9 February 2019

Commenting on the Scottish Government issuing another remedial plan notice to ScotRail, this time on customer satisfaction, Labour Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

”Another day, another example of how confidence in ScotRail is plummeting faster than even their performance.

“With so many problems with the franchise, it beggars belief that the SNP voted with the Tories to block Labour’s plan to exercise the break clause in Abellio’s contract last year.

“Labour in government would bring ScotRail into public ownership, ensuring it is run for passengers, not profits.”


9 February 2019

A range of anti-poverty services delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland are under threat thanks to proposed cuts in the Scottish budget.

A potential cut from the Scottish Legal Aid Board of £626,717 will threaten a range of services such as debt and welfare advice.

These cuts which would have a direct impact on the loss of at least 25 staff positions in 15 CABs.

The cut will effect services at Inverness, Lochaber, Skye&Lochalsh, Penicuik, Dalkeith, Central Borders, Peebles, East Dunbartonshire, Fife, Airdrie, Motherwell and Wishaw, West Lothian, Glasgow North West, Argyll and Bute.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said:

"These cuts are appalling. The budget awards Scottish ministers a £140 tax cut and slashes funding for services like these that help the poorest people the most.

"These cuts will effect services all across the country and risk 25 jobs.

"No progressive government should be making cuts like this and they must be reversed before Stage 3 of the budget."


8 February 2019

Responding to suggestions that standardised assessments could widen the attainment gap, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney was warned that his standardised tests could lead to “teaching to the test” and better off families buying teaching materials to boost their child’s performance, thus widening the attainment gap.

“Now Sue Palmer is telling us that the education industry has seen exactly that opportunity.

“This so called reform has been a shambles from the beginning, an attempt by Mr Swinney to deflect attention from what our schools really need, enough teachers and support staff with the resources to do the best job they can.”


8 February 2019

Mortality rates among the most deprived people in Scotland have worsened in recent years, an official NHS report has found.

Death rates worsened by 2.1 per cent in the most deprived males and 0.7 per cent in females of the same category between 2012-17, according to a landmark report by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (SPHO).

In contrast, during the same period, mortality rates fell among the most well-off males by 4.4 per cent and by 7.8 per cent in females.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Monica Lennon MSP, said:

“This report should shame the politicians in power at Holyrood and Westminster.

“Austerity-driven cuts to public services are harming the poorest people in our society.

“These shocking figures underline the urgent need to invest in communities across Scotland with the goal of eradicating poverty and health inequality.

“The SNP-Green budget will hammer local government services with £230 million of real terms cuts and will only deepen the crisis in our communities.

“In government, Scottish Labour will invest in our people, our communities and our public services to end these disgraceful health inequalities.


7 February 2019

Responding to comments about the break clause in the ScotRail contract at First Minister's Questions today, Labour Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

"Labour wants a publicly owned ScotRail, but our plans to exercise the break clause in Abellio's contract were blocked at Holyrood but the SNP and the Tories.

"With passengers facing rip off fares and substandard service, we'll continue to make the case for public ownership our our public transport - unlike the SNP, which has handed Abellio a licence to fail."


7 February 2019

The scale of delayed discharge in Scotland was so bad it would have filled Scotland’s flagship hospital, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, for almost an entire year.

Richard Leonard revealed the figures at First Minister’s Questions today.

In response, the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, erroneously claimed that the practice was reducing. In fact it has increased year on year.

The Scottish Labour leader highlighted quotes from the Chief Executive of NHS Lothian, who said that delayed discharge made it harder to hit the 4 hour A&E waiting time, led to short notice cancelled operations and meant distress for patients, families and carers.

Earlier this week it was revealed that delayed discharge cost the health service £120million last year.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The previous Health Secretary promised to eradicate delayed discharge within a year, back in February 2015.

“Instead the scale of this problem is such that the number of people stuck in hospitals last year who did not need to be there would have filled the equivalent of every bed in Scotland’s biggest hospital the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital every day for 326 days.

“No wonder that this is having a significant impact on A&E waiting times and cancelled operations right across the country. There is a human cost too, with patients left in distress and discomfort.

“The SNP has to listen to patients and staff, snap out of its complacency, and finally deliver a plan to end delayed discharge.”


5 February 2019

The number of police officers keeping our communities safe has fallen dramatically since the SNP government’s centralisation of forces in 2013.

Analysis by Scottish Labour shows officer numbers have decreased by 321 since regional forces were disbanded, with local officers bearing the brunt of the cuts.

Labour say this is yet more evidence of the SNP’s mismanagement of our police force.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, Daniel Johnson MSP, said:

“Communities across Scotland are seeing their local police presence disappear under the SNP.

“Labour backed the merger in 2013 but laid out plans to protect local policing.

“SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf must explain to parliament and the public how these cuts can be acceptable in the face of rising crime in Scotland, and why he has failed to secure the additional funding that Police Scotland has made clear is needed urgently to prevent further cuts.

“Labour understands that you can’t keep communities safe on the cheap, and that is why we would properly resource our police force in government to keep the public safe.”


4 February 2019

Some households in the private rented sector faced a £1,500 rent increase in the past year, a major new report has found.

Analysis of data published by industry body Citylets reveals four bedroom properties in Scotland saw an average increase of £130.92 in their monthly rent last year – working out at a bill of more than £1,500 a year.

Even smaller properties have seen significant increases - £275 for one bedroom properties and over £700 for three bedrooms.

Recent research by Shelter found the number of people in Scotland who are struggling to pay for their home has increased by nearly a third in the last two years

Labour said the figures underlined the need for serious reform of the private rented sector.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Housing Pauline McNeil said:

“These eye-watering increases in private rents shows we urgently need to reform the private rented sector.

“The increasing numbers of families in the PRS who cannot access social housing or get on the property ladder are being hit with inflation busting increases to their rent.

“Scotland’s housing crisis is deepening, and it is clear radical action is needed to stop more people being made homeless.

“That is why Scottish Labour wants to cap rent rises with a Mary Barbour law, and make the system fairer for everyone.”


4 February 2019

The NHS spent more than £120million in Scotland keeping patients in hospital when they were fit to go home, new figures reveal today.

Figures published by ISD Scotland reveal 514,851 bed days were lost in 2018. The most up to date estimated cost of each delay is £234, working out to a total of £120.5m.

The previous health secretary Shona Robison pledged to eradicate the practice of delayed discharge, but her successor Jeane Freeman has made no such commitment.

Scottish Labour said the failure to end delayed discharges from our hospitals was due to an under funding of social care, and said that the SNP-Green budget, which real terms cuts £230.7million from council funding, would make the situation worse.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Monica Lennon, said:

“Cash-strapped health boards are spending millions keeping people in hospital when they don’t need to be there.

“That’s down to the crisis in social care, which will only be made worse by £230 million worth of real terms cuts to local government in the SNP-Green budget. “Scottish Labour would ensure social care gets the staff and funding it needs and in government we would introduce a National Care Workers Guarantee with a commitment to secure hours, a living wage and reimbursement for travel and training time. We are serious about protecting our NHS and delivering the real change that our communities need.”


4 February 2019 Responding to figures which show the UK government has paid out more than £1billion to cover redundancy payments and unpaid wages in the past five years after a string of large firms went under, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“These are deeply troubling figures.

“While it is absolutely right that the Insolvency Service continues to protect workers’ pay when firms go bust, something is obviously going very wrong with our economy to have so many firms closing.

“That points to the abject failure of the both the SNP and the Tories to have any plan for the economy. For instance it is clear that much more needs to be done to support Scottish small businesses and Scotland’s high streets.

“That is why Scottish Labour has developed a Small Business Strategy to help protect local business and jobs. But we would also go further by ending austerity and investing in the economy to boost growth, protect jobs and deliver real change for the many not the few.”


29 January 2019

Responding to the publication of homelessness statistics today showing there were 18,486 applications for homelessness assistance ‪between 1 April and 30 September 2018, almost 300 applications more than the same period in 2017, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Housing Pauline McNeil said:

"These figures are disgraceful, and should prompt hard questions inside the government.

"It is clear that the systematic problems that lead to homelessness are not being tackled, and that’s before we consider the impact of the SNPs £1.5billion worth of cuts to councils since 2011.

"These cuts threaten vital services and mean people fall through the cracks because they aren't getting the support they need.

"Later this week the SNP want MSPs to vote for a budget that cut tax for people on £100,000 a year while cutting funding for local services. These figures show that would be completely unacceptable.

"Labour has a plan to fix our housing crisis and tackle homelessness, by ensuring councils have the funding they need to support vulnerable people, reforming the private rented sector and building more homes for social rent."


28 January 2019

Scottish Labour's education spokesperson, Iain Gray MSP, said:

“Scotland's teachers have repeatedly told John Swinney that standardised tests cause pupils distress and produce no meaningful data.

"Parliament voted to end these tests for Primary 1 pupils last year. Sadly, Mr Swinney opted to ignore the result and views of teachers across the country.

"With the Education Committee finding yet more evidence of the negative consequences of the SNP government's testing regime, Mr Swinney should respect the will of the Parliament, scrap these tests for P1s, and review them at P4, P7 and S3 levels.

"The SNP have slashed £400 million from school budgets, imposed an unwanted testing regime, ditched their flagship Education Bill and teachers are now on the verge of industrial action over pay."


27 January 2019

Commenting on the news that a second fungal infection was not reported within 24 hours as per NHS guidelines, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, Monica Lennon MSP, said:

“The last week has shaken the NHS and eroded public confidence in our health service.

“Instead of being up front with the public Jeane Freeman has presided over a culture of secrecy.

“Today we learn that a second fungal infection at the hospital, which has left a patient seriously ill, was kept from the public for a week despite NHS guidelines stating it should have been publicised within 24 hours.

“That is simply not good enough and the public will rightly question why this was hidden from them until Ms Freeman faced questions over the initial infection at Parliament.

“The SNP government must take immediate action to restore trust and confidence in our health service.”


23 January 2019

Responding to the government’s announcement of a review into the design and building of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Labour Health spokesperson Monica Lennon said:

“Jeane Freeman this afternoon confirmed that child sadly died as a result of infections at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and that alone is cause enough for a serious review of maintenance.

“Questions remain, however, why successive health secretaries allowed problems at the hospital to build up before commissioning this review.

“Problems at the hospital were reported as far back as February 2016, when sewage leaks saw operations cancelled. In December 2017 cladding had to be removed from the hospital due to similarities it shared to the material used on Grenfell tower.

“In August 2018, a glass panel crashed ten floors from the hospital, and last month we saw reports of bacteria in the water supply at the cancer ward at the children’s hospital on the campus.

“That is a laundry list of problems which should have set alarm bells ringing at any hospital, never mind Scotland’s flagship hospital. The review is overdue – it now must deliver honest answers about the mistakes that have been made.”


21 January 2019

SNP Ministers are planning to reward themselves with a tax cut in the Budget, independent analysis confirms.

Analysis by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre shows that a majority of higher rate taxpayers, including people earning more than £100,000, will receive a £140 tax cut as part of Derek Mackay's plans.

Changes in the personal allowance, coupled with the Nationalist's rates and bands proposals, mean those earning up to £124,375 will pay less income tax this year than last.

With a Budget that could make even more council workers redundant yet gives a tax cut to the Ministers responsible, Labour cannot possibly support it when it comes to Parliament on Thursday for the Stage 1 vote.

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

“It is morally reprehensible for Derek Mackay to put forward a budget which will make council workers redundant and himself richer.

“Our communities need investment and an end to austerity, but Derek Mackay is refusing to use Scotland's powers to do just that.

"With a Budget that will make council workers redundant and give a tax cut to the Ministers responsible, Labour cannot possibly support it when it comes to Parliament on Thursday.

“Labour would make the richest pay their fair share, including a 50p top rate of tax, invest in our public services and tackle the unacceptable levels of poverty in our society.”

Salmond Inquiry Must Help Rebuild Trust and Confidence

18 January 2019

Scottish Labour has urged Nicola Sturgeon to support a full and transparent inquiry into the government’s handling of the Alex Salmond inquiry in order to rebuild trust and restore confidence.

Party leader Richard Leonard urged the First Minister, as SNP group leader at Holyrood, to commit to a series of measures to ensure public trust in the proposed parliamentary inquiry, including that the committee:

• Must be chaired by an opposition MSP

• Must meet in public

• Must not be subject to a time limit on how long it sits for

• Must not be subject to a limit on how many sittings it has

• Should be able to scrutinise internal SNP correspondence connected to the case as well as government correspondence

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Let’s not forget that two women have been badly failed by the system, and they are entitled to answers, which is why the parliamentary inquiry must be as thorough as possible.

“The committee must meet in public and there should be no time limit on how long it sits for, or how many sittings it has.

“According to parliamentary precedent, the position of committee chair is due to be offered to the SNP - but this is an unprecedented situation and Nicola Sturgeon must agree that this inquiry will be chaired by an opposition MSP.

“Nicola Sturgeon should do the right thing.”

Scottish government urged to bring forward a statutory right to food in law

18 January 2019

Labour has pressed the Scottish government to bring forward a statutory right to food.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant pressed the government to outline when a proposed Good Food Nation bill would finally be brought forward.

The MSP is also writing to foodbank organisations across Scotland to ensure they take steps to make their users’ voices heard.

Rhoda said:

“We live in a developed nation in the 21st century and it is a national scandal that foodbank use is increasing year upon year upon year.

“Scottish Labour believe that there should be a statutory right to food, which brings together all of the current policies, gives them a guiding force, and has the power to measure the government’s success in feeding its people.

“In developing legislation, we believe that people who are most affected by food insecurity should have the opportunity to contribute to how the government can make things better.

“However, we accept that this is challenging, as those most affected by food insecurity tend to be the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society, who are unlikely to have their voice heard.

“I am writing to foodbank organisations in Scotland to find out whether they have any plans to make service users aware of the consultation, and how they are supporting them in submitting their views to the outcome of the consultation.

“While I understand that engaging with the government’s legislative process is not going to be the first thing on people’s minds when visiting foodbanks, I think that it is important that we listen to people who are most affected by the issues discussed, and take account of their views”

Special committee to hold inquiry into the Salmond case

15 January 2019

Commenting on the agreement to establish a special committee to hold a parliamentary inquiry into how the Scottish government handled an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against the former First Minister, Alex Salmond, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This is the right decision and a positive step forward. Full transparency in this matter is essential in order for the public to have confidence in the First Minister and the Scottish government. That means full public and parliamentary scrutiny.

“At all times it is essential to remember that at the centre of all of this are two courageous women who put their faith in a system that has badly let them down, and we must never lose sight of that, by safeguarding the duty of care to them and their access to justice.

“We must restore trust and confidence in the system, this committee will be an important step towards that.”

Comment on HES

13 January 2019

Commenting on reports the company lined up to replace HES has received more than £500,000 in fines, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said:

“What has happened at HES is a scandal – but SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has failed to keep Parliament informed. Clinical waste is piling up and NHS porters have been injured.

“She must reassure Parliament this crisis is under control.

“Instead, a replacement company that has history of being fined for poor performance stands to benefit from a multi-million pound NHS contract.

“Too many questions remain answered and this risks pushing our NHS into further crisis.

“That is why Scottish Labour is urging the SNP government to pause the contract process and launch a full review of what went wrong at HES.

“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman should leave all options on the table, including bringing the service back under NHS management.”

Comment on two child cap

12 January 2019

Commenting on the Conservative Government ditching its plans to extend a benefits cap on families of more than two children, Scottish Labour's Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

"The two child cap, and the rape clause that comes with it, is abhorrent and the Conservative Government still has not gone far enough in only stopping its extension as part of Universal Credit.

"Scottish Labour want this cruel policy ended in its entirety, which is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to use the upcoming budget to protect people in Scotland from its impact.

"The Scottish Tories must urgently explain if they will continue to defend a policy their own ministers are now rowing back from."

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