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.



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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.”




COST OF AUSTERITY HITS CARE SYSTEM

18 January 2018

The SNP‘s failure to stop austerity and fund councils properly is leaving the care sector on the brink of collapse, Scottish Labour warned today.

At First Minister’s Questions, Richard Leonard raised the case of Nancy Sutherland, a 94 year old tenant of Bield care homes in Fife.

Mrs Sutherland, along with 166 other tenants, are being moved from their homes because Bield can no longer afford rising cost pressures.

The threatened care homes which Bield operates are in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, Falkirk, the Borders, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

Labour said the case of Bield speaks to a wider problem around the funding of care services, in Scotland.

The party highlighted comments from Scottish Care’s chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill who has warned the government that the care home sector is in a fragile position. He has said that the Bield situation should “act as a wakeup call” to properly fund care in Scotland.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Last Saturday Labour MSPs attended the ‘Save Our Bield’ campaign group meeting in Glasgow. They heard families tell of the stress their frail, elderly relatives are under because they are about to be evicted from their specialist care home.

“These are people in their 70s, their 80s, even their 90s.

“One woman, Nancy Sutherland is 94. She’s been a Bield tenant for 23 years. She – and 166 other elderly people – are about to lose their homes.

“This government’s care policies are failing. It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to stop the cuts to lifeline services, or she will continue to fail people like Mrs Sutherland.”


 

SCOTTISH TORIES VOTE DOWN LABOUR CLAUSE 11 AMENDMENT

16 January 2018

Commenting on Scottish Tories voting against Labour’s amendment to Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

"Tonight in the Chamber the Scottish Tories rolled over to protect their party instead of protecting the devolution settlement.

“They gave excuses, but could offer no substantial reasons why they would not support Labour’s amendment to Clause 11.

“They acknowledged the fact that they have dropped the ball - but to add insult to injury they then decided to move the goal posts as well.

“Now peers such as Michelle Mone and Alan Sugar are to have more of a say on the future of the Scottish Parliament than elected MPs.

“The Scottish Tory bloc has bragged since the general election about the influence it has on Theresa May’s government.

“This sorry episode has exposed that boast as being as hollow as the promise from the Secretary of State for Scotland.”


 

COMMENT ON FSB RESEARCH ON BANK CLOSURES

16 January 2018

Responding to statistics revealed by the Federation of Small Businesses showing 70 per cent of Royal Bank of Scotland local branches have closed or are set to close, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

“These statistics show just how many communities across Scotland have lost their local banking branch in the past five years.

“The decisions by banks to close down vital high street branches is yet another example of big businesses putting profit before people.

“Not everybody is able to access online banking, and these closures have left individuals, in many cases elderly people or those in rural areas, and small businesses stranded without the facilities they need.

“RBS closures, in particular, are an insult to all those who worked to rescue the company with the use of public money when it was in trouble. We, the taxpayers, own the Royal Bank of Scotland and if RBS won’t listen to reason and put a stop to the additional closures already in the pipeline, the UK government must do the right thing and step in to stop the closures and protect these vital community services.”

Labour MP for Midlothian, and member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Danielle Rowley said:

“Instead of the customer coming first it seems like they are a long way down the banks’ list of priorities.

“It is unacceptable for the banks to plead poverty as an excuse for the dismantling of the branch network while still paying out six and seven-figure sums to executives. The taxpayers who bailed them out just won’t buy that.

“RBS, which is to close two in three branches in my Midlothian constituency, scored lowest out of 21 high street banks in a Which? customer satisfaction survey. The latest RBS branch closure plan suggests that instead of trying to improve, it has thrown in the towel.

“Last June our manifesto pledged to ensure a branch cannot be closed where there is clear local need.

“The need for a Labour government and the chance to act on that promise is urgent – before there is no branch network left to save.”


 

SNP AND TORIES UNITE TO KEEP ZERO-HOUR CONTRACTS AS ‘POSITIVE DESTINATION’

12 January 2018

The Scottish Conservatives and the SNP today united in the Scottish Parliament to retain ‘positive destination’ status for zero-hour contracts.

Under the current system, 16-19 year olds who go on to work on a zero-hours contract are considered to have achieved a positive destination.

The SNP government’s methodology for assessing the destinations of school leavers takes no account of insecure or temporary employment, or retention in education courses, because it fails to track the progress of youngsters over a number of years - despite the current volatility of the employment market.

Across the workforce, the number of people in insecure work in Scotland has increased by nearly a third since 2011 under the SNP.

Labour would ban zero-hour contracts and introduce a real living wage of £10 per hour across the UK.

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

“It is clear that we have to be more rigorous about how we measure success and we must face up to the fact that many young people are in temporary, insecure, part time or zero hour jobs.

“Across the UK, 36 per cent of zero-hours contracts are filled by young people – that would mean twenty-five and a half thousand in Scotland.

“We count this as a positive destination. It is not. This is not developing the young workforce, it is exploiting them. It is not opportunity, it is alienation.

“We should stop counting this as positive, and furthermore we should discourage it by ensuring that publicly procured goods and services are not rewarding companies who engage in this practice. “


 

FIRST MINISTER FOUND OUT ON NHS SPIN

11 January 2018

Nicola Sturgeon, has been ‘found out’ on her NHS spin, Labour said today. At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish labour leader Richard Leonard raised the case of Tom Wilson, an 80-year-old man from Newtongrange who waited more than 16 hours for treatment on New Year’s day.

Mr Wilson waited more than 3 hours for an ambulance, and then a further 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor at A&E.

Labour said the case showed that the SNP is not properly supporting our NHS.

The case follows a week were the Nationalists’ management of the health service has been under fire, with record low A&E performance and further concerns raised by BMA Scotland about the long term running of the NHS.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This week we have heard apologies from the First Minister to the thousands of people who have experienced unacceptable delays for hospital treatment and have waited hours in pain for an ambulance to arrive.

“The BMA has previously said it is fed up with this government’s spin, and patients are too.

“Like 80-year-old Tom Wilson, of Newtongrange.

“He fell on New Year’s Day and lay bleeding for three hours and 17 minutes waiting for an ambulance.

“His son called 999 seven times - only to be told that an ambulance was coming, not from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary just 14 minutes away, but from Kelso.

“Tom Wilson then spent 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor in A&E before being admitted to a general ward.

“That is an 80 year old man with underlying health conditions waiting more than sixteen hours for treatment.

“When Mr Wilson’s son wrote to the Health Secretary, he was ready for the SNP government’s excuses.

“The First Minister has been found out on her NHS spin. What staff, patients and families need is a long term plan to fix the mess she has made of our NHS.”

 

COMMENT ON BMA SCOTLAND WARNING OVER STAFF PRESSURE

11 January 2018

Responding to the warning from the British Medical Association -BMA Scotland- on the need for long term, sustainable staffing solutions, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar said:

“Scottish Labour has been making the case all year round that our NHS is under pressure and under resourced – a sentiment backed up today by the BMA.

“While the SNP accepts that demographic changes are impacting services, the government continues to shirk responsibility for previously cutting medical and nursing training places, a decision which has resulted in vast numbers of unfilled posts.

“Over the last month we have seen office staff having to volunteer to help GPs and hospital staff to cope with the demand.

"That is utterly unacceptable in the 21st Century NHS.

“Scottish Labour recognises the scale of the challenge facing our health service and our NHS workforce commission was launched in order to provide solutions to the serious staffing crisis in our health service.”



COMMENT ON STUC RESPONSE TO DEREK MACKAY'S PROGRESSIVE BUDGET "CONSENSUS" CLAIM

10 January 2018

Commenting on the STUC's criticism of Scottish Government Finance Minister Derek Mackay, who claimed today in Parliament that there was a "consensus" around his budget proposals, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said:

"The STUC is right to highlight Derek Mackay's complacency when it comes to cutting the budgets of lifeline public services and tackling Tory austerity.

"There is no consensus around an SNP draft budget which does little more than tinker with tax bands, won't raise the money that local government desperately needs after £1.5bn worth of cuts since 2011, and does not fully fund a decent pay rise for public service workers.

"There is a £700m black hole in local government funding this year and Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which falls far short of meeting the challenge of tackling poverty and inequality in our communities."


OVER 100,000 SCOTS WAITED MORE THAN THE A&E TARGET IN 2017

9 January 2018

Over 100,000 Scots waited more than the SNP’s target to be seen within 4 hours at Accident and Emergency in 2017, new figures reveal.

Information published by ISD Scotland today show that 107,689 people waited longer than the 4 hours in Scotland’s hospitals last year.

A&E performance for the week between Christmas and New Year was revealed to be 78 per cent with one hospital, Forth Valley Royal in Larbert, Falkirk having a performance of 57.3 per cent.

Meanwhile the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow had a performance of 63.3 per cent.

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Shona Robison apologised for the pressure on the NHS.

Labour said today’s figures show that the health service isn’t getting the support they need from the government.

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 100,000 patients had to wait more than the A&E standard in 2017.

“The A&E figures for the festive period are some of the worst in memory. No wonder Nicola Sturgeon felt the need to apologise, but it will be a hollow apology without meaningful action.

“That’s why Labour is the only party to set up a workforce commission to tackle the staffing crisis in our NHS.

“The health service needs more than sticking plaster solutions.

"It needs a plan for long term real change.”


SCOTS MISS OUT ON MORE THAN HALF A BILLION IN TAX CREDITS

1 January 2018

Scots are missing out on more than half a billion in unclaimed tax credits according to new research.

The independent experts in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) found that £545 million worth of working or child tax credits went unclaimed in Scotland according to the most recently available figures.

Labour said the UK and Scottish government must do more to ensure people get the tax credits they qualify for.

Labour said now is the time to set ambitious binding take-up targets to compel both governments to act, help boost family incomes and lift the Scottish economy.

Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“Scots are missing out on more than half a billion worth of tax credits. At a time of soaring child poverty and falling wages, both the Scottish and UK governments should be doing more to make sure people get what they are entitled to.

“Making sure, in law, that cash goes to the people who are entitled to it could make a huge difference. “ Thousands of families across Scotland are one big unexpected bill away from really struggling. “In 2018 we will push the Scottish Government to set ambitious targets to ramp up take up and provide the vital support needed to help families claim.

“This should be one part of a serious anti-poverty strategy developed by the SNP government, including increasing child benefit, tackling the housing crisis and developing a proper industrial strategy so Scotland can be a home to high paid, high skilled jobs.”


A&E MELTDOWN UNDER SNP

27 December 2017

Scotland’s A&E services are enduring a winter meltdown under the SNP, Scottish Labour has said.

New figures show almost 20 per cent of patients were not dealt with within the four-hour standard last week.

At the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, almost half of A&E patients had to wait longer than four-hours, while a total of 24 hospitals failed to meet the standard.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the scale of the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS – and called for an urgent investigation.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These figures are a disgrace and will cause real concern to patients and families across Scotland.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“More than 20 hospitals failed to hit the A&E target last week, leaving hundreds of patients stranded in hospitals for more than four hours.

“These figures are sadly not a one off – this has been a regular occurrence this winter. It is now clear Scotland is facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting specifically on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Mr Sarwar added:

“Across the country, A&E waiting times are appalling, but the situation at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is particularly concerning.

“Something has clearly gone very wrong to have almost 50 per cent of patients waiting longer than four hours. This is not an anomaly – the A&E performance at this hospital has been declining for a number of weeks. “The SNP government has taken special measures at other hospitals when the situation has not even been this bad.

“Last week, Scottish Labour called on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to urgently investigate what is going wrong at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and fix it.

“So far, she has refused to do so. She must now immediately launch an investigation into these figures, or publicly explain why she will not.”


OVER A QUARTER OF A MILLION SCOTS TRAPPED IN INSECURE WORK

26 December 2017

Over a quarter of a million Scots are trapped in insecure work, new analysis has revealed.

Research, commissioned by Scottish Labour, from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that an estimated 274,000 Scots are in some form of insecure work, with

160,000 Scots in low paid self-employment

43,000 Scots in insecure temporary work

71,000 Scots on zero hours contracts

Labour said the figures showed that precarious work was too widespread in the Scottish economy, and said a proper industrial strategy was necessary to build the high skill, high wage, secure jobs that Scotland needs for growth.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie said:

“Too many jobs in Scotland are insecure, without guaranteed hours or income. That insecurity then flows through our economy holding it back – from the stress it puts on working people, to the pressure it puts on family finances.

“People can’t plan ahead if they don’t know what next month’s pay cheque will be – if it turns up at all.

“The reality is that, after a decade of SNP division and seven years of Tory despair, people are more likely to be working for poverty pay, with no guarantee that a job will keep their heads above water.

“The next Labour government will ban zero hours contracts, and we will press the SNP to stop handing taxpayer money, in the form of public contracts and grants, to companies who use them.

“But there is a wider issue here around the quality of jobs in our economy. We need a move towards high wage, high skill jobs that can only be delivered by a proper industrial strategy and an end to austerity.

“That is why Labour isn’t just about fair work – we’re for better work.”


 

WINTER FUEL PAYMENT WORTH NEARLY £4 BILLION TO SCOTLAND’S PENSIONERS

24 December 2017

The Winter Fuel Payment, introduced by the last Labour government, has been worth nearly £4 billion to Scotland’s pensioners.

Analysis from Scottish Labour, confirmed by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), shows that the total value of the payments to Scotland’s pensioners has been worth £3.7 billion since they were introduced.

Labour highlighted the value after a year in which the Winter Fuel Payment had been threatened with the axe by both the Tories and the SNP.

Theresa May’s manifesto for the General Election included a commitment to means testing the payment, forcing Ruth Davidson into a pledge that the Tories would keep it universal in Scotland.

The Tories eventually had to drop the commitment completely following their confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Meanwhile, the approach of the SNP in drafting laws for Scotland’s new social security system leaves the door open for means testing. Labour have now instructed Parliamentary officials to draft amendments which would prevent the Scottish Government from means testing the payment.

Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“The Winter Fuel Payment has been worth billions to Scottish pensioners since it was first introduced by the last Labour government but we cannot take for granted that the payment will always be protected.

“The SNP government has drafted legislation to set up a social security agency that leaves the door open for means testing, and only Labour can be trusted to protect it under Scotland’s new social security system.

“Meanwhile the Tories were planning to mean test it in the rest of the UK before Theresa May’s disastrous campaign backfired.

“Labour’s better deal for pensioners means we will protect the winter fuel payment, the triple lock on the state pension, and the free bus pass.

"People who have paid into the system all their lives deserve something back.”


 

 

DEREK MACKAY ‘TIN EARED’ OVER COUNCIL CUTS

21 December 2017

Scottish Labour has accused Derek MacKay of being ‘tin eared’ over council cuts after his appearance at the Local Government and Communities Committee this morning.

The Finance Secretary claimed he has treated councils ‘very fairly’ in the budget settlement, despite reducing local government funding at a higher proportion than the Scottish Government block grant.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith raised a letter sent to Mr MacKay by the chair of trade union UNISON’s local government committee, Mark Ferguson.

In the letter, the trade union condemned the real-terms cut to councils and asked the Finance Secretary to revise his announced spending plans to provide sufficient funding for local government.

At the same time as Mr Mackay’s appearance at the Local Government Committee, the Scottish Fiscal Commission appeared in front of the Finance Committee and confirmed their projections of lower than 1 per cent growth in the Scottish economy until 2021.

The SNP budget unravelled within days last week after it was revealed that the public sector pay rise will not apply to the 243,000 local government workers, who make up 43 per cent of public sector employees.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly said:

“Derek MacKay’s appearance in front of the local government committee gave no absolutely no assurances to local government workers.

“How on earth councils are expected to fund a much needed pay rise for their employees, while Derek MacKay is slashing their budgets is beyond reason.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Fiscal Commission have confirmed their grim growth projections, with the Scottish economy under the SNP not set to see growth of above 1 per cent for the rest of the Parliament.

“When confronted with the effect his budget would have on councils, the Finance Secretary remained tin eared.

“It is time Derek MacKay listened to council leaders and council workers across Scotland and put an end to his brutal local government cuts.”


SCOTLAND’S A&E CRISIS UNDER THE SNP

20 December 2017

Scotland’s A&E services are in crisis under the SNP, Scottish Labour has warned.

More than half of emergency wards missed the four-hour standard to admit, transfer or discharge patients last week.

At the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, more than a third of patients had to wait longer than four hours.

More than 25 per cent of patients at the Hairmyres Hospital also faced a more than four-hour wait, while the same was true for a fifth of patients at the SNP’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Across Scotland, an average of 86.9 per cent of patients were seen within the standard time, down from the previous week. The number of acute hospital beds also fell by more than two per cent from last year.

Meanwhile, official figures also show more than 45 per cent of Musculoskeletal patients were not seen within the four-week target.

Commenting on the A&E figures, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These figures are a nightmare before Christmas for the SNP and Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“Almost 20 hospitals failed to hit the A&E target last week, leaving hundreds of patients stranded in hospitals for more than four hours. The number of acute hospital beds has also fallen by more than two per cent.

“This is a disgrace and it is clear Scotland could now be facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting on more than a third of patients not being seen within four hours at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Mr Sarwar said:

“Across the country, A&E waiting times are not good enough, but the situation at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is particularly concerning.

“Something has clearly gone very wrong to have more than a third of patients waiting longer than four hours. This is not an anomaly – the A&E performance at this hospital has been declining for a number of weeks.

“The SNP government has taken special measures at other hospitals when the situation has not even been this bad.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison must urgently investigate what is going wrong at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and fix it.”

Commenting on more than 45 per cent of Musculoskeletal patients not being seen within the four-week standard, Mr Sarwar added:

“Thousands of people have once again been let down by the SNP and its mismanagement of our NHS.

“To have almost half of patients waiting more than four weeks for vital treatments such as physiotherapy is clearly unacceptable.

“Our doctors and nurses, and allied health professionals all do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“Labour has already launched a workforce commission to tackle the SNP’s staffing crisis in our health service – and we would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver real change in the NHS.”


HOLYROOD EXPERTS CONFIRM COUNCIL BUDGETS SET TO BE HAMMERED

18 December 2017

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has confirmed that Derek Mackay’s budget is set to hammer lifeline local services. The briefing confirms:

• Day to day spending set to fall by £135million

• General support for capital spending falling in cash (£54.7million) and real terms (£63.4million)

• The SNP Government has consistently passed on a much larger cut to local government than the cut to the Scottish budget

• The maximum amount councils could raise nationwide is £77million from a 3 per cent council tax rise

• There is no additional funding for councils to lift the 1 per cent public sector pay cap

These cuts fall on top of Cosla saying they needed an additional £545million just to maintain services before the budget.

Labour said the briefing underlines the need for more radical use of the tax powers to protect local government and the lifeline services they deliver.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson James Kelly said:

"This briefing makes grim reading for local government across Scotland. When these numbers are taken with Cosla’s pre-budget calculations that councils needed over half a billion just to stand still then it is clear services will be stretched to breaking point.

“These cuts will end up falling the hardest on the poorest, the most vulnerable, and our children.

“These are more than numbers on a spreadsheet, these are our schools, our social care services, local housing and community centres.

“Meanwhile, Derek Mackay seems to expect councils to deliver a real-terms pay rise in the midst of this.

“The SNP budget has tinkered around the edges with tax yet has done nothing to invest in these services. It will be the poorest and most vulnerable who will lose out as a result. Scotland needs the real and radical change that only Labour can deliver.”


FAI BUDGET BRIEFING SHOWS THE ECONOMY NEEDS RADICAL CHANGE

18 December 2017

Scotland’s economy needs radical change to generate the tax revenues it needs to end austerity and invest in people, Scottish Labour said today.

A budget briefing from the Fraser of Allander Institute today, said that if forecasts of less than one per cent growth for the next five years are correct, it would be ‘unprecedented in a generation’ and the longest run of growth beneath one per cent for 60years.

The briefing follows warnings from IPPR Scotland that the Scottish budget still faces cuts to public spending, with the SNP’s tinkering to tax not raising enough revenue to protect public services.

Labour said the problem needed a different approach – a radical tax plan that raises the revenues to stop the cuts and invest instead, and an industrial strategy to drive growth, increase productivity and increase wages.

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson, James Kelly, said:

“As academic experts begin to analyse the numbers behind the headlines, Derek Mackay’s budget is falling apart. It’s clear this budget will do little to grow the economy, with sluggish growth being branded ‘unprecedented.’

“That means less revenue in tax to protect public services and less money in working people’s pockets as wages continue to stagnate.

“The SNP government has tinkered around the edges on tax rather than take the bold and radical decisions Scotland needs to see.

"As a result, lifeline local services face a cut of £700 million.

“Only Labour has a plan to grow our economy so that it works for everyone, with an industrial strategy that will boost wages and productivity.”

COMMISSIONER FOR FAIR ACCESS REPORT

13 December 2017

Commenting on a report by the Commissioner for Fair Access which states that young people from the most privileged backgrounds are still three times more likely to go to higher education than those from the most disadvantaged, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said:

“Scottish Labour has consistently supported the target that 20 per cent of new entrants to higher education should come from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland.

“The Commissioner for Fair Access has acknowledged that progress is being made but points out that “the current forward momentum may not be sufficient.” It is unacceptable that young people from a more privileged background are still three times more likely to go to university than those from a less well-off background.

“The SNP came to power in 2007 promising to abolish student debt, instead it has doubled during the decade the SNP has been in office. The SNP has slashed grants and bursaries, forcing students to turn to loans with the poorest students racking up the highest debts.

“As the Commissioner says, government and institutions must be bolder, so on the eve of the budget we call on the SNP to implement calls from the independent review into student funding to deliver bursaries for those who need them in higher and further education, which would go some way to help widen access.”

TORY AUSTERITY IS DESTROYING LIVES,
SNP MUST USE PARLIAMENT’S POWERS TO ACT - LEONARD


13 December 2017

The powers of the Scottish Parliament must be used to stop hard-right Tory austerity which is devastating people’s lives and public services, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard will say today.

In a Conservative Party business debate, the new Labour leader will challenge the Scottish Tories on their party’s seven years of failed economic and welfare policies.

He will also accuse Ruth Davidson of utter hypocrisy by claiming to want to protect low and middle income earners while her party’s economic policies have produced the worse decade of pay growth in 100 years and increased insecure working conditions.

And he will call on the SNP to be radical in finding real solutions, rather than just making Tory cuts more acute.

Mr Leonard is expected to say: “The reality of life under the Conservative Government is more children living in poverty, more people on zero hour contracts, more people working harder for less, more people sleeping rough on our streets, and the people with the least having even less because of systematic and cruel cuts to our vital social security system.

“And yet rather than acknowledging their own party has devastated people’s lives and is destroying public services with its dogmatic desire to force austerity on our country, the Tories come to this chamber, wring their hands and say nothing must change.

“It’s not good enough for Scotland’s people, Scotland’s public services or Scotland’ economy.”

Earlier this week it was revealed that Scotland’s councils were facing a budget blackhole of around £850 million which will decimate vital services. And today a report by IPPR Scotland spelled out the scale of public spending cuts facing Scotland.

Mr Leonard said: “When the Scottish Parliament was established it was done so to be a vehicle for change. That should mean that when the Tories force austerity across the UK, this place can do things differently, can take a different path. That is what we need to do.

“Yet for too long the SNP government has failed to oppose Tory austerity. It has used this Parliament as a conveyer belt for passing it on.

“That has to stop. Now is the time for real, radical change from this Parliament to end Tory austerity. The SNP has a choice – to make the right choices for the people of Scotland or continue to side with the Conservatives and their wanton destruction of our communities.”



TEACHERS NUMBERS SHOW NEED TO PROTECT COUNCIL BUDGETS ON THURSDAY

13 December 2017

New figures for teacher numbers show the need to protect council budgets on Thursday, Labour said today.

Analysis of the summary statistics for schools in Scotland reveals that there are over 3,500 fewer teachers than when the SNP came to power.

Of the 543 new teachers recruited in the past year, 506 of them are being funded through the Attainment Scotland Fund – funding meant to help close the attainment gap and be additional to core staff in a school.

Despite these additional teachers, Scottish class sizes remain amongst the largest in the developed world.

Labour said that while additional teachers would always be welcome, schools are being forced to use money earmarked for closing the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils to cover cuts to core budgets.

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“It was Labour who led the debate on targeted spending to close the attainment gap, but the SNP approach has been to introduce it while slashing core education budgets, forcing schools to use what is supposed to be additional money to plug gaps in provision.

“Any gains in attainment are welcome and are testament to our teachers working under the most difficult of circumstances in schools across Scotland.

“Additional teacher numbers, while welcome, mean that classroom sizes are the same as last year – amongst the largest in the developed world. This approach is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and as ever it is the poorest pupils who lose out.

“Every child in Scotland deserves a fair chance, but that will only happen under a government that is prepared to take radical steps to end austerity and tackle poverty. Only Labour will ensure our schools get the resources they need through re-empowered local government.

“The only way to fix this is to stop the cuts and invest in core education budgets. If education really is Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority, she’ll give our schools the funding they need.”



MORE THAN A QUARTER OF YOUNG PEOPLE WAITING LONGER THAN TARGET FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT


13 December 2017

More than one in four young people are waiting longer than they should be for mental health treatment, figures published today show.

Waiting time statistics for Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS) published by ISD Scotland today show that 26.7 per cent of children and adolescents had to wait longer than the 18-week target to see a mental health professional.

The figures show a worsening problem, with just 73.3 per cent being treated on time, compared to 80.7 per cent in the last quarter.

Data released today reveal that the percentage of unfilled posts for CAMHS NHS Scotland is at the highest level ever recorded.

Scottish Labour said the figures show the need for early intervention in the mental health of young people.

Scottish Labour’s inequality spokesperson Monica Lennon said:

“This is another set of extremely alarming statistics on child and adolescent mental health waiting times.

“There is a staff shortage right across our NHS, and now we can see vacancy rates within CAMHS is at the highest level ever recorded.

“Scotland is gripped by a mental health crisis. We were promised that a dedicated Mental Health Minister would give this the priority it needs but the SNP government is not taking the urgent action necessary to respond to demands on treatment services.

“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 would do well to stop rejecting.”

SNP’S NHS WINTER MELTDOWN

12 December 2017

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over an NHS “winter meltdown”.

New figures reveal more than 12 per cent of cancer patients missed the 62-day cancer referral to treatment standard under the SNP, while the 31-day standard that covers the time from the decision to treat and the patient’s first treatment was also missed.

Meanwhile, fewer than 90 per cent of A&E attendees were seen within the four-hour target, with the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary only managing to see 74.6 per cent of patients within the target.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed Scotland’s NHS was in a “winter meltdown” as a result of SNP mismanagement.

The figures follow a survey of nurses by the Royal College of Nursing, which shows 60 per cent feel unable to provide patients with the level of care they would want to.

Commenting on failed cancer waiting times, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“It is absolutely shameful that more than 12 per cent of cancer patients are missing the 62-day cancer referral to treatment target under the SNP.

“With just the three health boards meeting the target, the SNP has gone from creating a postcode lottery in our health service to ensuring that almost wherever patients are in the country, they won’t get the treatment they are entitled to on time.

“We are also once again seeing a failure to meet the 31-day target which covers the time from the decision to treat and the patient’s first treatment. This is a real concern.

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and these figures clearly show the SNP is failing patients, families and staff across Scotland.

“As we heard this week from the Royal College of Nursing, a decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS staff under-resourced and under-pressure.

“Scottish Labour has launched a workforce commission to tackle the staffing crisis in our health service so we can build an NHS that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting on the failure to meet the A&E waiting times target, Mr Sarwar said:

“This is a day of shame for the SNP.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government

“More than a dozen hospitals missed the waiting time target – and more than 25 per cent of patients at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary had to wait more than four hours.

“This is a disgrace and it is clear Scotland could now be facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”



NURSES ARE UNDERPAID AND UNDERVALUED UNDER THE SNP – SARWAR

12 December 2017

Scotland’s nurses are underpaid and undervalued under the SNP, Scottish Labour said today.

A new survey from the Royal College of Nursing Scotland reveals that three quarters of nursing staff feel worse off than they did five years ago, with the pressure on personal finances has meant that only 38 per cent said they would recommend nursing as a career.

The survey also reveals that over 60 per cent of nurses said they were too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This survey is utterly damning and confirms what Labour has been saying for some time - Scotland’s nurses are underpaid and undervalued under the SNP.

“Almost three quarters of Scotland’s nurses feeling worse off is an absolutely damning indictment of the SNP’s pay policy. Over sixty percent feel they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

“These figures should be setting off alarm bells ahead of the Scottish budget. We cannot expect our NHS to deliver the care Scots deserve if staff don’t get the support they need.

“NHS staff are foundations that our health service is built on, but a nurse is over £3,000 worse off thanks to the pay cap and there are thousands of unfilled nursing and midwifery posts across our health service.

“Labour has already launched an NHS Workforce Commission to deliver a blueprint to give our NHS staff the support they need and the care patients deserve, but we urgently need action from the SNP government.

“SNP ministers have promised to scrap the pay cap – despite voting against it in the spring. Derek Mackay needs to keep that promise on Thursday or our NHS staff will rightly feel betrayed.”


 

SNP BUDGET WILL ‘SHARPEN TORY CUTS’ LEONARD WARNS PLP

11 December 2017

- LABOUR THE ONLY REAL ANTI-AUSTERITY ALTERNATIVE FOR SCOTLAND

Derek Mackay’s budget is set to ‘sharpen Tory cuts’ while only Labour offers a real anti-austerity alternative for Scotland, Richard Leonard will tell a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight.

Addressing the group for the first time since being elected Scottish Labour leader, Mr Leonard will tell the group not to be fooled by ‘progressive posturing’ on tax from the Nationalists.

Reports last week suggest that the budget is set to deliver an effective £850 million cut to local authorities. The largest amount of revenue any of the Scottish government’s income tax proposals raise is £290 million.

At First Minister’s Questions last week, Mr Leonard raised the human impact of these cuts, highlighting SNP-run Falkirk Council proposing cuts to children’s services like breakfast clubs holiday activities for disabled children and additional support needs teachers.

Mr Leonard will also say that Scottish Labour will outline a radical alternative to austerity using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect public services and make Scotland a fairer country.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“People across the UK should not be fooled by progressive posturing on tax from the SNP – it has taken Tory cuts and sharpened them for Scottish communities. Only Labour will offer a real anti-austerity alternative for the people of Scotland.

“Local councils are bracing themselves for an effective cut of over £800million in the Scottish budget.

“We cannot have a fairer Scotland with these cuts. To end poverty in Scotland, we must re-empower and properly resource local government to deliver the services that the poorest rely on the most.

“The Scottish Parliament has the power to radically change Scotland for the better, but instead the SNP has been content to devolve Tory austerity to local communities while centralising power and decision making.

“The Scottish Parliament was supposed to be a bulwark against Tory austerity, not a conveyor belt for it.

“Inequality, injustice and poverty are not inevitable. Austerity is a political choice not an economic one. Scottish Labour will choose fairness and equality over austerity.

“The poorest and most vulnerable Scots need a radical budget on Thursday – no one should be fooled into believing that tinkering around the edges of Scotland’s tax system delivers the real and radical change Scotland needs.”


FORMER SNP JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS POLICE 'RUN RAGGED'

11 December 2017

Former SNP Justice Secretary has claimed the public can no longer expect Police Scotland to attend ‘minor’ incidents, such as vandalism, as the force was ‘run ragged’.

Writing in the I newspaper today, Mr MacAskill said there was a ‘huge hole in the budget’, highlighting evidence from the Auditor General in January who revealed a £200m funding gap in Police Scotland’s finances.

2017 has been a turbulent year for the justice system in Scotland, with the chair and chief executive of the Scottish Policing Authority exiting and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland put on ‘special leave of absence’.

Last month, it was revealed that the cost of the controversial merger of British Transport Police in Scotland, which has been strongly opposed by police officers and trade unions, was ‘not known’. The SPA also admitted the merger would not be possible without outsourcing significant amounts of work, the cost of which is also unknown.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly called for the SNP government to halt the merger.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, Claire Baker said:

“This is deeply embarrassing for the SNP.

“The Nationalists’ longest serving justice minister has made clear that he believes the police force is not receiving the resources it needs from the SNP government.

“So much so, that he appears to be telling us to no longer expect officers to deal with crimes he deems ‘minor’.

“The public deserve better than the shambles in our justice system under the SNP. It’s about time Michael Matheson listened to the concerns of police officers, trade unions and even his former colleagues.”


 

COUNCILS FACING £850M BUDGET BLACK HOLE

9 December 2017

Scottish councils are facing an £850 million black hole as a result of the Scottish Government’s budget next week.

This morning The Herald reported that Scottish councils are preparing for a £300m cut to their funding.

The cut would be on top of the additional £545 million councils need to maintain present services, taking the total to an eye watering £850 million.

At First Minister’s Questions this week, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the human cost of cuts to council budgets.

Mr Leonard raised proposals by SNP-run Falkirk council to end breakfast clubs, to cut back childcare to the statutory minimum, to cut Additional Support Needs teachers and holidays for disabled children, as a result of government cuts to its budget.

Labour said many vital public services run by councils would be unsustainable in the face of further cuts.

Labour Business Manager, James Kelly MSP, said:

“If Derek Mackay is planning cuts which would create a near billion-pound black hole in local budgets, then that is a level of austerity that would make a Tory chancellor blush.

“Since 2011 the SNP government in Edinburgh has cut £1.5 billion from local government budgets, directly impacting on schools, housing, social care and other vital local services.

“An effective £850 million cut in a single year would be simply unsustainable.

“These cuts will end up falling the hardest on the poorest, the most vulnerable, and our children. This week at First Minister’s Questions Richard Leonard outlined what that meant – breakfast clubs closed, ASN teachers cut, holiday time for disabled children, cut. These cuts will scar Scotland with inequality.

“There’s no muscle or fat left – these cuts will go straight to the bone and it will be the poorest and most vulnerable who will bear the brunt of it.

“The only way to protect local services is to properly use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament.”


SNP JUSTICE SHAMBLES CONTINUES

9 December 2017

The SNP government’s shambolic record on justice has continued, with more critical reports out today.

A scathing report from Audit Scotland has accused the Scottish Policing Authority (SPA) of a series of governmental failings and a poor use of public money.

While a report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary into the British Transport Police (BTP) has shown the Scottish division is among the best performing in Britain, prompting further calls for the SNP to halt the controversial merger.

The two reports today come after a difficult period for Scottish policing, with the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA exiting and the BTP merger being forced through against the wishes of police officers and trade unions.

Commenting on the Audit Scotland report into the SPA, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Claire Baker said:

"This damning report is just the latest of a long list of critical reports into the governance and leadership of the SPA and Police Scotland.

"The Government and Police Scotland may have avoided a vote of no confidence but make no mistake they still have serious questions to answer.

"No action is simply not good enough. Susan Deacon has a huge job ahead of her to regain the public's confidence in the SPA. She needs to Government to step up and take their part of the responsibility for the failings that went before."

Commenting on the report into British Transport Police Scotland, Claire Baker said:

"This report shows the the BTP D division is working in Scotland and the officers and staff deserve credit for the job they are doing in uncertain circumstances.

"It also shows the folly of the SNP's rushed attempts to merge BTP with Police Scotland. We still have unanswered questions over costs, terms and conditions, and pensions.

"That such a substantial change to policing in Scotland is taking place at a time when many at the top of Police Scotland and SPA are suspended, under investigation or new into their job is concerning. The SNP must listen to BTP workers and trade unions and halt their plans."


COMMENT ON LIFE EXPECTANCY FIGURES

9 December 2017


Responding to figures from the National Records of Scotland which show huge differences in life expectancy depending on how deprived an area a baby is born in, Scottish Labour Public Health spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

"These figures expose the postcode lottery Scotland faces. The prosperity of the family you were born into has a huge impact on your life chances, quality of life and ultimately life expectancy.

"The blunt truth is that there has been an utter failure from existing government strategies to tackle health inequalities. We need to see radical action to address the gap between the richest and the poorest in Scotland.

"The SNP need to realise that a government cannot tackle health inequalities without tackling the wealth inequalities in our society.”


COUNCIL BUDGETS MUST BE PROTECTED IN SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT BUDGET

7 December 2017

Further cuts to council budgets will deepen child deprivation, Scottish Labour said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted proposed cuts by Falkirk Council, including shutting down all breakfast clubs in the local authority area and reducing holiday activity programmes for children with disabilities.

Falkirk Council is also proposing to stop all non-statutory childcare.

The Scottish Labour leader also highlighted the work of The Cottage family centre in Kirkcaldy, where this week he met school pupils packing Christmas hampers of winter clothes for those less fortunate.

Mr Leonard said that further cuts in next week’s Scottish Government budget would deepen austerity in a ‘Dickensian’ Scotland, and highlighted new statistics showing the extent of material deprivation throughout Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly refused to guarantee local authorities will get the funding needed to maintain current levels of service. Last week Mr Leonard revealed that local authorities needed £545 million just to do that.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Austerity is not an abstract concept. It means real cuts to real local services. It means the closure of breakfast clubs and the axe falling on holiday activity programmes for children with disabilities. “The reality of Tory Britain and SNP Scotland is a Dickensian Scotland where too many families are forced to turn to food banks. A Dickensian Scotland where school children are despatching emergency parcels to help their classmates over Christmas.

“Further cuts to children’s services by the SNP government isn’t standing up for Scotland, it is failing the children of Scotland.

“In its budget the Scottish Government must use the powers and show the political will to stop Tory austerity in its tracks and protect the funding of these vital local services.”


WE MUST RE-EMPOWER LOCAL GOVERNMENT – RICHARD LEONARD


30 November 2017

Local government must be re-empowered, and local services given the resources they need, Richard Leonard said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions the Scottish Labour leader revealed that local government needs over half a billion pounds of investment simply to maintain the current level of public services.

The SNP government in Edinburgh has cut £1.5 billion from schools and local services since 2011.

Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly failed to guarantee that services would be protected following questioning from Mr Leonard.

With the announcement of the Scottish budget a fortnight away, Labour said it would be wrong to take Tory cuts to Scotland and amplify them for local communities.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP Government has taken Tory austerity and doubled it for town halls and city chambers the length and breadth of Scotland.

“How can the First Minister possibly promise to close the educational attainment gap between the richest and the poorest children in Scotland if she slashes the budgets for local schools?

“How does she possibly expect our elderly to live with dignity in retirement when she cuts into the budgets that provide social care?

“How on earth can we stop people sleeping in shop doorways in freezing temperatures when housing budgets are being cut to the bone?

“In the end austerity is a political choice, not an economic one. Nicola Sturgeon can choose Tory cuts, sharpened and deepened by her Government, or re-empowered local communities and properly resourced local services.”


QUEENSFERRY CROSSING IS LATEST SNP TRANSPORT SHAMBLES

30 November 2017

Scottish Labour has branded the SNP’s handling of the Queensferry Crossing a "shambles".

Earlier this week it emerged that the flagship project would be partially closed for “snagging” works, while Nicola Sturgeon failed to convincingly address the situation at First Ministers Questions today.

Scottish Labour said the debacle showed SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf was out-of-his-depth and must take responsibility for the shambles.

Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby MSP said:

“The SNP’s handling of this project has been a complete shambles.

“Regular drivers on both sides of the Forth have been left furious and frustrated by yet another delay, while businesses will also pay the price as shoppers stay at home.

“The First Minister failed to provide convincing answers – and it is increasingly clear that SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf is out-of-his-depth and out of ideas.

“Humza Yousaf is a minister who either doesn’t know what he’s doing or simply does what he is told by the people he’s supposed to be in charge of.

“As a result, regular drivers over the have been kept in the dark and will miss significant time with their families over the course of the next week.

“Drivers and businesses deserve better than this SNP shambles.”

FIRST MINISTER URGED TO STAND UP FOR REAL CHANGE

23 November 2017

Nicola Sturgeon must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver real change for Scottish communities, Richard Leonard said today.

Appearing for the first time at First Minister’s Questions as Scottish Labour leader, Mr Leonard challenged the cuts to Scottish Fire and Rescue since the regional services were merged in 2013.

Mr Leonard also highlighted that the SNP government had ignored advice from Scotland’s Trade Union movement when creating the service, meaning a multi-million-pound VAT liability was placed on Fire and Rescue.

Mr Leonard laid down a challenge to the First Minister to use the extensive tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect public services and tackle poverty and inequality.

On protecting Fire and Rescue Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This morning I had the honour of addressing a rally of firefighters from right across Scotland.

“These courageous men and women put their lives on the line to keep the rest of us safe.

“Since Scotland’s Fire and Rescue Service was centralised these heroic firefighters have seen over seven hundred frontline jobs axed, they have watched their pay being cut in real terms year upon year. They see a service in decline.

“Unison told the Scottish Government that the SNP’s changes to our emergency services would make them liable for tens of millions of pounds of VAT payments. But the SNP wilfully ignored them.

“Under my leadership, Scottish Labour will work with the Scottish Government and the Trade Unions to try and claw back the millions of pounds that have been lost but that in itself will not be enough.

“The people of Scotland will have to decide who they believe – firefighters on the front line, or the First Minister on the sideline.”

On the need for the SNP government to use the powers to deliver real change Mr Leonard said:

“After seven years of Tory austerity, a lost decade of SNP mediocrity and indifference, we have this result: falling real wages, shrinking public services, rising poverty, widening inequality, and local budgets decimated.

“A quarter of a million children brought up in poverty and hundreds of thousands of pensioners will be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter.

“More of the same just won't do. Scotland needs real change, radical change.”


LEONARD MEETS COSLA TO OPPOSE FURTHER CUTS TO COUNCILS

23 November 2017

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has met with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to discuss how to oppose further cuts to council budget from the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Local authority budgets have been hammered under the SNP, with £1.5 billion cut from budgets for schools and social work services since 2011.

Mr Leonard will meet with representatives from the umbrella body to consider how to approach the forthcoming Scottish budget.

The Scottish Labour leader has also pledged to campaign for increased funding for councils, as well as delivering powers to local authorities to allow them to raise further revenues at a local level.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Local government is at the coal-face of delivery in the most important day-to-day challenges we face: delivering community services that all of us depend on, providing education, maintaining and building housing and investing in and keeping our communities safe, clean and secure.

“Local councils can lead the way in the fight against poverty and inequality. But the SNP has starved Scottish local government and reduced its power to carry out that role effectively. Under my leadership Labour will lead the fight for increased central spending to local government, but we will not wait for office – we will use our power as a movement now to fight for change.

“Labour will campaign to get a better funding deal for our local services before the local government settlement is announced by the Scottish Government.

“More resources for our services is not just about grants from the government. It’s also about real powers. Local services have to be released from their shackles. Scotland’s local councils must also be allowed to raise additional revenue. I want to see more work to help local government raise revenue based on wealth, including land, as well as property.

“If we are to succeed in our mission to eliminate poverty, the role of councils must be recognised much more. I will do this and work closely and collaboratively at all times with my local government councillors and the trade unions.

“As part of my quest to improve local government I will make us work as Team Scottish Labour with an intention to meet monthly with Labour group leaders. The default assumption of public policy should be that ‘local’ is the starting point. That’s currently not the assumption by government – I would make it so with a Labour government.”


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