labour amendments have ensured that pensioners will not be means tested for winter fuel payments.

MSPs have unanimously backed an amendment lodged by Mark Griffin MSP to the Social Security Bill to ensure pensioners’ payments are protected.

Disability benefit and employment injuries assistance - which covers industrial injuries – will also not be means tested after the Social Security Committee backed further amendments from Mr Griffin.

Scottish Labour said the amendments would help ensure protection for the most vulnerable in society.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“It is welcome that the Social Security Committee has agreed with Scottish Labour that winter fuel payments are not means tested and disability benefits must be rights-based.

“These amendments will protect pensioners, those people experiencing a disability and those who have suffered an injury at work.

“The most vulnerable people in society should not have to prove they need support – and I am delighted my colleagues from other parties have also agreed with that.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight to ensure the Social Security Bill is fit for purpose and protects the most vulnerable in society.”




CULTURE OF SECRECY AND SPIN IN THE NHS REVEALED

21 February 2018

A survey of health board members has revealed that almost 60 per cent believe their board is not always transparent with members of the public.

The anonymous survey into NHS corporate governance for Holyrood’s Health and Sport committee reveals that a total of 59 per cent of members do not believe their board is always open and transparent with the public about decision making.

In one damming reply, an anonymous board member said:

“We are terrible at admitting that we are financially constrained and pretend that decisions are based on clinical grounds when in most cases they are based on clinical, staffing and financial elements. The debate with the public is therefore fundamentally dishonest (and the public are not stupid).”

The responses are published with cuts and closures in the NHS in the spotlight. It is just weeks since the SNP government chose to shut down the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Neil Findlay will lead a debate around the repeated closure of St John’s children’s ward to out-of-hours in patients in Livingston.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The survey reveals the impact of financial constraints from the SNP government to our health boards, leading to a culture of secrecy and spin.

“The responses suggest that health boards may be being forced into claiming decisions are based solely on clinical reasons, rather than due to financial pressure and staffing gaps.

“That simply is not good enough. SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison should explain why there are such transparency problems at these health boards.

“The reality is our health service has been treated to a series of sticking plaster solutions from the SNP government rather than the support it needs to deliver the care Scots deserve.

“Support for primary and social care isn’t good enough, which piles up pressure on acute services, meanwhile a staffing crisis means huge unfilled gaps in the workforce.

“That’s why Labour has set up a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint to solve the NHS staffing crisis, to deliver the care Scots deserve.”




Comment on latest unemployment figures

21 February 2018

Commenting on the latest employment figures, showing unemployment has risen by 0.5 per cent, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“These figures once again lay bare the extent of SNP and Tory mismanagement of our economy and their lack of an industrial strategy.

“In Scotland, unemployment is up, economic inactivity is up and employment is down. For SNP ministers to bury their heads in the sand and blame Brexit simply is not good enough.

“What’s more, we also see wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, squeezing pay packets and making the situation worse for many families who are already struggling to get by.

“This is unacceptable and it needs to end. The government should be using the £11billion a year we spend on public contracts and procurement to drive up labour standards, pay more workers a real living wage and ban zero hours contracts - because falling income and security for workers leads to falling productivity.

“Unlike the SNP and the Tories, Labour would build a high-wage, high-skill economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP FAIL TO SUPPORT PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF OUR RAILWAYS

20 February 2018

Scottish Labour has criticised Transport Minister Humza Yousaf after he failed to back the party’s plans to take ScotRail into public ownership.

Earlier this week it emerged ScotRail had received record fines totalling £3million because of its poor performance.

That was followed on Tuesday with chaotic scenes across Scotland’s rail network, with hundreds of trains being delayed or cancelled.

It has also recently emerged that the number of carriages on trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh will be cut amid delays to the arrival of new rolling stock.

Scottish Labour said Mr Yousaf was more interested in “praising and propping up a broken privatised system” than in making Scotland’s railways work.

Mr Yousaf was directly asked if he supported public ownership of ScotRail, but failed to do so.

Speaking after he raised ScotRail’s performance with SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf at Holyrood, Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“ScotRail’s performance has been nothing short of shambolic.

“This is unacceptable, but SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf still chooses to praise and prop up a broken privatised system.

“Just this week we have seen ScotRail not only receive record fines - but we have also once again seen commuters and families facing cancellations, delays, missed stops and overcrowded trains.

“Warm words are not enough – Humza Yousaf needs to get a grip.

“Scottish Labour would end this shambles by taking Scotland's railways back into public ownership and building a rail service that works for the many, not the few.

“It is disappointing that the SNP want to continue to support a privatised railway system that has come to the end of the track.”




Comment on the Fire Brigades Union passing a vote of no confidence in senior managers

19 February 2018

Commenting on the Fire Brigades Union passing a vote of no confidence in senior managers, Scottish Labour's Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

"Firefighters and all public sector workers deserve a real pay rise after years of SNP and Tory austerity.

"But that cannot come at the cost of hundreds of jobs or totally changing the role hard-working professionals play in the make-up of our emergency services.

"The reality is the SNP has failed to support our emergency services, leaving them under-staffed and under-resourced.

"Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a much needed pay rise for public sector workers and invest in our emergency services."




Comment on reports that ScotRail has received record fines of £3million

19 February 2018

Commenting on reports that ScotRail has received record fines of £3million, Scottish Labour's Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"These are shocking reports, but sadly they come as no surprise.

"ScotRail has left passengers having to pay a small fortune for delayed and overcrowded trains - and even when trains are not cancelled, they can't be guaranteed to stop at the stations they are supposed to.

"This is simply unacceptable, yet the SNP Government buries its head in the sand and pretends everything is fine .

"Scottish Labour would take Scotland's railways back into public ownership and build a rail service that works for the many, not the few."




LABOUR URGES SNP TO SUPPORT PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF EAST COAST MAINLINE

16 February 2018

Scottish Labour has urged the SNP to support its calls to take the East Coast mainline back into public ownership.

The party’s Rural Affairs and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP has written to SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf urging him to back the plans.

The UK Government recently announced the Stagecoach franchise would be terminated early – allowing the opportunity for the key route to be taken back into public hands.

In his letter, Mr Smyth said:

" I am writing to urge you and the Scottish Government to publicly support Labour's calls for the East Coast mainline to be renationalised following the collapse of its franchise.

"The decision by the UK Government to sell-off the franchise to Stagecoach was a betrayal of taxpayers and the travelling public. The failure of the Stagecoach franchise reflects the deep-rooted problems with our privatised railways but we now have an opportunity to put the East Coast mainline back into public hands.

"In the past the Scottish Government have claimed to support publicly-run railways in Scotland, so it is extremely disappointing that so far you have chosen not to support Labour’s call for a publicly-run East Coast mainline, particularly given how important these services are to passengers in Scotland.

"This is a highly profitable route, and it is one that thousands of Scots rely on each day. From 2009 to 2015 the route was publically run, raising more than £1 billion.

"Returning it to public hands would not only ensure the best service for customers, but it would provide a boost to public finances.

"I hope that you will reconsider your position, and that you and the Scottish Government will support Labour’s calls for a publicly-run East Coast mainline. "




RICHARD LEONARD WELCOMES FORMATION OF "SCOTLAND UNITED AGAINST TRUMP" COALTION

15 February 2018

Commenting on the meeting of organisations and campaigners against a Donald Trump visit to Scotland at the Unite the Union offices in Glasgow , Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, said:

“Today has shown there is a lot of anger at the prospect of Donald Trump coming to Scotland and a strong desire to show that he is not welcome here.

“I am appalled at the prospect of President Trump coming to this country on a state visit.

"It is my view, and that of the Scottish Labour Party, that someone who holds such misogynist, racist and anti-trade union views, not to mention dangerous beliefs on foreign policy and peace in the world, and who rejects the Paris Climate Change Agreement, should not be given the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

“So I am delighted to be involved in what will be a broad coalition of organisations and campaign groups to protest against any red carpet treatment laid on for this divisive figure. I hope that Scotland United Against Trump, as the coalition will be called, will ultimately ensure there is a mass protest against any such visit."




EXPERT REPORT BLOWS £160M BLACK HOLE IN SNP CHILDCARE POLICY

15 February 2018

An expert report has revealed a £160million shortfall in the SNP’s flagship childcare policy.

The report from the Accounts Commission reveals that raising the amount of free early learning childcare to 1,140 hours per year by 2021 is set to cost Scottish councils £1billion.

However, the SNP government’s own forecasting expects funding of the policy to be £840million – creating a spending black hole of £160million.

The report says there are ‘significant risks’ that councils will not be able to expand funded places due to issues such as workforce planning.

The government’s own estimates state that 8,000 additional whole time equivalent staff will be needed to deliver the expanded entitlement.

However the report says the Scottish Government ‘has not yet done enough to ensure they will be in place on time’.

The commitment to increase the hours of childcare entitlement by the end of this parliament, from 600 to 1140, was a key part of the SNP manifesto during the 2016 elections.

The report also details issues with the 600-hour entitlement, such as a postcode lottery in local provision.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray, said:

“This independent report blows a £160million black hole in a flagship SNP Government policy.

“Raising the amount of free childcare families are entitled too has been a cornerstone of the SNP’s offer to families – but this report reveals that, not only does the Scottish Government not expect to fully fund it, but that it is also miles behind the levels of staff recruitment needed.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“Instead, the SNP has slashed council budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011, and it is working families who will miss out.

“Labour’s alternative means using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the richest to pay their fair share so we can fund local services, not continue to cut them.”




CORBYN SCOTTISH CAMPAIGN TOUR TO PLEDGE INVESTMENT INTO EVERY PART OF SCOTLAND

12 February 2018

Jeremy Corbyn will join Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard on a series of campaigns stops in Selkirk, Midlothian and North Ayrshire over the course of this week.

Jeremy Corbyn will pledge the next UK Labour government will invest in every part of Scotland and leave no community behind – from the urban communities of the central belt, to rural areas of the south and islands of the north.

Speaking in advance of the campaign tour, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“Our economy is broken. It is failing people right across Scotland, forcing 260,000 children into poverty, while more and more people in work are unable to make ends meet. These problems blight every community in Scotland: from Saltcoats to Selkirk and Stornoway we urgently need to transform a rigged system.

“The Tories serve the few, with tax cuts for the richest - and falling pay and cuts in public services for the rest of us. The SNP are too timid to take on the elite who are holding our people back.

"Scotland needs Labour governments in both Westminster and Holyrood with the strength and the will to work for the many, not the few.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Poverty doesn’t respect borders. The impact of austerity isn’t confined to the central belt of Scotland and neither will Labour’s response to it be.

“Labour’s plan to protect public services, boost wages and tackle inequality will benefit everyone.

“In a country where the richest one per cent own more personal wealth as the whole of the poorest 50 percent, something needs to change. Communities are being left behind. Only Labour has the plan and the political will to deliver the real change Scotland needs.”




Richard Leonard : speech , David Hume Institute

5 February 2018

Good evening.

I want to thank the David Hume Institute for the invitation to speak tonight and for the important role it performs in providing a forum for serious and informed policy debate in Scotland.

Too often in our fast-paced world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, real debate and robust intellectual scrutiny of political ideas and policies can be overlooked in favour of a quick-hit headline, and an emotional rush in response.

Never is that clearer, than during the coverage of great political upheavals, be they constitutional referenda or the election of a President with itchy Twitter fingers.

Of course, Brexit is where most of our current political attention is focused.

Our newspapers, televisions, radios – and our smartphones – give us every alarmist twist and turn of the negotiations, inviting us to feel horrified or assured in our opinions in equal measure.

As a result, serious, informed, scrutiny is rarely on offer.

Institutes like this venerable one, are vital for giving us that space.

So thank you again for the work that you do.

David Hume would no doubt have found the EU referendum and its outcome endlessly fascinating given his interest in human nature, and the differences which lie between perception and experience.

And, importantly the impact that those differences have on our judgements and whether we always act in our own self-interest.

I have a feeling there could be a fine treatise written on that by a Hume scholar sometime soon .

The title of the series of speeches this year though is Scotland after Brexit .

It is hard to imagine that such a time will come, given how tortured the process has so far been.

And I should confirm that I am happy to accept this title in the spirit of heuristic endeavour and inquiry.

As it happens I do believe that the UK will leave the EU and that Scotland will remain part of the UK, but I accept that there are people engaged in the debate who take an opposite view on both of these points!

Some of my formative political experience came as a researcher to the late Alex Falconer who was the Labour MEP for Mid Scotland and Fife from nineteen-eighty-four to nineteen-ninety-nine.

I worked with him during those years when the foundations for the European Single Market were being laid, when the Single European Act was being guillotined through Parliament, when Economic and Monetary Union was being envisaged, and our priorities were then, all those years ago, as they are now today, around how best to promote the interests of working people, how best to build an economy that works in the interests of the many not the few.

So I bring a long view to this new challenge.

Let me be clear that I voted to Remain, and I campaigned for a Remain vote.

This was in part because of the level of economic integration that was evident after forty-five years of membership of this economic club.

It was my belief then and now that leaving would bring with it an economic shock.

But I also campaigned for a Remain vote because of the xenophobia which underpinned the predominant elements in the Leave campaign.

So I voted and campaigned for a Remain vote.

But I understand that no matter how you cast your vote, you undoubtedly did so in the belief that it was for a better future.

No one voted to be poorer.

No one voted to narrow the options of their children or grand-children.

We always vote in the belief that what comes after has to be better than what went before.

Unfortunately, my side lost – something my detractors will no doubt suggest I’ve had to get used to in recent years.

So here we now are: in the process of leaving the European Union.

And as a result, facing unique challenges, in uncharted waters.

It is the way we approach these challenges which will decide whether they will become opportunities, or threats.

To that end there needs to be a plan.

And in my estimation there simply isn’t one .

While the twenty-seven other EU member states act in consort, the UK government is in disarray with the divisions in the Cabinet plain for all to see :

whether it is the continual opposing statements of Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson, or whether there are, or are not, any Brexit impact statements.

Three little words the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis has nightmares about.

The Scottish Government does appear to be more focused – but not necessarily focused on what is right for Scotland.

As always their approach is more about what is right for the SNP.

So on the one hand we have a Tory Government intent on turning its back on the European Union Single Market and turning its back on Europe

And on the other is an SNP Government intent on turning its back on the UK Single Market - on England, Wales and Northern Ireland , this even though four times as many Scottish jobs depend on exports to that Single Market as depend on exports to the EU.

The SNP position uncritically in favour of an ever deepening of the EU Single Market

Whilst at the same time advocating a dramatic breach with the rest of the UK and the economic and monetary union which underpins it, is illogical and incoherent.

Indeed, the whole SNP approach to Brexit is – in my view – intellectually and economically dishonest – and I’ll get to that later.

But Scottish Labour is clear, Labour in Westminster, is clear: the government needs to put our economy and jobs at the heart of the Brexit negotiations so we can rise to the challenges it will undoubtedly present.

Migration is one such important challenge.

Yet according to the Scottish Government’s own worst-case scenario analysis, published two weeks ago, which focused in their own words to “highlight the likely impact of a hard Brexit”, a fall in migration by 2030 will account for a two point five per cent decrease in Scotland’s income.

But in that very same analysis, a forecasted decline in productivity will account for a five point eight per cent reduction in our GDP.

It was the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman – a fan of David Hume, I believe, - who said,

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.

“A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.”

So, the challenges of Brexit reinforce a belief I have held for my whole time in the Scottish Labour movement - that a more pro-active approach to the economy is needed.

Consequently, Scotland has got to change.

It has got to change in terms of how economic power is exercised and by whom.

It needs a different and more active approach from government and the public sector.

Critically it needs new forms of ownership and higher levels of investment.

And an economy where the proceeds are shared more equitably.

Brexit, with all its challenges, only reinforces this need for a step change in how we do things.

If we do not do this in the context of Brexit we will simply drift further from the high skill, high wage economy Scotland needs.

The Scottish Government claims that the Scottish economy is both resilient and diverse. I wish it were so.

In fact, just fifteen businesses account for thirty per cent of the value of all of Scotland’s international exports.

Just ten companies account for forty-five per cent of the total value of business research and development.

Before Brexit, economic diversification was necessary through an active Scottish industrial policy with less market and more planning in the economy.

Now with Brexit on the horizon this is more urgent than ever.

And so we will be pushing for the establishment of a Scottish industrial policy.

And, quite separately, we will be pushing the UK Government for an active regional policy too, both of which should be aimed at the development of indigenous ownership growth including a new and burgeoning co-operative and employee ownership sector.

That is where my focus will be this evening – how we make Scotland a more productive nation.

But before I discuss what needs to happen to future-proof Scotland’s economy, let’s take a look at the Brexit process so far. If you can bare it!

When the Scottish Parliament was created, many people – myself included– fought long and hard to ensure that it would be more than merely a democratic replacement for power exercised by Ministers in the Scottish Office – important though that was.

It was established to be a Parliament with real power and with real authority.

One of my first tasks when I went to work as an Assistant Secretary at the Scottish TUC in nineteen ninety-one was to contribute to a consultation document the General Council instructed us to draw up called “Power For Change”.

It was a programme for action for the devolved Scottish Parliament we were campaigning for.

We didn’t simply demand the establishment of a Scottish Parliament for the sake of it: it was power we wanted for a purpose.

Ultimately then, the 1998 Scotland Act was unambiguous in its construction that everything that was not expressly reserved to Westminster was to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Unfortunately, the Tories appear to have forgotten that defining, founding principle.

In recent months, through the Brexit process, they have trampled all over the devolution settlement.

The EU Withdrawal Bill is not fit for purpose in terms of devolution, and the Tories’ authoritarian approach means an arrogant refusal to listen – even to its own Scottish backbenchers.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell is supposed to be Scotland’s man in the Cabinet but he certainly is not standing up for Scotland’s interests in his failure to have Clause eleven of the Bill, which specifically impacts on devolution, amended.

And what role has Ruth Davidson?

That is the problem. She let this disregard of devolution occur and this snub to the settled will of the Scottish people, on her watch.

As a result, in Holyrood we have voted against granting a Legislative Consent Motion as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently stands.

Playing fast and loose with the devolution settlement is unacceptable and the Labour Party, the Party which delivered devolution, will not stand for it.

Of course, this lack of trust in devolution from the Tories has been a straw for the SNP government to clutch at in its perpetual drive towards independence.

Yet, the SNP too seems to have no real idea what Scotland after Brexit should look like.

It has moved its position a number of times, from demanding full membership of the EU as an independent country, to retaining single market membership ; preferring EFTA to the EU ; and now back to full membership of the single market and customs union.

We should not be entirely surprised.

As Eric Hobsbawm put it “Nationalism has been a great puzzle to (non-nationalist) politicians and theorists ever since its invention, not only because it is both powerful and devoid of any discernible rational theory, but also because its shape and function are constantly changing.”

And disappointingly, we saw again that the constitution trumps all with the SNP, when its MPs refused to vote for our Labour amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have established new procedures for the creation of UK-wide frameworks for retained EU law.

Without doubt, the SNP, is using Brexit to push its usual agenda and agitate for another referendum; not to remain in the EU but to leave the UK.

Labour has, at all times, based its strategy on protecting the economy, jobs and the interests of working people.

The four principles behind Labour’s position are clear and unambiguous: -

• We respect the result of the EU referendum

• The UK will leave the EU

• By doing so we will leave the existing single market and the existing customs union

• Therefore, we will need to negotiate a new deal because on leaving the EU our membership of all existing treaties will end

Laid out like that it all seems so simple – doesn’t it?

Of course it is vastly complex.

Which is why Labour is playing a critically important role in holding the Tories to account during their haphazard handling of the Brexit negotiations.

We have been the effective scrutineers.

We have ensured that there will be a transitional period, to protect and stabilise our economy after the negotiations are completed and agreement is reached.

We have focused on outcomes that retain the benefits of the single market.

We have proposed the amendments to protect workers’ rights, the rights of EU citizens living here in the UK, the economy, the devolution settlements, the environment and more.

And that is why I can tell you tonight that I am fully confident that Labour will not vote for a Brexit deal that is bad for workers and bad for the economy.

When the time comes we will judge the deal on the six tests set by Keir Starmer:

• Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?

• Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?

• Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?

• Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?

• Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?

• Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?

Labour is clear.

We want a deal that is a good deal for the people of this country, not no deal and not a bad deal.

That must mean a deal that retains the benefits of the single market and customs union but which negotiates in other areas that we believe have not been as beneficial for the UK economy.

That is Labour’s focus, it will continue to be our focus and we will dedicate all our attention on that until agreement is reached.

So what happens after the UK leaves the European Union?

The challenges will be multiple, but thankfully there are solutions.

In recent times we have seen both the UK and Scottish Governments hide behind the rules of the EU in order to stop the passage of progressive legislation.

There is no doubt the EU has been used to force through a market based approach to some areas of public policy where markets should have no place.

In turn this has driven down growth in our economy, driven up job insecurity and driven down wages for working people.

Here in Scotland the Competition Framework for the non-domestic sector in the water industry has been affected in this way, as has the tendering of the contract for Calmac routes and for the Northern Isles ferry link.

It has had a part to play too in the award of the Scotrail contract to Abellio and was the basis for the Scottish Government’s refusal to make the Living Wage a necessary condition for private contractors carrying out public works and supply contracts during the passage of the Procurement Act in twenty-fourteen 2014.

Labour would have advocated a renewed reform agenda in these areas if we were remaining in the EU.

I also believe that there are times when the “Brussels defence” has been used as an excuse and that a robust stance particularly on the provision of lifeline public services could and should have been taken.

At a UK level too, a different approach was possible.

Reliance on the so-called Swedish Derogation to remove equal rights from Agency Workers bestowed by the EU Directive has been the subject of a legal challenge led by the TUC.

The provision of the so called “UK opt out” from the Working Time Directive has allowed for excessive working hours to prevail in breach of a measure designed to provide health and safety based rights for workers.

As a result, currently an estimated quarter of a million workers in Scotland routinely work in excess of forty-eight hours a week.

This is no way to run an economy. In my view we need to retain the provisions of the Directive like the right to paid holidays, the right to time off between shifts and the minimum rights to breaks – including the additional protection afforded to young people and over time end the opt out by managing a planned reduction of excessive working hours in such a way that earnings do not drop and new secure employment is created.

This should be seen in the context of automation and the need to drive up productivity.

We also want to see a transfer of powers from the European Union and its institutions to the Scottish Parliament not to Westminster and Whitehall.

So decisions in key areas like environmental regulation, agriculture, fisheries, public procurement and state aid should be put in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.

By protecting vital rights and opting for a more active approach to planning our economy the challenges of Brexit can be met head on.

For if the current state of play shows us anything, it is that an active approach is vital to ensure that we shape and nurture a resilient economy.

As I said earlier the SNPs approach to Brexit is intellectually and economically dishonest.

The Scottish Government’s paper on Brexit, notes that the EU Single Market will still be seven times the size of the UK market, after we leave.

But that is purely in terms of population.

The analysis fails to recognise that the UK market is worth four times as much to the Scottish economy.

Further evidence that an active approach is needed is illuminated in the Scottish Government’s a worst case scenario, in that foreign investment to Scotland would drop by almost a quarter.

As Ernest and Young’s Attractiveness Survey of Scotland notes Brexit will “be a major change to the overall trade position and as such requires a clearly defined strategy setting out Scotland and the UK’s trade strategy and how this will be realised”

This underlines the need for an active industrial policy to reduce uncertainty for employees and investors alike.

It underlines the fact that the private sector is dependent on state decisions.

It underlines the need for a real plan which stops Scotland just being a consumer nation, but once again turns us into a nation which produces what people need.

Economist, Professor Mariana Mazzucato recognises that a strong industrial strategy has many benefits and it is the best way the state can help drive economic growth. I agree.

Which is why Scottish Labour last year launched an industrial strategy which lays out the steps which need to be taken to shape a resilient economy and a healthy society.

It is a strategy which advances democracy and equality in the economy, so that the proper role of trade unions as representatives of workers is recognised, and so that women, who are all too often shut out from the corridors of economic power, are finally let in.

We need to consider how we can use the existing and repatriated powers that we will have to expand the horizons of working people in this country, and thereby bring hope back to those communities that we are sent to the Scottish Parliament to serve.

There are profound inequalities in the real rate of unemployment

—the unequal burden of unemployment between the best and worst parts of Scotland —

which are far greater than the official figures would lead us to believe.

Indeed, Professor Steve Fothergill estimates that the real rate of unemployment is eight point six per cent of the workforce, which is double the official narrow measure.

Our economy is fundamentally unbalanced.

So, what is needed is a credible, radical and compelling strategy for reindustrialisation and a rebalancing for the post-Brexit Scottish economy.

Our new relationship with the European Union will provide a new path.

Having the right to determine our own procurement policy, to deliver apprenticeships and skills, to end bogus self-employment, to end zero-hours contracts and to pay decent wages must be policy objectives.

They are just some examples of areas in which governments have hidden behind EU procurement or state-aid rules to avoid making progressive decisions.

This active approach must support too, a just transition to a greener economy in which technology supports us all to live more fulfilling lives.

One of Scotland’s greatest missed opportunities has been in wind energy.

We should have had turbines that were financed, built, owned and operated in this country.

Communities and public bodies could have developed all of that in a truly sustainable way.

Instead, the kit has been built abroad and many of our wind farms are owned by foreign multinationals, venture capital firms or wealthy individuals, with the result that the profits float off with every turn of the turbine to boardrooms in places such as Bilbao, Munich and Copenhagen.

If ever there was an absence of planning and industrial policy, this is it.

With the Scottish Government’s worst-case scenario finding that the fall in income overwhelmingly comes from productivity, perhaps, Brexit should inject some added urgency to tackling the longstanding need to tackle the long term problem of Scotland’s productivity gap.

Because increasing the level of productivity is key to achieving sustainable economic development, to raising incomes and to creating better quality jobs.

Scotland is one of the better performing parts of the UK by measure of productivity, but it is still below the UK average.

To catch up would therefore require a significant, transformational, increase in Scotland’s rate of productivity.

But the prize of success is substantial.

Increasing Scotland’s productivity to the level of the top quartile of OECD countries would grow GDP by almost forty-five billion pounds (an increase of thirty per cent), and annual average wages could be over six thousand five hundred pounds higher (an increase of twenty-five per cent).

Scottish manufacturing can provide the engine for driving much of this transformational change in productivity.

It is manufacturing which continues to disproportionately drive innovation, investment and international exports.

The Scottish Government should take a more active approach to improving Scotland’s productivity problem by fully utilising the eleven billion pounds lever that is public procurement.

The discourse in the Scottish Parliament over the last few years has regularly focused on what powers the current government does not have rather than the ones that it does.

One of these areas is public procurement which has been devolved since the Parliament’s inception.

Public procurement is not some technical matter but one that has a major impact on people’s livelihoods, their workplaces and their public services.

The collapse of Carillion illustrates this well.

Indeed, such is the weight of that eleven billion pound purchasing power that it equates to almost ninety per cent of the value of what the Scottish Government raises in income tax, or a third of the overall budget.

Yet despite the leverage potential to drive up labour standards and corporate behaviours it is rarely used.

When the current First Minister was in charge of Government procurement she blocked the Living Wage condition.

And she refused to intervene and block the award of contracts to companies caught up in the construction industry blacklisting scandal even after they had been publicly exposed.

Tax avoiders are also to be found in the list of beneficiaries.

And then there’s the Scottish Futures Trust. An infrastructure delivery company owned by the Scottish Government.

Yet, you may be surprised to learn that the two-hundred projects it is delivering are not covered by the Scottish Government’s procurement guidance.

In the Scottish Labour leadership campaign, I sought – and won – a mandate for what I called a values-led public procurement policy.

The Scottish Government is simply not making the most of its purchasing power.

We can use this to improve workers’ pay and conditions.

In short, public sector contractors’ corporate social responsibility statements need to be more than a tick-box exercise.

So I have made clear that under a future Scottish Labour Government we will award public contracts only to organisations that meet standards like no blacklisting, no zero hours contracts,

Fair Tax Mark holders, with commitments to apprenticeships, pay ratios, tackling occupational segregation, paying at least the living Wage and with trade union recognition.

And this goes to a wider point that I want to make –

The people who create our country’s wealth should have a fairer share of the wealth they create.

Our society is deeply divided, poverty and inequality is rife : with the richest one per cent in Scotland today owning more personal wealth than the whole of the bottom fifty per cent.

Too much power rests in too few hands.

The role of political leadership is, I believe, to focus on the future – and to offer the people of the country a vision of the future

One they can believe in, and one that they can participate in.

A future where they know they will be able to get a decent job, with decent pay, and have a decent home to live in; that their children get a good education and go on to a good life.

I have focused tonight on productivity and workers’ rights, but there are, of course, other challenges facing us as a result of Brexit:

• How do we ensure our citizens have access to Environmental justice?

• How do we maintain environmental standards and protect our natural resources and habitats?

• What systems to we need to maintain product safety standards?



• How do we maintain consumer rights when purchasing goods and services?

• What type of trade deal would help Scottish Businesses prosper?

• How can we work cooperatively with developing countries?

• How do we support our farming and fishing communities to build a sustainable future?

• How do we support food production and develop food exports?

• How do we ensure our Parliament is ready to answer these questions?

There will come a point as the Brexit negotiations run on when we will cease to be defensive and start to become more affirmative.

Who knows, our new European style may be more in the tradition of Zurich and Belgrade, Rejkavik and Oslo or it may simply be in a tradition of our own making.

What is without doubt is the challenge ahead.

The challenge to ensure the lives of working people are improved and that they gain more, not less, control over their time and incomes.

The challenge of securing real full employment, focusing on the industries and jobs of the future – in decommissioning, in renewables, in FinTech.

The challenge of innovation and harnessing the advance of automation for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

The challenge to make Scotland a land of opportunity for all, because the right economic decisions are being made at the heart of government.

Decisions which put jobs and prosperity first.

The challenge, we hope, of a General Election sooner rather than later, which will enable a Labour Government put into action our plans for a £20 billion investment in Scotland, to further stimulate our economy.

And the challenge to build a new and co-operative relationship with our European neighbours.

That is a challenge which the Scottish Labour Party is ready to meet.

Thank you.



Download a copy of Richard's speech >>>




SNP-GREEN BUDGET STITCH-UP FAILS TO STOP AUSTERITY AND WILL CUT LIFELINE SERVICES

31 January 2018

Labour is now the only party in Scotland standing for real change

The budget deal struck by the SNP and Scottish Greens does not stop Tory austerity, tackle poverty or redistribute wealth or power, Scottish Labour said today.

For the second year running the Green MSPs have backed a Nationalist budget which will leave councils’ lifeline services squeezed.

The backroom stitch-up by the Greens and Derek Mackay also means the Scottish Government’s budget fails to fund a proper pay rise for council staff and fails to tackle child poverty.

Despite local government budgets needing £545m to stand still, the “deal” struck today only delivers £159m.

Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which passes on Tory austerity to local authorities, which doesn’t redistribute wealth to tackle poverty, and which fails to ensure lifeline services are properly resourced.

Labour’s radical alternative tax plan would raise nearly £1bn extra this year to increase Child Benefit by £5 a week, give £545m to councils to stop cuts and reward staff with a proper pay rise, and send an extra £100m to the NHS.

Speaking after the Stage 1 debate on the budget, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said: “Labour is now the only party at Holyrood standing for the real and radical change Scotland needs.

“Yet again the Greens have abandoned their principles and agreed a shoddy deal so they can shore up the minority Nationalist government.

“In their manifesto the Greens wanted radical income tax changes to raise money to properly fund services – today they failed all those who voted for that, and all those who rely on lifeline public services.

“The money they claim to have wrangled from the SNP is a drop in the ocean when councils need £545m just to stand still, when 260,000 Scottish children are living in poverty and when public service workers need a proper pay rise.

“Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which allows poverty to deepen and inequalities to widen.

“Our radical alternative would redistribute power and wealth, save lifeline services, tackle child poverty and allow for an additional injection of cash in our NHS.

“We don’t think a budget that tinkers around the edges is answer to the challenges our country faces. We can and must make radical use of the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer country.”




Labour unveils £960 million plan for an Alternative Budget

30 January 2018

Labour today reveals a near billion-pound package of tax and investment proposals in the most radical set of fiscal policies ever to be presented at Holyrood.

Ahead of Stage 1 of the Scottish budget process this week, Labour’s alternative plan for the budget would deliver a near £1billion stimulus for the Scottish economy and allow for:

• Lifeline services to be protected across Scotland.

• An extra £100 million for the NHS.

• An increase in Child Benefit by £5 per child per week.

• A fully funded public sector pay increase.

Labour said the extra revenue could be generated by taking a more radical approach than the SNP on income tax and empowering local government with powers to raise more revenue.

Labour’s alternative income tax plan matches the SNP on a Scottish starter rate of 19p, but places the income threshold for a 45p rate at over £60,000 and introduces a new 50p top rate for those earning over £100,000.

Under these plans an MSP would pay over £7.50 more a week, compared to the SNP proposal where they pay just an extra 29 pence per week.

Someone earning £20,000, for example a nursing assistant or a child minder would pay £1.73 a week less.

Labour said the Scottish Parliament should also use the budget process to deliver huge economic powers to local authorities, by delivering a Social Responsibility Levy and enabling local authorities to charge a Tourist Tax and Land Value Tax.

Labour is announcing these proposals ahead of Stage 1 of the Scottish budget to outline how there can be a more radical alternative than the one currently proposed by the SNP, and will seek to build support for the proposals in Holyrood in the coming weeks.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“It is time to end the failed experiment of austerity by making radical use of the powers available to the Scottish Parliament.

“When we campaigned for a Scottish Parliament, we saw it as a bulwark against Tory austerity, but in recent years it has simply been a conveyor belt for cuts. That needs to end.

“It’s not good enough to tinker around the edges with as many as 260,000 children living in poverty. We should be looking at a budget that stops the cuts to lifeline services and increases Child Benefit.

“Labour is willing to ask the wealthiest few to pay more to benefit the many, and redistribute real economic power to local communities. The question now for other parties is do they agree with us?”

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said:

“Ahead of the Stage 1 debate of the budget, Labour has put together a revenue package that would redistribute power and wealth, save lifeline services, tackle child poverty and allow for an additional injection of cash in our NHS.

“We don’t think a budget that tinkers around the edges is answer to the challenges our country faces. You cannot cut your way to economic growth.

“We will look to work with other parties to deliver these changes, and will seek parliamentary avenues to put them to a vote. We can and must make radical use of the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer country.”

Download : A Budget for Real Change
>>>

 

EXTENT OF CARILLION’S INVOLVEMENT IN SCOTLAND LAID BARE

27 January 2018

Failed construction giant Carillion is involved in at least eight major public projects in Scotland, it has emerged.

The firm, which has gone into liquidation, runs facilities management services in hospitals, housing associations and major building projects across Scotland, including at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the West of Scotland Housing Association.

The level of Carillion’s involvement in the Scottish economy goes far beyond what the SNP has previously admitted.

Meanwhile, following a parliamentary question from Jackie Baillie MSP, it has emerged SNP Economy Minister Keith Brown is also unable to say exactly how many people are employed by Carillion in Scotland - but it is thought to be over 1,000 workers.

This follows Mr Brown’s appearance at a parliamentary committee where he was unable to say when another Carillion project – the AWPR – would now be finished.

Scottish Labour accused the SNP government of complacency over Carillion’s collapse, given the extent of its involvement in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP: “It is deeply concerning that Carillion is involved in so many projects in Scotland, including hospitals, housing associations and railway stations.

“The company is clearly far more involved in the Scottish economy than the SNP has previously admitted, while SNP economy minister Keith Brown does not even know how many people Carillion actually employs in Scotland.

“This is unacceptable. The SNP has been sleepwalking through this crisis, leaving workers and businesses in the supply chain facing uncertainty.

“Scotland’s economy cannot take more shocks – what we need now is transparency.

“Instead of tinkering around the edges like the SNP, Scottish Labour believes we should come up with a new way of funding public sector projects that does not put huge profits in the pockets of shareholders – and it is imperative that the SNP conduct a review of public sector infrastructure projects without further delay.”




STURGEON BETRAYED COMMUNITY OVER CHILDREN’S WARD

25 January 2018

Nicola Sturgeon betrayed the people of Paisley with her decision to close the Children’s Ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

During the leaders’ TV debate on 1 May 2016, Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Gordon Clark from Paisley about plans to close the ward.

The First Minister assured Mr Clark there were no proposals to close the ward.

Last Friday her government took the decision to close the ward.

Ms Sturgeon today refused to apologise to Mr Clark for misleading him, and the people of Paisley, during the election.

Nicola Sturgeon refused to acknowledge Gordon Clark’s presence in the chamber today, or offer an apology in an angry, abusive performance.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to understand the depth of anger about this.

"This is about her integrity. People feel betrayed. With good reason.

“Campaigners who raised concerns were accused of lying.

"SNP politicians were more interested in saving the local McDonalds than saving the local children’s ward.

“When a decision was finally made, it was sneaked out on a Friday afternoon.

"This government tried to bury bad news in the middle of a snowstorm.

“People dependent on NHS services across the country will now ask themselves how can they trust this First Minister, having betrayed the people of Paisley.”




"ROBISON HAS IGNORED LOCAL PEOPLE IN CHILDREN’S WARD DECISION"

23 January 2018

Shona Robison has ignored the concerns of local people in the decision to shut down the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, Labour said today.

Having been forced into making a statement to parliament about the decision, the Health Secretary faced fierce criticism from Labour, raising the case of Karen Meikle and her son Alex.

West of Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby also highlighted concerns that the decision was ‘snuck out’ on Friday afternoon, rather than in a statement to the Holyrood chamber in the first place.

Ms Robison also faced questions about the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

West of Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby said:

“Over 17,000 people supported the campaign to stop the closure of the ward, including NHS staff and parents with direct, first-hand experience of the excellent care it provides.

"Parents like Karen Meikle who has told her story to the Paisley Daily Express today.

“The way that SNP politicians nationally and locally have behaved has left local families feeling totally betrayed and without any trust left in this government.

“Throughout this process, the Cabinet Secretary assured the families that she would listen. Well they couldn’t have been clearer in what they were saying.

"Yet these families have been ignored. Shona Robison has snubbed parents. She should come to Paisley and explain her decision”

Labour Health spokesperson and Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar said:

“I pay tribute the Save Lightburn Campaign and the Kids Need Our Ward campaign.

“Local residents and service users tirelessly fighting to protect their local services, services they were promised would stay open during the election.

“Sadly, while one is celebrating the other is rightly distraught and dismayed. The reality is we should never have been here in the first place.

“When faced with a leaked cuts paper the government denied any proposals to close Lightburn or the RAH paediatric ward even existed.

“Neil Bibby was called a liar. Kez Dugdale was called a liar. The campaigners were accused of scaremongering.

“Now the closure is confirmed and 8000 cases will be transferred to the already over-stretched Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“This is a result of cuts imposed by this Government and a workforce crisis overseen by this Government.

“This is a betrayal.”

Labour MSP for Dumbarton Jackie Baillie said:

“There is no getting away from the fact that the First Minister was asked in a TV debate whether the children’s ward at the RAH would close.

“And she was clear, she would not close that ward. And the cabinet secretary knows that there were proposals to close the ward before May 2016.

“The First Minister has of course given similar commitments to my local community about the Vale of Leven Hospital. This is fundamentally a question of trust, and the key question for me is whether we can trust anything that the First Minister tells us.”

Labour MSP for Lothian region Neil Findlay said:

“In 2016 Nicola Sturgeon said live on TV during an election debate that there were no plans to close the children’s ward at the RAH in Paisley.

“For 6 years there have been staffing problems on top of staffing problems at St John’s children’s ward in Livingston with assurances that it would not be closed.

“Parents, children, grandparents and local people who joined me on Friday at a protest at St John’s will struggle to believe a word the cabinet Secretary or First Minister says about the future of Children’s services in Livingston given their blatant betrayal of the people of Paisley.”




LABOUR LODGE AMENDMENTS ON CHILD BENEFIT TOP UP

23 January 2018

Labour has lodged amendments to the Social Security Bill to deliver a top up to Child Benefit for Scottish families.

Under Scotland’s new social security powers, Scottish Ministers can top up reserved social security payments.

Increasing Child Benefit is supported by a coalition of groups across civic Scotland, including the churches and children’s charities. The move would benefit around half a million Scottish families and almost 1 million children.

260,000 children in Scotland are classed as living in poverty. The Give Me 5 coalition, led by Child Poverty Action Group, has previously estimated that a £5 top up would lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Labour social security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

"It's time to use the new powers to create a fairer Scotland and put money back into the pockets of working class families.

"That's why Labour has today laid amendments to the Social Security Bill to top up Child Benefit.

“This would help over half a million families across Scotland, and lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

“This is a radical way to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a real difference to families across Scotland."




Commenting on the latest homelessness figures

23 January 2018

Commenting on the latest homelessness figures published today, Scottish Labour's housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP said:

“These are deeply troubling figures that are a mark of shame on the SNP.

“There are more than 6,500 children in temporary accommodation – an increase on last year. It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, so many children should be without a permanent home.

“It is deeply concerning that the long term downward trend in homelessness applications is slowing down and there has actually been an increase in applications this year.

“It is clear now more than ever that urgent action is needed if we are to eradicate homelessness once and for all.

“The SNP must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to put an end to the austerity policies that are driving people into homelessness and start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis.”


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