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.”



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.”



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.”



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. “



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.”



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.”


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."


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”



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.”




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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”



11 December 2017


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.”


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.”



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.”


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."


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”