Fife Council votes to scrap Primary 1 testing



13 December 2018

Commenting on reports of Fife council voting to withdraw from the SNP's standardised testing for Primary 1 pupils, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney has now lost control of schools policy altogether.

"His flagship education bill was binned, the budget leaves schools facing teachers’ strikes in a matter of weeks, and now his national testing is no longer national, at least in Primary 1.

"Again and again he has refused to listen to teachers, parents and the councillors charged with actually delivering education on the ground.

“He was meant to be a safe pair of hands but he has now completely dropped the ball.”




Comment on Brexit Supreme Court ruling



13 December 2018

Commenting on the Supreme Court judgement on the Scottish Parliament's Continuity Bill, Scottish Labour's Brexit spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP said:

“Scottish Labour accepts this judgement and stands ready to continue to work with other parties to push for a solution.

“It is obviously deeply disappointing that we will not have the opportunity to embed the charter of fundamental rights in Scots law if we leave the EU.

“Not only do the Tories risk wrecking our economy with their calamitous handling of Brexit, but right-wing ideologues are using it to try to undermine working and civil rights too.

“We simply cannot allow that to happen.”




MACKAY HOLDS ONTO £300MILLION ‘SLUSH FUND’ WHILE CHILDREN GO HUNGRY AND SERVICES FACE MORE CUTS



12 December 2018

Derek Mackay is sitting on a £300 million ‘slush fund’ while local services face cuts and 1 in 4 Scottish children are living in poverty.

The Finance Secretary has increased the cash he is holding in reserve by a third to £313 million.

Meanwhile, local council budgets are set to face at least £95 million worth of cuts in the coming year, and the budget takes no serious action to tackle child poverty, or lift the two-child cap on tax credits and Universal Credit.

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

“Public services are at breaking point, head teachers are writing to parents about unprecedented cuts, one in four children in Scotland are living in poverty and our rail system is in crisis.

“Scotland is being let down by Nicola Sturgeon’s timid government and Derek Mackay’s timid budget.

“If you want to see just how badly the SNP is failing the people of Scotland, you just have to look at how local councils are struggling. There are now 3,000 fewer teachers in our schools, and nearly a third of children fail to reach the required level of literacy by the end of primary school.

“Few things better sum up the cruelty of the Tory government than the two-child cap on tax credits and Universal Credit, which punishes people for raising a family. The SNP has refused to use its powers to put an end to this vile policy and rejected calls from across civic Scotland to increase Child Benefit.

“Instead, Derek Mackay has kept a slush fund of over £300million in reserves while children are going hungry and services face cuts.”




SNP MUST BACK LABOUR’S ANTI-AUSTERITY BUDGET



9 December 2018

Scottish Labour has put forward a series of anti-austerity proposals for Wednesday’s budget as reports show talks between the SNP and other parties stalling.

The proposals include using Scotland’s powers to end the two-child cap and the associated ‘rape clause’, topping up Child Benefit by £5 per week, stopping cuts to councils and freezing rail fares.

The party believes it is time for the SNP to start using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make different choices from the Tory government and its austerity agenda.

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

“Labour is putting forward a radical plan to use Scotland’s powers to lift children out of poverty and help thousands of families with the cost of living.

“It would simply be morally wrong to leave children languishing in poverty whilst Scotland’s significant powers over welfare gather dust on the SNP government’s shelf.

"Experts, faith leaders and charities have backed Labour's call to use Scotland's powers to lift people out of poverty, and it is time for Derek Mackay to listen.

“The time for tinkering at the edges is over. We need a real change of direction in this budget – and Labour has the ideas for how we can do things differently.”






Comment on IPPR tax report



6 December 2018

Commenting on the IPPR report showing 40,000 children could be lifted out of poverty by freezing the higher rate threshold in Scotland, Scottish Labour's Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“This is a hugely significant report that shows the power of taxation to deliver real change.

“Labour has been clear from the outset that we want a Scottish budget where the richest pay their fair share to properly fund public services and tackle inequality.

“The SNP has taken Tory austerity and quadrupled it for local lifeline services, while Theresa May’s government has clearly broken its promise to end austerity.

“Income tax is devolved and, as this important report makes clear, making different choices on the higher rate threshold in Scotland could lift 40,000 children out of poverty.

“The SNP must deliver a progressive tax system that meets the needs of communities across Scotland.”




Comment on Scottish Parliament Brexit vote

6 December 2018

Commenting on MSPs overwhelmingly rejecting Theresa May's Brexit deal, Scottish Labour's Brexit spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP said:

"MSPs have come together to show their contempt for Theresa May's botched Brexit deal.

"The Tories need to realise their plan is bad for Scotland and the rest the UK, bad for jobs and industries and bad for our communities.

"We believe this plan will be rejected in the House of Commons. The Tories should then make way for a Labour government that can not only negotiate a Brexit deal that protects jobs, rights and our economy, but transforms society so it works for the many, not the few."




Comment on fuel poverty report



6 December 2018

Responding to new figures showing a quarter of households are living in fuel poverty, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Pauline McNeill said:

"Scotland is an energy-rich country, yet these latest figures show yet again that a quarter of people in Scotland are living in fuel poverty.

“In 2002, the last Labour-led Scottish government set a target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016, but years of inaction from the SNP means that target was missed. These latest figures show yet again the SNP’s utter failure to deliver real change on fuel poverty.

"Earlier this week, Labour launched our campaign to highlight our plans to ensure everyone has access to a warm home with affordable energy bills – and these figures make it clear exactly why that campaign is necessary.

“The next Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster will take action to end the scandal of fuel poverty with a commitment to eradicate fuel poverty by 2032 in Scotland.”




A THIRD OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT



6 December 2018

A third of children and young people are waiting more than 18 weeks for mental health treatment, official figures show.

New figures published today reveal that 1,316 children seen between July and September 2018 had to wait longer than the four and half months waiting time target – the equivalent of 31 per cent of all the patients seen in this time period.

Since the start of 2018, just 69.1 per cent of patients treated have been seen within the target time, compared to 85.3 per cent in the same period last year.

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

“Looking after the mental health of Scotland’s children and young people should be a national priority.

“Early intervention is vital when a young person is struggling with their mental health and a properly resourced NHS would deliver this.

“The BBC Disclosure programme ‘Life on the NHS List’ beamed into our living rooms last night, featuring eight year old Chloe from Kirkcaldy, who waited more than a year to access child mental health services. The Scottish Government must end the mental health waiting time crisis and give all children and young people the support they need.”




NUMBER OF PEOPLE CLAIMING COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION HITS RECORD LOW





6 December 2018

Commenting on figures released today showing the number of people claiming Council Tax Reduction has fallen to a record low, Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“The number of claimants falling to a record low for Council Tax Reduction should set alarm bells ringing for the SNP government.

"Council Tax Reduction is failing people at a time when the onslaught of Universal Credit is wreaking havoc with household budgets.

"The scheme must be urgently reformed and bolstered to help put money in pockets of those who need it most."




LOW INCOME FAMILIES, THE ELDERLY AND RURAL COMMUNITIES FACE EXTRA COSTS UNLESS ATMS FEES ARE BANNED







6 December 2018

Ahead of a debate on the effect of ATM closures on towns, high streets and rural communities in Parliament Scottish Labour MP Ged Killen has warned that unless ATM charges are banned, and a new funding solution found for free to use ATMs then low-income families, the elderly and rural communities will be penalised in the transition to a cashless society.

Research by Which? UK has found that over three quarters (78 per cent) of consumers in the two lowest household income groups rely on cash, using it two to three times a week, while four-fifths (80 per cent) of retirees use it frequently, according to a survey of over 2,000 people by consumer group Which?

LINK’s, the industry body which funds ATMs, Financial Inclusion Programme (FiP) has failed to protect rural communities, despite assurances that it would. Rural areas have seen a higher proportion of closures than urban areas, with the regulator, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) sanctioning LINK for its failure.

Between the end of January and the start of July 2018, the number of free-to-use ATMs fell from 54,500 to 53,200. A loss of 1,300 or 250 per month.

Speaking ahead of his debate Labour MP Ged Killen said:

“When LINK announced their plans to reduce the funding for free to use ATMs they gave assurances that low income families, the elderly and rural communities would be protected.

“Nearly a year after the first cuts to ATM funding LINK have categorically failed to live up to their obligations. Their failure risks costing those who rely on cash dearly.

“I’ve introduced a bill in parliament to ban ATM charges and protect access to cash. I’m urging the Government to support my bill, without Parliament taking action we will sleep walk into a situation where the most vulnerable will be forced to pay for an uneven transition to a cashless society.

“This Bill has been endorsed by James Goodfellow, the Scottish inventor of the ATM and pin code who has said that the banks had benefited greatly from his invention and that they had a “moral obligation to protect free to use ATMs.

“I am glad to have James’ support and I agree with his assessment”








Comment on IPPR report 30 November 2018

Commenting on the IPPR report suggesting that matching the UK Government tax cut in Scotland could cost £1bn over the next four years, Scottish Labour's Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“Labour want to see a Scottish budget where the richest pay their fair share to properly fund public services and tackle inequality.

“The SNP has taken Tory austerity and quadrupled it for local lifeline services, while Theresa May’s government has clearly broken its promise to end austerity.

“Income tax is devolved and, as this important report makes clear, raising the higher rate threshold should not be a priority for the Scottish Government.

“Scotland needs a progressive tax system that meets the needs of communities across the country.”




Comment on Scottish Parliament Brexit vote





6 December 2018

RESPONSE TO SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT BREXIT ANALYSIS 27 November 2018

Responding to the Scottish government's analysis paper of Theresa May's Brexit deal, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Labour will vote against Theresa May’s botched deal that is bad for Scotland, bad for the UK and bad for our communities.

“Having spent the last two years negotiating with her own Party rather than the EU, the Prime Minister has now lost authority. If, as seems likely, this deal is rejected by Parliament we need a general election to replace this rotten Tory Government. “Labour has a sensible alternative plan for Brexit that could win the support of the Commons and the country, which would protect jobs and our industries, rights and standards. "We want a new comprehensive and permanent customs union, with a British say in future trade deals, and a strong single market relationship to support British businesses.”






COMMENT ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY COMMISSION REPORT

6 December 2018 Commenting on a report from the Poverty and Inequality Commission, regarding the pressures faced by low-income families over the holiday period, Labour Poverty and Inequality spokesperson Elaine Smith MSP said:

"Labour in local government has taken a lead on tackling the costs of school holidays, with North Lanarkshire Council's Club 365 scheme ensuring a free school meal every day of the year.

"In the Scottish budget Labour wants to see an end to the two-child cap in tax credits and a £5 per week increase to Child Benefit, which would reduce some of the financial pressure on families and lift 30,000 children out of poverty."




COMMENT ON TEACHER STRIKE BEING 'VERY LIKELY'

22 November 2018

Commenting on Seamus Searsson, general secretary of the SSTA union, saying a strike is 'very likely', Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"The last time teachers went on strike I was a teacher, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and many of those who cast their ballot last week were not even born - that's how badly the SNP has mishandled teachers' pay.

"No one wants to see industrial action.

"John Swinney needs to come back with a fair deal for teachers.

Education was supposed to be the SNP's top priority - instead it is becoming its biggest crisis."




Comment on Scottish Police Authority report

22 November 2018

Commenting on the Auditor General's report into the Scottish Police Authority, Scottish Labour's Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“This is an important report from the Auditor General.

“As the report notes, policing in Scotland faces significant challenges, largely due to the SNP government’s failure to provide officers with the financial support they need.

“Widespread reforms to policing cannot be completed on the cheap, while it is clear mismanagement at the Scottish Police Authority is also impacting on delivery.

“The SNP government must look at the findings of this review and finally heed the continued warnings about its underfunding of Police Scotland.”




SCOTRAIL CANCELLATIONS WORST ON RECORD



13 November 2018

The number of ScotRail services being cancelled is the worst on record, with new figures spelling further woe for the failing franchise.

According to new performance targets, almost 4 per cent of ScotRail services were cancelled between September 16 and October 13 in 2018 – more than three times the rate of cancellations for the same period in the first two years of the franchise.

Scottish Labour said the figures were further evidence of how Abellio was failing passengers in Scotland.

The new figures come ahead of Labour forcing a parliamentary vote on the future of ScotRail.

Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“ScotRail’s cancellations are now the worst on record, with more and more passengers being left stranded.

“The number of services being cancelled is now more than triple the same period of previous years – meaning ScotRail’s failings are getting worse.

“That is a failing franchise, in a failing franchising system and passengers have had enough.

“SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson should use the break in the franchise agreement to take ScotRail back into public ownership so we can deliver train services that work for the many.

“Labour will force a vote on the future of ScotRail. For the sake of passengers across Scotland, the Scottish Parliament must join with Labour and vote to end this franchise.”




RICHARD LEONARD : ARMISTICE COMMENT

11 November 2018

Commenting on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“On the 100th anniversary of the Armistice we remember all those who fought and died in the First World War.

“We remember also the sacrifice of those on the Home Front, as well as the often terrible legacy which conflict leaves on the mental health of those who survive.

“But as well as remembering those who endured, suffered and lost during the First World War, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice should also serve as a catalyst to renew our collective effort to fight for peace, equality and an end to the sufferings of war that continue to afflict people across the globe.”




LOW PAY GROWS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION UNDER THE SNP



11 November 2018

Low pay across health and education has grown under the SNP in Scotland, according to a new analysis from Scottish Labour.

A new breakdown of Scottish labour market figures shows 470,000 people are now earning less than the living wage – up from 417,000 in 2012, an increase of 53,000.

The biggest growth has been in the Human Health and Social work sector, which has seen a 46 per cent increase in the number of people earning below the living wage.

This follows a recent report from the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland and the University of Strathclyde which found that although the living wage for social care workers was a ‘progressive effort’ that it has been ‘bedevilled by a series of major flaws in the implementation process’.

The number of people earning less than the living wage in the Accommodation and Food Services sector in Scotland has risen by 26 per cent between 2012 and 2017, while in Education it has risen 28 per cent over the same period.

Labour has a detailed five-point plan to tackle low pay, including:

• A £10 per hour real living wage

• A ban on zero hour contracts

• An interventionist industrial strategy to deliver high wage, high skill jobs

• Putting trade union and collective bargaining at the heart of economic growth

• Equalising rights for workers in the gig economy

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“The rise in low pay across health and education in Scotland is alarming. The SNP should hang it’s head in shame.

“Those in the health and education sectors perform valuable work – they deserve much better than poverty pay.

“Under Labour work will pay, with a £10 per hour real living wage, a ban on zero hours contracts and better rights with more security at work.

“Under the broken economy of the SNP and the Tories, more and more people are on poverty pay in Scotland this year, than last – including some of the most valued workers in society.

“Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster have a plan to end poverty pay, including introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour and an industrial strategy that will deliver high-wage, high-skill jobs across Scotland.”




Comment on Fraser of Allander report

8 November 2018

Commenting on today's Fraser of Allander report on Scotland's Budget, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“This is an important report that makes crystal clear the choices facing Scotland – either investment or cuts.

“The SNP has repeatedly refused to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenues, including refusing to introduce a 50p top rate of tax that would make the richest pay their fair share.

“Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives are advocating for tax cuts that would risk cutting even further our already under resourced lifeline services, such as the NHS.

“Labour is the only party seriously advocating sustainable solutions to fund and grow public services in the long-term, including using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make the richest pay their fair share, and considering a wealth tax.

“The choice facing Scotland’s voters is now clear: investment and growth with Labour, or cuts and division with the SNP and Tories.

“Only Labour has the ideas to build a society that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR TO LAUNCH BILL ON CULPABLE HOMICIDE TO PROTECT WORKERS

8 November 2018

Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker will today launch her Culpable Homicide Member’s Bill to reform the law over fatal workplace incidents.

If passed, the Bill will create new legal avenues for the families of victims killed by recklessness or gross negligence by their employer.

Despite 17 people dying on average in industrial incidents each year in Scotland over the last five years, there has not been a single prosecution under existing legislation in the last decade.

Speaking ahead of its launch at the Scottish Hazards Conference, Claire Baker MSP, said:

“Far too many people in Scotland each year do not return home to their loved ones after going to work.

“It is simply unacceptable, in the 21st century, to have workers dying as a result of negligence or recklessness by their employers.

“Sadly, the law currently does not provide enough protection for workers and that’s why I have launched my private member’s Bill to ensure that is brought to an end.

“New legal avenues for prosecution and statutory punishments would send a clear message to employers that health and safety must be the number one priority for any business.

“I hope all political parties in the Scottish Parliament will join with me to end the scandal of death and injury at work.”




HOLYROOD MUST STEP UP IN BATTLE AGAINST THE TORIES' CALLOUS UNIVERSAL CREDIT

6 November 2018

Scottish Labour has called for Holyrood to step up and prove it is better than the callous Tory government on Universal Credit.

Social Security Spokesperson Mark Griffin said it was essential Holyrood joined together to protect people from the worst of Tory policies.

Figures from the Trussel Trust this week showed food bank use was increasing as a result of Universal Credit’s botched roll out, while Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne also recently defended the introduction of the rape clause.

Scottish Labour has now called on the SNP to get on with talks on how the worst of Tory welfare changes can be reversed.

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

“Here in Scotland, we should have serious, thorough that discussion about how we can make people’s lives easier.

“We have the powers to do so – and it is essential people across Scotland are reassured Holyrood does act and is better than this callous Tory Government.

“While Tory MSPs defend the rape clause, and the SNP refuse to support a child benefit top-up that would lift 30,000 children out of poverty, it is Labour that is fighting for a dignified welfare state that truly supports the most vulnerable.

“It is high-time MSPs across the chamber started backing their warm words with proper actions.”




NEARLY 350 OFFICERS LOST UNDER THE SNP

6 November 2018

Nearly 350 police officers have been cut under the SNP’s watch, new figures reveal.

The latest staff survey of Police Scotland show 349 officers have now been lost since the peak in 2013.

The number of officers cut now equates to the size of almost the entire Dumfries and Galloway policing division.

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

Scottish Labour said it would give Police Scotland the resources it needs to keep officers on the front line.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“There are now nearly 350 fewer police officers in Scotland under the SNP.

“The loss of so many officers – the equivilant of the entire Dumfries and Galloway policing division – will rightly concern people across the country, who are already seeing a police presence disappear form their community.

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

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

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

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

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


STUDENT DEBT SOARS BY 169 PER CENT UNDER THE SNP

1 November 2018

Student debt has soared by 169 per cent to almost £5billion under the SNP, despite a Nationalist pledge to write off debt entirely.

Figures published this week also show that the average student debt is now £13,200, more than double the £6,070 debt the SNP inherited.

In the run up to the 2007 Scottish Elections Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that an incoming SNP government would ‘meet the debt repayments of Scottish graduates living in Scotland’

Meanwhile election literature promised to:

‘...write off the cumulative debt still owed to the student loans company by Scottish domiciled students.’

Instead the SNP government has increased the use of loans for student finance, cutting grants and bursaries instead.

Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard urges Nicola Sturgeon to apologise for her £5 billion broken promise.

Richard Leonard said:

“The average debt for a Scottish graduate now stands at £13,200. Nicola Sturgeon promised Scottish students that their debts would be written off.

“Nicola Sturgeon did not dump the debt, she dumped the promise. Total student debt in Scotland is now almost £5billion, a 169 per cent increase since the SNP came to power.

“It is the poorest students who end up racking up the highest debts by taking out the biggest loans.

“Even by the standards of this government, promising to scrap student debt and then increasing it by 169 per cent is nothing short of shameful.

“A generation of students have started high school and gone on to university since the SNP made and then surreptitiously dropped their promise on student debt.

“That’s a generation of students burdened with debt repayments that the SNP promised that they would write off.

“As a result these current and former students still owe a debt to the government, but this government owes them an unreserved apology.”




STURGEON'S BILLION POUND NHS BOMBSHELL

25 October 2018

Health boards have had to make cuts totalling £1.1billion since Nicola Sturgeon took office.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the “abject failure” of the SNP to properly fund the NHS.

The new figure comes after Audit Scotland warned that the SNP’s underfunding of the health service was “not sustainable”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Health boards have had to make cuts totalling £1.1 billion since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

“This week’s Audit Scotland report exposes the mismanagement of the NHS under the SNP, with too many staff under too much pressure, too many patients waiting far too long and too many health boards having to make swingeing cuts.

“The SNP has been in office for eleven years and the Auditor General has concluded that the NHS in Scotland is not financially sustainable - that represents nothing less than an abject failure of government.”




COMMENT ON GLASGOW STRIKE ACTION

24 October 2018

Commenting on reports that SNP-led Glasgow City Council may take legal action against workers refusing to cross picket lines, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said:

“The action in Glasgow is legitimate industrial action in pursuit of a long-standing grievance.

"This can only be resolved through proper negotiation.

“Glasgow City Council should not be using anti-trade union laws to attack those showing solidarity with their fellow workers.

“The SNP council must immediately withdraw any threats of legal action.”




SNP MISMANAGEMENT PUTS NHS’ FUTURE UNDER THREAT - MONICA LENNON

24 October 2018

Audit Scotland’s damning report into the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS shows that the future of our health service is threatened under Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour has said.

The watchdog report found:

• The financial standing of health boards “is not sustainable”

• Nicola Sturgeon cut the health budget by 0.2 per cent in real terms last year

• The number of people waiting over 12 weeks for an inpatient appointment is up 26 per cent and for an outpatient appointment is up 6 per cent on 2016/17

• The number of unfilled vacancies is up for nursing & midwifery, consultants and GP posts

• Performance declined against all eight key national targets between 2016/17 and 2017/18

Nicola Sturgeon has ignored staff and patients, and put the future of Scotland’s NHS at risk.

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

“This damning report confirms the devastating consequences of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s government has routinely ignored the problems raised by staff and the people who rely on the NHS. Her inaction has put the future of our NHS under threat, with the financial and workforce problems worsening under her watch.

“In recent years the number of unfilled vacancies for nurses, midwives and GPs has soared, creating a staffing crisis on our hospital wards. Worryingly, only a third of NHS workers believe there is enough staff to give patients the care they deserve.

“Three of our country’s health boards had to be bailed out last year whilst the rest were forced to make unsustainable cuts to services because the SNP cut the health budget in real terms.

“After more than a decade of SNP complacency our NHS is in crisis. Nicola Sturgeon must now put the country before her party and use the full powers of the Scottish Parliament and the resources and expertise available to the Scottish Government to halt this NHS crisis."

Key quotes from ‘NHS in Scotland 2018’:

“The NHS in Scotland is not in a financially sustainable position. NHS boards are struggling to break even, relying increasingly on Scottish Government loans and one-off savings.” (P5)

“The NHS faces significant workforce challenges. Recruitment remained difficult in 2017/18, while sickness absence and turnover increased.” (P8)

“The overall health budget in 2017/18 was £13.1 billion, a 0.2 per cent decrease in real terms on the previous year.” (P8)

“In the 2017/18 annual audit reports, auditors highlighted significant levels of risk around boards’ ability to break even in 2018/19. At May 2018, NHS boards were predicting a deficit of £131.5 million in 2018/19” (P11)

“In 2017/18, the [savings] figure rose to £449.1 million. This represents 3.6 per cent of total revenue allocations to NHS boards. Despite this, the NHS did not meet its overall savings target of £480.8 million in 2017/18, falling short by seven per cent, £31.7 million.” (p12)

“It is becoming more and more difficult to identify areas in which NHS boards can make one-off savings... At the start of the 2017/18 financial year, NHS boards were unable to identify where 28 per cent of all planned savings would come from, up from 17 per cent the previous year, and three per cent five years ago” (p13)

“Backlog maintenance remains significant across the whole estate at £899 million in 2017/18 and a number of hospitals and other health facilities will require significant investment to ensure they remain fit for purpose.” (p16)

“As the way healthcare is delivered changes, the existing NHS estate will need to adapt to reflect this. The Scottish Government has not planned what investment will be needed.” (p16)

“The NHS met only one of eight key national performance targets in 2017/18… Performance declined against all eight key national targets between 2016/17 and 2017/18.” (p18)

“In the final quarter of 2017/18, 93,107 people waited more than 12 weeks for their first outpatient appointment, an increase of six per cent on the previous year. The number of people who waited more than 12 weeks has increased by 215 per cent in the last five years. People waiting more than 16 weeks increased by 13 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18, and by 558 per cent over the last five years.” (p19)

“2017/18 annual audit reports of NHS boards indicated that financial pressures will continue to have a detrimental impact on performance.” (p19)

“the percentage of patients rating the quality of care provided by their GP practice as positive has declined from 90 per cent in 2009/10 to 83 per cent in 2017/18.” (p20)

“There are indications that finding effective leaders and support teams is becoming more difficult.” (p26) “Only 62 per cent of respondents to the 2017 national health and social care staff survey felt that the senior managers responsible for the wider organisation were sufficiently visible. 64 per cent of respondents had confidence and trust in the senior managers responsible for their wider organisation.” (p27)

“The majority (63 per cent) of board members surveyed by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee in 2018 thought their board had the right skills, knowledge and expertise. However, a third thought their board only partly had the right skills, knowledge and expertise.” (p29)

“If health and care services are to change to meet the needs of Scotland’s people, then the NHS and the Scottish Government must become more open.” (p30)

“There is still no overall picture of how the NHS is performing and the difference the NHS is making to people’s lives.” (p31)




LABOUR WOULD USE HOLYROOD’S POWERS TO TACKLE POVERTY AND INEQUALITY



24 October 2018

Only a radical Scottish Labour government will use Holyrood’s powers to tackle poverty and inequality to ensure our society works for the many.

Labour’s spokesperson for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality, Elaine Smith MSP, will lead a debate at Holyrood to highlight the party’s radical agenda to fight poverty in our communities.

The debate comes just a day before the Equality and Human Rights Commission publishes a report which is expected to show that very little progress has been made in the last three years on ending inequalities in our society.

Despite being in power for more than a decade, the SNP’s reluctance to fully use the Parliament’s powers has resulted in inequality being further entrenched in our society with life expectancy rates falling for the first time in decades and at least 94 rough sleepers dying on our streets in the last 12 months.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality, Elaine Smith MSP, said:

“It is a national scandal that in the second decade of the 21st century Scotland’s communities are still blighted by poverty.

“For the first time in 35 years the life expectancy of men and women in this country fell whilst at least 94 people homeless on our streets died in the last year. Added to this is the shocking figure of one in four Scottish children living in poverty with many of them in working households. This is a sign of a political and economic system that is failing the poor.

“After more than a decade in power the SNP have run out of ideas and are now running scared of using Holyrood’s powers to the full.

“A radical Scottish Labour government will use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fight poverty and inequality.

“Only Labour will ensure our society works for the many, not the few.”

Motion text: That the parliament notes with concern the recent publication of a number of reports which show that deep rooted poverty and inequality persists in Scotland’s communities; understands that revelations from these reports include that at least 94 rough sleepers died on Scotland’s streets in the last 12 months, at least one in 10 people living in the poorest areas of Scotland ran out of food in the last year due to a lack of money, that life expectancy in Scotland has fallen for the first time in 35 years and remains the lowest of all nations in the United Kingdom; believes that the Scottish government has failed to use the powers of the parliament adequately to challenge and address the root causes of poverty and inequality, including those perpetuated by the policies of the UK Government; and in doing so calls for an end to austerity in Scotland.

SNP SPEND JUST £1MILLION OF £200MILLION BUSINESS FUND



1 October 2018

The SNP government has spent just £1million out of a £200million fund to help Scottish businesses announced more than a year ago.

Iain Scott, the Chief Financial Officer of Scottish Enterprise, admitted at the Economy Committee that just one deal had been concluded since the Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme was announced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017.

The fund’s stated aim is to help “businesses in all areas of Scotland looking for equity investment to meet their growth ambitions”.

Scottish Labour said the fact only one deal had been done showed the SNP’s plans for the economy were “just spin, not substance” and warned that, with Brexit fast approaching, more needed to be done to protect Scottish business.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“This is a startling revelation.

“Once again, the SNP’s high profile announcements on the economy are shown to be just spin, not substance.

“With Brexit creating unprecedented challenges for the Scottish economy, it is essential that the SNP government is doing everything possible to support business and increase investment.

“This admission from Scottish Enterprise shows that is anything but the case. Given that Brexit is just round the corner it is clear much more needs to be done, but should have been done a lot sooner.

“SNP Economy Secretary Derek Mackay must stop sleep walking and urgently outline what he will do to ensure this money is used to boost Scotland’s economy.”




LESLEY LAIRD : RBS CLOSURES PROGRAMME 'A SHAMBLES'



28 September 2018

Commenting on the news that only two of the RBS branches given a reprieve earlier this year are to remain open, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird said: “This just confirms what we already knew – that this was never a reprieve, it was a stay of execution.

"The handling of the branch closure programme has been a shambles and communities across Scotland will be devastated by this news.

“The UK Government has been hiding behind the fact that this is apparently a commercial decision for the bank.

“It is time for that attitude to change and for them to intervene – taxpayers are the majority shareholders and they deserve better."




SCOTTISH BUDGET UNDERSPENT BY MORE THAN £300MILLION – WITH EDUCATION THE BIGGEST LOSER



27 September 2018

The Scottish Government’s budget has been underspent by nearly £340million, according to a damning Audit Scotland report.

Departments failed to spend £339million 2017/18, up from just £85million the previous year.

The investigation reveals Education and Skills is the biggest loser with a £115million underspend – despite widespread issues and Nicola Sturgeon claiming it is her top priority.

Other big losers include Rural Economy and Connectivity - despite warnings the SNP will fail to effectively roll out broadband to rural areas.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed how timid the SNP was in government, and called on Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay to use the powers available to them to tackle Tory cuts.

Scottish Labour’s Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“These figures show just how timid the SNP is when it comes to stopping the cuts and ending Tory austerity.

“In the week where we learned that life expectancy has fallen for the first time in 35-years in Scotland – and crime has risen – the SNP should be doing everything it can to improve the lives of people in Scotland.

“But rather than using the money available to them, SNP ministers have simply sat on their hands and done nothing while services suffer.

“The fact there is a £115 million underspend on education, while schools are in crisis and pupils are being failed, is simply unacceptable and will rightly anger parents across the country.

“SNP ministers must immediately heed Audit Scotland’s concerns – and it is high time they started acting to stop the cuts and used the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in lifeline services.”




LABOUR DEMAND ACTION ON SNP PROCUREMENT SHAMBLES



27 September 2018

Scottish Labour has demanded action amid fears Scottish firms could miss out on public contracts because of the SNP’s mishandling of procurement.

The contract to handle printing for Scotland’s 53 public bodies – the Print and Associated Services (PAS) contract - is due to be put out to tender imminently.

But industry leaders fear small businesses in Scotland could miss out on the contract entirely because of the SNP’s insistence on a single supplier which effectively freezes them out of the tender process.

Last month, the entirety of a £70million contract to handle the Scottish Government’s printing was handed to Manchester-based firm APS because of the government’s insistence on a single supplier - and the industry fears the same process will be repeated in this case.

Trade body Print Scotland has already warned that Scottish firms could go bust due to a lack of government contracts.

The fears come after the Federation of Small Businesses said public contracts going to smaller firms had halved under a decade of SNP government.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly called for a review of public procurement and has committed to giving more contracts to small and medium sized firms as part of the party’s Small Business Strategy.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“This is such a wasted opportunity and so disappointing.

“Under the SNP, we have a situation where Scottish firms are effectively being forced out of the market by arbitrary rules, leaving public sector contracts to be swept up by national and multi-national firms.

“This is taxpayers’ money and it should be used to grow the economy locally and nationally here in Scotland, rather than boost the profits of big firms based elsewhere.

“Public procurement could be a way to boost Scotland’s economic performance, with more contracts going to businesses in our local areas, but that simply isn’t happening under the SNP.

“We need a wholesale review of public procurement in Scotland, so it is working for Scottish companies and taxpayers – and the SNP should match Labour’s commitment to spend more on procurement with small businesses.

“But in the meantime, SNP Economy Secretary Derek Mackay must change the terms of the PAS tender to ensure local companies are not excluded.”




SNP HAS NEVER HIT CANCER WAITING TIME TARGET UNDER STURGEON



25 September 2018

The SNP has never hit a key cancer waiting-time target since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Scottish Labour analysis reveals.

The health service is expected to ensure that 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer do not wait more than 62 days to start treatment.

This key target has never been met under Sturgeon’s stewardship of the NHS, with just 84.6 per cent of patients being treated within the 62 days in the latest quarter to June 30 this year.

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

“We all know the faster a patient begins cancer treatment the greater chance it gives them to live.

“It is shameful that Scots are failed on this each day in our NHS.

“The key 62 day target has never been met under Nicola Sturgeon’s stewardship since she became First Minister almost four years ago.




MORE THAN 1,400 BEDS CUT FROM NHS UNDER THE SNP



25 September 2018

More than 1,400 beds in acute care services in the NHS has been cut under the mismanagement of the SNP government, official figures show.

New statistics from ISD Scotland show that the number of beds decreased by 2 per cent year-on-year in 2017/18 and a total of 1,434 beds have been cut under the SNP since 2008/09.

The slashing of beds has coincided with the SNP’s failure to honour their promise to end delayed discharge and the growing number of vacant nursing posts, creating an NHS’ capacity crisis.

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

“Scotland’s NHS is being mismanaged by the SNP government.

“Our health service has 1,400 fewer beds than it did a decade ago.

“This comes amid the SNP’s broken promise to end delayed discharge and the skyrocketing number of vacant nursing posts, causing a capacity crisis in hospital wards.

“Unlike the SNP, Labour has listened to hard-pressed staff and established a workforce commission to design a blueprint for the health service’s future.

“Labour built the NHS and only Labour has the vision and the ideas to protect it.”

“It’s time for her to stop putting the SNP before the NHS and give patients the care they deserve.”




LIFE EXPECTANCY FALL SHOULD SHAME SNP AND TORY GOVERNMENTS



25 September 2018



Commenting on today’s appalling life expectancy figures, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“For the first time in 35 years the life expectancy of both men and women has fallen in Scotland.

“That is a statistic which should shame both the Tory and SNP governments.

“After more than a decade of the SNP in charge of the country’s health service, Scotland has the lowest life expectancy rates of any part of the UK.

“Only a radical Labour government will use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fight poverty and health inequalities.”




SNP HEALTH SECRETARY MUST MAKE STATEMENT ON LATEST NHS TAYSIDE CRISIS



17 September 2018

Scottish Labour is today (Sunday) calling on SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to address the latest crisis engulfing NHS Tayside with an urgent statement at Holyrood after a member of its audit committee resigned citing patient safety fears.

The crisis-hit health board has confirmed that three members of its vitally important audit committee, including a whistleblowers' champion who has cited concerns about patient care, have resigned from their posts.

Munwar Hussain, who was only appointed in April, told the Sunday Post he is leaving the committee as the concerns "are serious but they are not taking it serious".

NHS Tayside has already received £45.3 million in loans from the Scottish Government in recent years to keep it afloat, and official estimates show it is hurtling towards a £18.7 million black hole in its books come the end of the current financial year.

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

"These resignations from NHS Tayside’s vitally important audit committee plunge the health board into deeper turmoil.

“For a member of this committee to leave their post as they believe that serous concerns regarding patient care are not being dealt with is deeply troubling.

“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must now come to Holyrood as soon as possible give a full and frank statement of what has gone on inside the health board and, most importantly, what does she intend to do about it.

“The list of problems at NHS Tayside is a lengthy one.

"The health board is the subject of a live investigation into mental health treatment failures and is hurtling towards a fresh financial crisis with experts forecasting an £18.7 million black hole in its books by the end of the current financial year.

"The public have lost confidence in the heath board.

"In order to start repairing the damage and rebuilding trust with the people of Tayside, the health secretary must come to Parliament and answer questions as soon as possible.

“Scottish Labour will continue to stand up for hard-pressed NHS staff in Tayside and across Scotland who are being failed by the SNP’s mismanagement of our health service.”




MORE THAN 14,000 YOUNGSTERS FORCED TO WAIT FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT UNDER STURGEON



16 September 2018

Over 1,000 young people wait more than a year for treatment.

More than 14,000 children and young people have had to wait longer than 18-weeks to receive Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Labour analysis reveals.

Since Nicola Sturgeon came to power in November 2014, 14,345 children and youngpeople were forced to wait longer than 18-weeks for mental health treatment, with a staggering 1,185 young people waiting for over a year.

The figures follow a joint report from the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission this week, which revealed that performance for Child and Adolescent Mental HealthServices have gone backwards under the First Minister.

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

“More and more young people are coming forward to seek treatment for their mental health problems as the stigma surrounding the topic diminishes in our society.

“Sadly, thousands of these brave young people who have sought help have had to endure intolerable waits for treatment.

“Scotland’s young people deserve better than this.

“For far too long Nicola Sturgeon has put the SNP before the NHS and ignored the problems within our health system.

“Labour has listened to patients and hard-pressed NHS staff and established a workforce commission to ensure our NHS is fit for the future.”




SWINNEY SCRAPPED GLOBAL SCHOOLS STUDY TO SAVE MONEY



15 September 2018

The row over the SNP’s handling of education has intensified today, as it is revealed Scotland was removed from two global schools studies at the urging of then Finance Secretary and present Education Secretary John Swinney to save money.

In 2010 Scotland was a participant in three international educational standards comparisons, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Programme for International Student Assesment (PISA).

Correspondence released to Scottish Labour under freedom of information laws reveals that Mr Swinney, as Finance Secretary in 2010, urged that Scotland leave PISA to save money.

In the end it was decided to remain in PISA, but leave PIRLS and TIMSS to make the savings demanded by Mr Swinney.

The moved saved around £800,000 over several years, and also aimed to ‘reduce the burden on schools’.

Part of the justification was the introduction of the Scottish Schools Literacy and Numeracy Survey (SSLN).

Since then John Swinney, now Education Secretary has abolished the SSLN survey, and overseen the introduction of standardised testing in Scotland, costing £4.6million and wasting hours of teaching time.

A Labour motion tabled this week, calling for standardised testing to be scrapped for Primary 1 pupils, has attracted cross party support at Holyrood.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP removed Scotland from these internationally recognised comparative testing, not for any sound educational reason, but because John Swinney as Finance Secretary didn’t want to pay for them – about £800,000 over several years.

“The only problem is that penny pinching Finance Secretary is of course now in charge of education. and has just spent £4.6m on national standardised testing which teachers say are a waste of time, educationalists say are of no educational value, and statisticians say cannot be aggregated.

“So we have dumped international tests just to save some money, ditched our own survey of standards because the government didn’t like what it was telling them, and introduced tests which no-one trusts.

“The SNP’s shambolic handling of the education brief simply gets worse and worse.”




ALMOST 1,800 WOMEN IN BREAST CANCER SCREENING FAILURE



13 September 2018

Almost 1,800 women have not been invited to their final breast cancer screening session in a serious failure in Scotland’s health system, the SNP government has admitted.

A total of 1,761 women aged over 71 were not invited to their final screening, some of whom should have been screened three years ago.

The serious failure has come to light after the then-SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison told Parliament in May in regards to a similar problem in England that “the issue does not affect the NHS in Scotland” and “patients should be reassured that there are no problems with our breast screening programme records or information technology systems.”

Scottish Labour’s shadow public health spokesperson, David Stewart MSP, said:

“This is a serious and deeply distressing failure in one of the most crucial diagnostic areas of our National Health Service.

“It is vital that those women who are overdue their final screening receive one as quickly as possible.

“I was in Parliament in May when the-then SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison said that there was no issue in Scotland’s breast cancer screening programme. "We now know that was not the case and that almost 1,800 women have been badly, and potentially fatally, let down.

“If the government can be wrong on an issue as crucial as this, then many members of the public will rightly wonder if there are additional diagnostic screening failures in the NHS.

“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must now quickly establish why this failure occurred and how many women have been subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer after missing their screening.”




ALMOST 25,000 REFERRALS FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT REJECTED UNDER STURGEON



13 September 2018

Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to act on the crisis in child and adolescent mental health services has seen almost 25,000 referrals for treatment rejected in her time as First Minister.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour leader revealed that there had been 24,923 rejected referrals for treatment in child and adolescent mental health services since Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister.

Richard Leonard revealed the numbers on the back of a damning report on the condition of mental health services, published today by the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission.

It also follows a review, published in June, showing that some young people were being turned away from mental health treatment because they did not appear suicidal.

Labour questioned why it has taken four years for the government to act on what is a crisis in mental health services for young people.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Today’s expert report makes clear that access to Scotland’s mental health services for children and young people has not got better during Nicola Sturgeon’s time as First Minister, it’s got worse.

“Almost 25,000 referrals for mental health treatment for young people have been rejected since Nicola Sturgeon took office First Minister.

“Today’s report calls for a “step change”, and Labour will work with the government to deliver the changes we need. That’s why we pressed for counsellors in schools and for a review of these rejected cases. But the reality is the government has been too slow act, because it did not take this issue seriously enough.

“Nicola Sturgeon has been too slow to act, and as a result has let these children and young people down for over a decade. The First Minister owes a sincere apology to these young people for her failure to act.”




OECD REPORT SHOW TEACHERS OVERWORKED AND UNDERVALUED



11 September 2018



A new report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has confirmed that teachers in Scotland are overworked and undervalued.

The report, Education at a Glance 2018, reveals that Scotland’s teachers work some of the longest hours of any OECD country with a very high percentage of time spent in front of the class.

The report reveals Scottish teachers on average, are well above the OECD average for teaching hours per week for primary and secondary.

Despite a generally higher starting salary for teachers in Scotland compared to England, pay progression in Scotland appears worse, with Scotland behind England for teachers’ pay at the top end of the pay scale in both primary and secondary.

Labour said the report highlighted the mess the SNP was making of its so called ‘ top priorty’ of education.

Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education spokesperson, Iain Gray MSP, said: “The figures are clear, Scotland’s teachers are overworked and undervalued under this SNP government, with some of the longest hours for the poorest pay in the OECD.

“The SNP government claim education is the top priority – but we will not close the attainment gap without properly paid teachers, with the resources and time they need to teach.

“Instead in getting themselves into a mess over reforms to primary school testing and school governance, ministers should be focused on the real reforms our schools need – more funding.

“Instead schools have been hammered by more than £400m worth of cuts since 2010. There has been a complete failure by the SNP to stop Tory austerity impacting on our schools.

"The first step towards a world class school system is a fair deal for teachers, the government has to deliver this, and soon.”




SNP DELAYED DISCHARGE BROKEN PROMISE COST NHS £125M IN SINGLE FINANCIAL YEAR



11 September 2018

The SNP government’s failure to honour their promise to abolish delayed discharge from the NHS cost the health service £125 million in just one single financial year alone.

A new report from the health service’s Information Services Division shows each bed day in 2016/17 cost the NHS an average of £234, with the failure to abolish it costing a total of £125m during the period in question.

Nicola Sturgeon’s government promised the Scottish people that they would end the scandal in 2015.

The SNP have broken their promise, leaving people to languish unnecessarily in hospital beds and costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

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

“The SNP government’s broken promise is costing Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds each year and putting our overworked NHS staff under even more pressure.

“Hundreds of patients each month are languishing unnecessarily in hospital beds when they could be receiving appropriate care at home.

“The vast majority of these patients are aged over 75. The failure to properly tackle the social care crisis and delays in care assessments – the result of the SNP government’s £1.5 billion cut to council budgets – are causing this multi-million-pound scandal.

“The next Scottish Labour government will deliver a National Guarantee for care workers, ensuring all care workers are given appropriate training and paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel, to reform our social care sector.

“Labour built the NHS and only Labour can be trusted to give our health service a bright future.”




Comment on unemployment figures



11 September 2018

Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said, “While a fall in unemployment is welcome, the drop in employment once again points to the significant issues Scotland’s economy faces under the SNP. It is disappointing to note that inactivity rates remain persistently high.

“As the David Hume Institute recently pointed out, productivity in Scotland under the SNP has flat lined, leading to stagnating growth and worsening outlooks.

“Many working families are also feeling the pain with wages not keeping pace with the increase in the cost of living.

"The SNP's only answer to this is its infamous cuts commission, which will shackle Scotland to a decade of austerity and cuts, the cost of which will be borne by working people.

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




STURGEON 'IS KIDDING HERSELF' ABOUT P1 TESTS



11 September 2018

Responding to the First Minister's comments on Primary 1 tests, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray MSP, said:

“Nicola Sturgeon is wrong to double down in defence of these shambolic tests.

“Delivered late and over budget, these tests do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap and have reduced some P1 children to tears.

The First Minister’s assertions fly in the face of the views and experience of teachers, and she is kidding herself about their value.

“They should be scrapped for Primary 1 pupils.”




SCHOOLS SATISFACTION SLUMPS UNDER STURGEON



11 September 2018

The public’s satisfaction with schools has fallen by almost 10 per cent since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

Labour analysis of figures from the Scottish Household Survey, published early this week, shows that 70 per cent of the public are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with their local schools, a 9 per cent drop from 2014.

The results come as Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘top priority’ of education faces a series of problems, including a teacher recruitment crisis and ongoing concern from teachers and parents of the government’s standardised testing. Attainment in exams has also fallen for the third year running.

The Programme for Government, unveiled this week, offered no new ideas on education.

Labour said the figures underlined the government’s mishandling of the education portfolio, and the impact of £1.5billion worth of cuts to local councils.

Iain Gray, Labour education spokesperson said:

“These findings should be a wakeup call for the SNP government, satisfaction with local schools has slumped under Nicola Sturgeon, despite it being the so called top priority.

“Nicola Sturgeon came to power claiming that education would be the driving and defining mission of her government. Instead supersized classes are soaring and standards are falling, with Scotland’s teachers overworked and underpaid under this SNP government.

“The SNP’s big answer to this appears to be Tory reforms – but the real reform our schools need is more funding. Only Labour will make the richest pay their fair share so we can stop the cuts and invest in our schools.”




SNP FAILING ON 11 OUT OF 19 NHS STANDARDS



11 September 2018

The SNP government is failing on 11 out of 19 NHS standards, new analysis from Scottish Labour can reveal.

An annual summary of the state of the health service highlights the major challenges facing Scotland’s NHS, and the urgent need for action by new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

Among the failings are standards to detect cancer early, and waiting times for both A&E patients and those waiting for routine operations.

In several areas, performance has declined since 2017.

LDP (Local Delivery Plan) Standards are priorities that are set and agreed between the Scottish Government and NHS boards to provide assurance on NHSScotland performance.

An independent review of the standards was carried out and concluded last year, with a number of recommendations.

In her programme for government, Nicola Sturgeon said a waiting times improvement plan will be published later this month.

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

"After more than a decade of this SNP government, there has been yet another year of failure in our NHS.

"These failures are despite the tremendous efforts of our NHS staff, who have been let down by Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers.

“With former Health Secretary Shona Robison recently removed from her post, the scale of the challenge facing new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is now clear.

“Behind every failed standard are thousands of patients who have been let down, many of whom are desperate for treatment and are left in pain and anxiety.

"It simply isn’t good enough.

“The waiting times improvement plan promised by the First Minister is long overdue, but it has to be matched by staffing increases and filling vacancies.

"Too many patients have suffered as a result of the SNP’s failure to make our NHS fit for the future.”




Holyrood motion calls for primary 1 testing to be scrapped



10 September 2018

Labour will today (Monday) lodge a motion at Holyrood calling for standardised national testing from primary 1 pupils to be scrapped.

The party’s education spokesperson Iain Gray will lay a motion seeking cross party support for the proposal.

The SNP government has come under increasing pressure to scrap the assessments, with opposition parties and the teachers’ union the EIS opposing them, while the educational charity Upstart has organised a postcard campaign encouraging parents to boycott the tests.

Concerns over the assessments were raised earlier in the year by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at First Minister’s Questions.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These tests are a shambles, and the SNP’s refusal to listen to the mounting evidence against them is bordering on farcical.

“Yet again John Swinney is refusing to listen to teachers and parents. These tests are driving children to tears, waste vital classroom time and provide no help to close the attainment gap.

“Labour will continue to work to build cross-party and non-party opposition to these tests. That is why I have lodged a motion at Holyrood this week calling from the tests to be scrapped for primary 1s.

“The SNP could have ditched these tests in the Programme for Government last week, if education really is the government’s top priority, ministers should listen to the sheer number of voices telling them these tests have to go.”




FLAGSHIP WAITING TIME LAW ‘NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT IS WRITTEN ON’



1 September 2018



The SNP’s flagship waiting time law has been broken over 150,000 times since it was introduced, new analysis from Labour reveals.

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

New figures released this week show that this law has been broken over 35,000 times so far in 2018, and 153,170 since it was introduced.

What’s more, performance appears to be getting worse.

Since the beginning of 2018, 24.8 per cent of patients seen had waited longer than 12 weeks, compared to 18.3 per cent in same time period in 2017.

Labour said the figures were indicative of a health service under strain.

Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP’s flagship waiting time law now looks more like an ill-advised PR stunt than a piece of legislation giving patients proper rights.

"Over 150,000 people have waited longer than the 12 weeks the SNP government promised.

“This is more than another broken promise from the SNP – these rights were written into law and are now being broken on what appears to be a daily basis.

"Many patients across Scotland will conclude this law simply is not worth the paper it is written on.

“With performance appearing to get worse, we need to see some proper action from the SNP government in Edinburgh, with a workforce plan to solve the NHS workforce crisis.

“Labour is working alongside trade unions, charities, social care groups and other health organisations to develop the blueprint that our NHS needs to deliver the care patients deserve in the future; we need an end to sticking plaster solutions.”




SCOTTISH LABOUR BID TO GIVE COMMUNITIES MORE POWER IN THE PLANNING SYSTEM



1 September 2018

The right to appeal controversial planning applications headlines a package of reform being promoted at Holyrood by Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour argue that an SNP Government power grab on planning has ignored communities and that radical reform is needed to create a more level playing field.

Scottish Labour is calling for a fairer planning system that gives communities the same rights to challenge decisions that undermine locally agreed plans.

The party will lodge amendments to the government’s Planning Bill in the coming Holyrood session.

Scottish Labour analysis of planning appeals shows that in the last five years, the SNP government has sided with developers almost 500 times, overturning local councils decisions.

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

“It’s not right that communities have zero rights to challenge planning decisions about the future of their areas yet developers have a direct line to the Scottish Government.

“Scottish Labour’s plan will give communities more rights and create a fairer planning system.

“As a former planner, I don’t need to be convinced of the importance of a well-resourced planning system that listens to communities and its role in delivering homes, jobs and a high quality environment.

“The SNP government’s Planning Bill is timid and won’t deliver real change in our economy and communities. Scottish Labour has listened to communities and we are determined that Scotland’s planning system works for the many, not the few.”




SWINNEY MUST APOLOGISE OVER 'MISLEADING' LETTER ROW



29 August 2018

Commenting on reports that a top civil servant sent a 'misleading' letter on right of parents to opt out of P1 tests, Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Parents and teachers who were appalled when Mr Logan told them parents could not opt out of these tests will be further shocked to discover that the letter was based on an assertion which was simply not true.

“This testing policy has been a shambles from the beginning.

"It was formulated without evidence and now it is being forced on parents on the basis of legal advice which appears to have been made up.

"It is utterly unacceptable for the Scottish Government’s key education body to seek to mislead parents in this way.

“John Swinney needs to apologise for this sorry episode, get a grip of Education Scotland, and, above all, suspend these tests in P1 at least.”




LABOUR ASKS CARERS WHAT NEXT FOR CARER’S ALLOWANCE



29 August 2018

Labour has launched a major discussion paper aimed at maximising the incomes of Scotland’s carers.

As the new carers’ allowance supplement comes into effect, the party is inviting carers to set out how best Holyrood can use its new powers over the allowance to bolster the support offered alongside the benefit.

The paper seeks the opinions of carers on a number of suggestions aimed at increasing support for carers and their families, including maximising incomes and reducing council tax.

Other ideas include removing current limitations on other earnings, or time spent in education, which can currently make someone illegible for receiving carers allowance.

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

“Carers deserve every support for the valuable care and love they give every day to their relatives and friends.

“With the carer’s allowance supplement finally starting to pay out, that payment must be the start of the new support, not the end.

“Now is the time to think about the overall package of support provided alongside entitlement to carer’s allowance covering work, study, and across public services

“That is why Scottish Labour has launched this major discussion paper to ensure their voices are heard.

“It is absolutely vital that carers themselves have a voice in what kind of support they want and need.

“Scottish Labour has already secured valuable extra support for carers in Scotland – and we stand ready to continue the fight on their behalf.”

Download discussion paper at :

https://scottishlabour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Recognising-Carers-Carers-Allowance-Discussion-Paper.pdf






AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES WORSENING UNDER SNP



27 August 2018

Scottish Labour can today reveal a shocking rise in ambulance response times under the SNP government.

Between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the number of emergency calls which took more than 10 minutes to be responded to almost doubled to 305,000.

Meanwhile patients waiting over two hours for a response rose by 645%.

The shocking figures come after Labour revealed last month that the number of single-crew ambulances being dispatched in Scotland rose by almost 50% during this same period.

It's clear that the SNP government is not giving the Scottish Ambulance Service enough funding to cope with demand.

Scottish Labour MSP, Daniel Johnson, said:

"Our ambulance staff perform lifesaving work every day, but are under pressure like never before, and these are shocking figures which will concern many members of the public.

"It's well known that for a number of illnesses a swift response time can make all the difference.

"Not only are thousands of Scots having to wait more than two hours for an ambulance, we know that the number of ambulances being dispatched with a single crew has rocketed.

"These new figures make clear that the SNP government is continually letting down the public and letting down paramedics due to its chronic under-funding of our NHS.

“Labour would invest in the Scottish Ambulance Service, ensuring it has the equipment and staff it needs to continue its life-saving work.”




STUDENT CAP SEES MORE THAN 1,000 STUDENTS MISS OUT EVERY YEAR


24 August 2018

Commenting on research showing that an average of 1,099 students miss out on university places each year due to the student funding cap, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government should review the cap with a view to raising it.

“Education is critical to realise our full potential.

"When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us.

"A government that claims education is the priority should be raising the cap on student places.

“The SNP must also commit now to extend the cap post-Brexit.

“Investing in education is vital for our long term economy and society.

"Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to ensure that education is open to all, and that there are fewer barriers to university access.”




SNP MUST STOP DRAGGING THEIR HEELS OVER PUBLIC SECTOR RAILWAY BID


23 August 2018

The SNP government must stop dragging its heels over a public sector bid to run Scotland's railways, Scottish Labour has said.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has used a government initiated question to repeat the news that David MacBrayne Limited has expressed an interest in exploring the possibility of a bid for a Scottish rail franchise contract.

It's time for the SNP government to stop re-heating announcements and bring our railways back into public hands.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Scotland Colin Smyth said:

“Instead of trying to save the current franchise until 2025 and dragging their heels over a public sector bid, the SNP government should use the growing evidence of poor performance to end the contract sooner rather than later.

“When the SNP handed the franchise to run Scotland’s railways to Abellio, they said it would be a 'world leading' deal, but the reality for Scotland’s hard-pressed passengers has been anything but with hikes in fares, overcrowding, delays and stop skipping.

“Under Labour’s plans franchising would be scrapped and our railways would be brought under full public ownership, so we have a railway system for the many, not the few.

“Only Labour has a resolute commitment and promise to take our railways back into pubic hands.”




LABOUR WILL “REPROGRAMME THE ECONOMY TO DELIVER A SCOTTISH INDUSTRIAL RENAISSANCE”– CORBYN


20 August 2018

“The next Labour government will reprogramme the economy to deliver an industrial renaissance for Scotland”, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, will say today as he kicks off a four day Scottish tour.

The UK Labour leader will spend Monday morning at bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis as part of Labour's ‘Build it in Britain’ campaign to promote British industry. UK-based manufacturers could benefit from Labour's plans to use government spending to, where possible and beneficial, buy British, creating jobs and driving up tax revenues.

Corbyn’s Scottish Build it in Britain campaigning comes as Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) is ‘effectively’ closed due to a lack of new orders.

Labour is committed to a renaissance of Scottish manufacturing and a green industrial strategy, which would help companies like BiFab.

Speaking ahead of the visit, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said:

“The next Labour government will reprogramme the economy to deliver an industrial renaissance for Scotland.

“The Tories have overseen the decline of our industries and farmed out major public contracts overseas which could have supported jobs at home.

“Meanwhile the SNP government has not done nearly enough to grow Scotland’s industrial base or the green economy.

“A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of workers and any hope of secure well paid jobs from a generation of our young people.

“Labour will use the public sector’s enormous buying power to support workers and industries by buying in Britain whenever possible.

"We will boost Scottish manufacturing, which will support jobs and living standards in the wider economy, strengthen our capacity to export, and expand our tax base.

"It's time the Scottish people had a government with the determination to create an economy that works for the many, not the few."




EDUCATION SECRETARY LOBBIES FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL TAX BREAKS


17 August 2018

Commenting on reports that Education Secretary John Swinney lobbied Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for tax breaks for private schools in his constituency, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"People across Scotland will be bemused that John Swinney, the Finance Secretary who hammered budgets for local schools, is now lobbying for tax breaks for private schools as Education Secretary.

"Local councils seen £1.5billion of cuts under the SNP government - they need help to fund local schools properly, not for the government to suggest they fund tax breaks for private schools.

"The hypocrisy of this will anger parents and teachers across the country.

"This looks like another error of judgment from John Swinney, who was supposed to be a safe pair of hands at education but has repeatedly dropped the ball."




NO-DEAL TORY BREXIT WOULD BE 'CATASTROPHIC' FOR NHS - BMA

17 August 2018

A no-deal Tory Brexit would be “catastrophic” for our NHS, the BMA has warned.

The leading medical association has outlined serious concerns about staffing, reciprocal healthcare and the supply of medicines if Theresa May fails to strike a deal.

In a bombshell report, the BMA state:

Delays for diagnosis and treatment with the UK out of EURATOM.

Major disruption caused for almost one million patients receiving treatment for rare diseases as the UK would be excluded from the European Rare Disease Network.

No reciprocal healthcare agreements could see 190,000 UK state pensioners who live in the EU return home for treatment costing between £500 million and £1 billion per year.

Fewer medical staff able to be recruited into the NHS from EU already during a staffing crisis.

It’s clear that a Tory no-deal Brexit would damage our NHS, our economy and our country.

Labour has been clear that we will guarantee the rights and status of existing EU and EEA nationals, but we will also ensure our NHS and care sector can recruit the staff needed to care for our sick and elderly now and in the future.

Only a Brexit deal that meets Labour’s six key tests will protect our NHS, the Tories simply can’t be trusted to safeguard our health service.

Commenting on the report, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“Theresa May’s mantra that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ looks increasingly out of touch with reality.

“This report by our leading medical association makes clear that a no-deal Tory Brexit will damage our NHS, damage patIent care and cost our health service money.

“It’s time for the Tories to take Britain back from the cliff edge and start working towards a deal that protects our country, not a disorderly exit which will clearly harm it.

“This is why Labour has set out six key tests which would ensure any Brexit deal protects workers’ rights, gives the UK the same benefits we enjoy as members of the Single Market and allows for a migration system which works in the interests of the economy.

“Labour created the NHS and only Labour can be trusted to give our health service a brighter future.”




BREXIT TALKS BETWEEN UK AND SCOTTISH GOVERNMENTS MUST BE TRANSPARENT - LAIRD

17 August 2018

Lesley Laird MP has called on Scottish Secretary David Mundell to reveal his next steps for devolution as the clock ticks down to Brexit.

The move by the Shadow Scottish Secretary follows the publication of a damning report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee which criticised Westminster’s lack of consultation with devolved governments in advance of the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

“Earlier consultation could have possibly avoided much of the acrimony that was created between the UK Government and the devolved Governments,” the report stated.

In a letter to Mr Mundell, Laird called for reform of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) and requested a breakdown of work already completed on the devolved 24 areas of common framework.

Laird also requested confirmation of all scheduled meetings between UK and Scottish Government ministers leading up to the UK’s exit from the EU on March 29 next year.

Lesley said:

“Last month’s report confirmed the incompetence of the UK Government’s handling of the devolution aspects of Brexit but, incredibly, we still know precious little about what steps are being taken now to repair this shambles.

“We’re fast running out of time and these 24 frameworks clearly need to be resolved. It’s essential we – the people of Scotland - know what work has been completed on these already and when that will be announced.

“It’s not good enough for parties to simply stagger from meeting to meeting, there needs to be a consistent series of JMC meetings between now and March. The clock’s ticking and yet where is the impetus?

“This report told Westminster it needed to do much, much better. So, the question I’m asking David Mundell is this: what are you going to do much, much better?”




RIP-OFF RAIL FARE RISE TO COST SCOTS HUNDREDS OF POUNDS


15 August 2018 Commuters across Scotland are set to pay hundreds of pounds more for their annual season tickets due to a rip-off rail fare rise.

Analysis by Scottish Labour shows some season ticket passes are set to increase by more than £100, with an annual Lockerbie-Edinburgh fare now costing an eye watering £5,250.

Key rip-off fare rises include :

Glasgow-Edinburgh, up £126 to £4,082.

Dundee-Edinburgh, up £137 to £4,449.

Scottish Labour say it is simply unfair for commuters to have to pay more for a service plagued by delays, cancellations and stop-skipping.

Only Labour will bring our railways into public hands and ensure fares are fair for working people.

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

“This rail fare rise is unwanted, unwelcome and unnecessary.

“It is simply wrong for commuters to have to pay more for train services which are plagued by delays, cancellations and stop-skipping.

“Thousands of working people may now be priced out from travelling on Scotland’s railways.

“Across the country this fare rise will cripple commuters, with annual season tickets on some routes now costing well in excess of £4,000.

“It’s high time working people stopped having to pay such excessive fares to simply line the pockets of private companies.

“Only Labour is fighting for publicly owned railways which will serve the many, not just the few.”




SWINNEY 'IN DENIAL' OVER STANDARDISED TESTING


UP TO 14,000 WORKING SCOTS COULD FACE SANCTIONS UNDER UNIVERSAL CREDIT 14 August 2018 Labour has called for the Tory government to ‘pause and fix’ Universal Credit as new figures reveal that four in 10 working people on the benefit are being told to seek more work.

New figures released today shows that in Scotland there are now more than 107,000 people on Universal Credit.

Of that figure, 37,000 are in work with 14,000 working ‘with requirements.’

This means that the person is making less than the equivalent of the national minimum wage at full time hours each week.

The rules around Universal Credit means that these people are forced to increase their income – either with a second job, more hours our a higher paid job – or face cuts to universal credit.

Labour said the figures showed the system was flawed, with over 10 per cent of Scots who are on universal credit and in work facing sanctions, and called on the UK government to pause and fix universal credit.

Scottish Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“The government has to pause and fix universal credit, as these figures show the system is not fit for purpose. “Up to 14,000 Scots could face sanctions on universal credit because they aren’t earning enough.

“That isn’t the fault of working people – that’s the fault of a broken economy which sees wages stagnant, a prevalence of zero hours contracts and a soaring cost of living.

“A Labour government would end insecure work and deliver a real living wage of £10 per hour.”




CALLS FOR EDUCATION COMMITTEE TO PROBE FALLS IN ATTAINMENT


13 August 2018



Holyrood’s Education Committee must launch an investigation into exam results, Labour said today.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray makes the call in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper , urging Education Secretary John Swinney to ask the Committee to investigate.

Iain Gray also outlines the mounting failures in the education brief, supposedly the SNP's top priority, including:

- Huge cuts to school and college budgets

- The ongoing controversy around standardised testing in primary schools

- Questions over how the government handled concerns over the ‘Yammer’ social media app in schools

- Growing discontent from overworked and underpaid teachers, with the looming possibility of industrial action

- The mishandling of the Education Bill

- The 'fiasco' around the attempts to appoint Gillian Martin as Minister for Universities and Colleges

The full text of Iain Gray's article is below:

In the coming weeks school children begin returning to school, re-energised by six weeks or so of holiday, spent for the lucky ones, without a care in the world.

Not so John Swinney, the Education Secretary charged with improving those schools and raising the attainment of those pupils.

His summer “holidays” have been marked by one bad story after another.

The Parliamentary term had already ended on a humiliating note, with evidence of new tests reducing five year olds to tears, the curriculum narrowing, and finally, the shelving of the SNP’s “flagship” Education Bill, the very symbol of the Government’s “defining mission” to improve schools and raise attainment. Mr Swinney had spent two years on this Bill, but had failed to garner any support for measures which seemed designed more to undermine local authorities and centralise control of schools into his own hands than to empower schools as he claimed.

In a Parliament which he had realised would not vote for his Bill, the Education Secretary ditched it, claiming that this would speed up the reforms it contained. No-one was fooled.

It then emerged that the Government’s International Education Advisers had advised Mr Swinney not to legislate, in a report which went on to warn that his reforms could lead to more marketisation of education, as had happened in England.

The final week fiasco was not yet over, though, as Mr Swinney found himself without a Minister for Universities and Colleges when Gillian Martin was sacked before her appointment could even be formalised. With Parliament in recess, the vacancy has stretched to two months.

If Mr Swinney thought recess would bring relief, he was wrong, initially thanks to a series of Freedom of Information requests. The first of these revealed his department’s attempts to “doctor” the Education Advisers’ report to suggest great progress where none had been demonstrated.

Then, more damagingly, the revelation that the Cabinet Secretary had been told directly that a pilot of Yammer, Education Scotland’s social media platform for schools, had seen a pornographic image uploaded and possibly viewed by children, yet he allowed the project to go live nonetheless. It seems likely the intervening weeks will not stop Parliament wanting some answers on this astonishing decision as soon as we return.

Finally, the Government was forced to publish some 170 pages of a submission to them, from teachers, on their experience of those “standardised tests” in P1. The evidence of distress and upset for four and five-year-old children sitting tests which many teachers believed to be pointless was overwhelming. The Education Secretary’s response, that the tests should be “fun” was, in contrast, underwhelming.

If Mr Swinney was by now hankering for his halcyon days as Finance Secretary, he could find no solace there. This week Labour published independent research showing that spending in schools is now £400m less per year than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, colleges have seen their budgets slashed by 10% in 10 years.

Of course for most of those years of cuts to education, the purse strings were in the hands of, Mr Swinney. The Education Secretary’s attempt to dismiss cuts to schools as due to falling pupil numbers was not just weak, it was wrong. There are more pupils in our schools now than there were in 2010. The cuts are worse than they look, not better.

Then came the exam results. Attainment fell at both National and Higher level, for the third year, in what is now a trend. Worst of all, attainment in National exams is now 33.8% lower than it was in the Standard Grades they replaced. Some subjects, such as Modern Languages, have fallen even further off a cliff edge.

So, it has been a long hot summer in more ways than one for Mr Swinney, and the new school year is unlikely to bring relief.

Pupils return to schools which have 700 unfilled teacher vacancies, while the teachers we have are close now to strike action, tired of seeing their salaries eroded year on year – some 20% less than they were when the SNP came to power.

It is just over two years since Nicola Sturgeon declared that raising attainment was her government’s “defining mission”, and that there was “no better person” than John Swinney to deliver it. In fact, rather than proving to be a safe pair of hands, he has fumbled the ball on education time and again.

New school, and Parliamentary years are traditionally seen as a fresh start. If the Education Secretary wants that, he has to come to Parliament and explain his decision to allow Yammer to go ahead. He must drop, once and for all, that unloved, unnecessary Education Bill and its centralising reforms. He should end the testing of P1s, and go back to the drawing board on standardised tests generally.

He should ask the Education Committee to launch an investigation into those worrying trends in exam results, and if he will not, they should investigate anyway.

He should quickly agree a restorative pay rise with the teaching unions, to make the profession attractive again, and to avoid damaging industrial action no-one wants to see in our schools.

But above all he, and the First Minister, should commit to putting their money where their mouth is on education and restoring those cuts to schools and colleges in the next budget. Thousands of pupils did do very well in those exams, and that is testament to their hard work and their teachers, with the support of parents and carers.

They deserve a Government which backs them with the resources they need rather than warm words.




SWINNEY 'IN DENIAL' OVER STANDARDISED TESTING


13 August 2018



Commenting on reports in the Herald that sixty per cent of parents had a negative view of standardised testing, as the EIS calls for them to be scrapped for primary one pupils, Labour Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney is in complete denial about standardised testing, as he defends them in the face of opposition from parents, pupils, teachers and trade unions.

“These tests have been flawed from the very start. Delivered late, £2 million over budget and have led to weeks of valuable teaching time lost.

“They do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap and are driving children to tears. It’s time to scrap these tests for primary one pupils. John Swinney would be making a grave mistake to press on the face of such mounting opposition.”




RICHARD LEONARD : REVIEW STUDENT CAP TO WIDEN ACCESS


10 August 2018



The Scottish government should review the cap on funded student places with a view to lifting the level to widen access to university, Richard Leonard will say today (Friday).

Places for Scottish and EU students’ are ‘capped’ by the Scottish government. Because their fees are covered by the public purse. This limits the amount of places available.

Mr Leonard's call follows Edinburgh University this week announcing that it would give all of its ‘clearing’ places to students from the poorest backgrounds.

The Scottish Labour leader will also seek assurances that the Scottish government will not seek to claw back funding as a result of EU students falling out of the cap after Brexit, saying the commitment would ensure greater continuity and stability for universities.

Speaking before a visit to Edinburgh University, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Edinburgh University is to be commended for its moves to attempt to widen access – now Scotland’s universities need support from the Scottish government around the student places cap.

“Education is critical to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. A government that claims education is the priority should be raising the cap on student places.

“The SNP must also commit now to extend the cap post-Brexit.

“Investing in education is vital for our long term economy and society. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to ensure that education is open to all, and that there are fewer barriers to university access.”




Comment on Scottish Trends analysis of the Growth Commission


9 August 2018



Commenting on the Scottish Trends analysis of the SNP's Growth Commission, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“This report confirms yet again that the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland would result in austerity cuts that not even George Osborne would have dared to impose.

“The weight of independent, academic evidence demolishing the SNP’s cuts commission is growing greater by the day.

“If the SNP’s proposals were put into practice Scotland’s already under pressure public services would be devastated, with spending slashed on the NHS, schools, and on other vital services

“For Nicola Sturgeon this is a price worth paying.

"The only change she is fighting for is for the lowering of one flag to be replaced by the hoisting of another.

“It is now clear that it is only Labour that it is fighting for real change for Scotland and the ending of austerity.”




WOMEN AND GIRLS COMPLETING APPRENTICESHIPS FALLS BY 11 PERCENT


9 August 2018



The number of women and girls completing apprenticeships in Scotland has fallen in the last four years, new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals.

Just under 8,000 women completed apprenticeships in 2017/18. This was the lowest level since 2011/12 when the data series commenced.

Female apprentices completing their training has fallen by 11 per cent in the last four years.

In 2013-14 just under 9,000 women and girls completed an apprenticeship in Scotland. The figures for the last financial year, 2017-18, show there has been a fall of over 1,000 to just under 8,000.

On top of the overall figure for Scotland, 20 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have seen a fall in female apprenticeship achievements in the last year.

Labour Shadow Education Minister Mary Fee said:

“These figures should be a real cause for concern, we should be taking every step possible to ensure opportunities for women, instead we have seen a drop of 1,000 completions in the last four years.

“We need to know why there has been a fall and invest more in getting women into STEM apprenticeships in particular.

“One factor might be the rising cost of living, with some apprentices simply not being able to afford to finish their scheme.

"The government should launch an investigation into this as a matter of priority.”




STAGGERING FALL IN ATTAINMENT UNDER THE SNP


7 August 2018



Attainment in level 3, 4 and 5 exams has dropped a ‘staggering’ 34 per cent since the SNP government introduced the new National exams.

Writing in the Herald this morning, Professor Jim Scott of Dundee University revealed the figures following this year’s exam results.

In 2014 the National exams replaced the well-established Standard Grades, at the same levels on Scotland’s qualifications framework.

The result has been an astonishing fall in attainment.

In 2013 pupils passed 60,000 Standard Grades at level 3, compared to 16,138 'National 3' passes in 2018.

Overall attainment at standard grade equivalent level was down by 33.8 per cent.

Labour said the analysis was a damning indictment of the SNP government’s implementation of the new curriculum and their general management of education

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"This is a simply staggering fall in attainment that should blow away any sense of complacency in the SNP government, and finally get ministers to wake up and realise that botched reforms and years of cuts have harmed our schools.

"This drop seems to be driven by a narrowing of our curriculum - fewer young people studying fewer subjects, and that is simply down to course availability and a lack of teachers in the first place.

"It highlights the complete mess the SNP has made of the supposed ‘top priority’ in education.

"Reversing this mess will take time and energy but it can be done - starting with finally ending the cuts to schools and delivering a fair deal for our teachers."




A&E TARGET MISSED FOR 11 MONTHS


7 August 2018



The SNP’s A&E waiting time standard has been missed for 11 months in a row.

Official figures published today show 95 per cent of patients have not been admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours from Emergency Departments across Scotland at any point since July 2017.

Meanwhile the figures also show that 42,375 bed days were lost in June this year to delayed discharge – an increase of eight per cent compared to the same month in 2017.

That means 248,246 bed days have been lost to delayed discharge so far in 2018.

The figures, provided by ISD Scotland, also show that so far in 2018 more than a quarter of cancelled operations were scrapped due to capacity or non-clinical reasons.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the scale of the challenge for new SNP Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman MSP – and urged the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our health service.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“For almost a year, thousands of patients across Scotland have had to wait more than four hours to be seen at A&E wards.

“That is unacceptable – and so is the huge increase in bed blocking due to delayed discharge, up eight per cent on last year, meaning there are already almost 250,000 bed days lost since the start of 2018.

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

“These successive missed targets are down to years of mismanagement of our most important public service by the SNP Government.

“It is now clear new SNP Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman MSP faces a monumental challenge if she is to even start undoing some of the failings of her predecessors.

“A good place to start would be to follow Labour’s lead and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to properly fund our NHS to ensure it works for the many, not the few.”




SCOTLAND’S SCHOOLS HAMMERED BY TORY AUSTERITY


6 August 2018



The SNP has failed to protect Scotland’s schools from Tory austerity, Labour said today, as new analysis reveals an over £400million cut to Scotland’s schools since 2010.

Independent analysis commissioned by Scottish Labour has revealed that spending on schools has been cut by 7.5 per cent in real terms since 2010.

The research, conducted by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that local authority education spending has fallen from £5.3 billion in 2009/10 to £4.9 billion in 2017/18.

Crucially, the figures for 2017/18 include the Government’s Pupil Equity Funding, which isn’t supposed to be used to replace existing provision.

Labour said the figures showed the SNP failed to protect key public services from Tory austerity, and that only a Labour government willing to make the richest pay their fair share would deliver the investment education needs.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“Education is what empowers us all to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. Protecting education spending should have been a priority for the SNP when the Tories came to power – instead there has been more than £400million worth of cuts since 2010.

“No wonder we are seeing soaring class sizes, overworked teachers and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.

"No amount of sloganeering from the Nationalists can hide the fact that they have not stood up for Scotland’s schools.

“Labour would take a different path, making the richest pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and deliver a better deal for teachers, parents and pupils.”




TEN PER CENT CUT TO COLLEGE FUNDING UNDER THE SNP


5 August 2018



The SNP has cut college budgets by almost £75million in real terms since taking power in 2007, new analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has revealed.

The figures reveal a £74.7 million cut to combined capital and resource budgets for Scotland’s colleges, a 10.1 per cent cut in funding.

Since 2007 the capital budget for Scotland’s colleges has fallen by £29.1 million, meanwhile resource funding - the day to day spending – has fallen by £45.6million.

Labour said the failure to fund further education properly was closing off opportunities for a range of people – from working class school leavers to people seeking to build their skills base later in life.

The Government has been without a dedicated minister in charge of colleges since the SNP was forced to sack Gillian Martin from the role before she was even appointed, due to previous transphobic and racist comments she made.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP claimed that education was their ‘top priority’ but further education is bottom of the pile – without a dedicated minister in Government and having been hammered by 11 years of brutal cuts.

“A real terms cut of £75 million to Scotland’s colleges will have cut off opportunities for thousands of working class young people and people seeking to learn new skills later in life. It is a disgraceful record from the Nationalists.

“Colleges should be ladders of opportunity for people, engaging with schools, universities and employers to deliver opportunity for all. Instead they have become the whipping boy of successive education budgets.

“This cannot go on. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to invest in education so everyone has the skills they need to get on in life.”




Comment on Trussell Trust figures on food bank use


3 August 2018



Responding to the Trussell Trust has reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of food packages it was handing out between summer 2016 and 2017, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality Elaine Smith said:

“It’s nothing short of a scandal that food bank use for children is increasing while the top 1 per cent in Scotland own more than the bottom 50 per cent put together.

“These shock figures must send a clear message to governments in Holyrood and Westminster - it is time to make the ending of poverty the priority.

“The SNP government must now finally back calls from Labour to use the powers and increase child benefit, lifting 30,000 children out of poverty.

“With the cost of housing pushing thousands into poverty, Richard Leonard has outlined Scottish Labour’s vision to end the housing crisis; by building more homes for social rent, ensuring affordable rents and reforming the private rented sector.

“In North Lanarkshire, the Labour run council has introduced a free school meal program to run every day of year. That’s the kind of services we need from councils who could do even more if they had not been hammered by £1.5bn in cuts by the SNP.

“Eight years of Tory austerity and SNP complacency has led to this. A UK Labour government would raise the minimum wage to £10 per hour and fix our broken energy market to tackle the cost of living.

“Only Labour has outlined an alternative for our country, making the richest pay their fair share and poverty proofing our policies to ensure a fairer Scotland.”




Comment on the latest population figures for Scotland


1 August 2018



Commenting on the latest population figures, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"These figures reveal yet again the challenges Scotland faces in terms of an ageing population.

"While more people living longer is a good thing, it will also put a greater strain on public services, particularly health and social care which are already under pressure.

“Also evident is the impact of Scotland’s health inequalities, with people from the most deprived areas facing shorter life expectancies and experiencing a greater burden of disease.

"That is why it is vital we use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to seriously tackle poverty and inequality, as well as invest in our lifeline services now to ensure they have the resources needed to deal with continually increasing demand.

"And, given Scotland's increasing reliance on migration, it is also why it is essential we secure a Brexit deal that respects the rights of those EU citizens who live and work in Scotland."




VIOLENT CRIME ON THE RISE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS


1 August 2018



The number of violent crimes in Scotland has risen to its highest level since 2012/13.

Scottish Government figures show there were 7,164 violent crimes in Scotland last year, compared to 6,737 in 2015/16.

Despite a dramatic fall in recent years, thanks in part to the work of the pioneering Violence Reduction Unit, the number of violent crimes has risen sharply, with a jump of 14 per cent in the past two years.

The increase has also been matched by a fall in the proportion of the crimes solved by Police Scotland – falling from 84 per cent to 77 per cent.

Recent research also suggests that violent crime is linked to poverty, inequality, alcohol and experience of violence itself.

The figures come after Sheriff Marie Smart suggested Scotland was suffering a knife crime “epidemic”.

Scottish Labour said the figures reinforced concerns about SNP cuts to frontline policing, as well as the continuing impact of SNP and Tory austerity.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“These are worrying figures that will concern people across Scotland.

“This is just one way to measure crime, but it does appear to suggest that recent progress on reducing violent crime may be stalling.

“Over the long term, violent crime in Scotland has fallen sharply. However, we cannot be complacent.

“With violent crime rising to its highest level for five years, it is clear SNP cuts to frontline policing are putting the public at greater risk.

“With more of these incidents than ever in Police Scotland’s history, it is no surprise that the proportion of crimes being solved is falling.

“We need continued action to ensure crime rates fall, and that includes making sure police officers are properly resourced.

“But there are also broader questions the SNP government should be asking about the kind of conditions – social exclusion, poverty, and direct experience of violence - that may have led to an increase in recorded crimes such as serious assault.”




RAILWAY UNIONS UNITE TO TELL NEW TRANSPORT MINISTER TO HALT POLICE MERGER


24 July 2018



The UK's three largest railway unions have united to tell the new SNP Transport minister to dump the unwanted plans to merge the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.

The RMT, TSSA and ASLEF have joined Labour in calling on Michael Matheson to re-think the proposal and come back to the negotiation table with the workers.

As Justice Secretary, Mr Matheson did not listen to police officers on the issue and gave the green light to former transport minister Humza Yousaf to drive through the changes.

It’s now time for him to listen to railway workers from across the industry.

Labour will continue to fight for safe, publicly owned railways that serve the many, not just the few.

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

“Labour has consistently opposed this merger as it is unwanted, unnecessary and uncosted.

“The gravity of the situation is underlined by this coming together of three separate transport unions, all pleading with the new SNP Transport Minister Michael Matheson to pause and re-think this plan.

"As Justice Secretary, Mr Matheson backed the merger and allowed Humza Yousaf to try and drive through these changes.

“The summer recess gives Mr Matheson the opportunity to chart a different course for Scotland’s railways once he returns to Holyrood in his new role.

“Labour hopes that he listens to British Transport Police officers, and the rest of the industry, and bins this divisive policy.

“Only Labour is fighting for safe, publicly owned railways that serve the many, not just the few.”




Comment on Teacher's Pay


24 July 2018



Commenting on reports that talks on teachers' pay have broken down, Scottish Labour's Education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"These are deeply troubling reports.

"No one wants to see strike action - but the reality is Scotland's teachers have been treated appallingly by this out of touch SNP government that claims education is its number one priority.

"SNP education secretary John Swinney must now be the only person in Scotland who thinks you can close the attainment gap with overworked and underpaid teachers - and his obstinance is taking Scotland's schools to the brink.

"Labour is the only party that believes in asking the richest to pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and give teachers the support they deserve."




REPORT CONFIRMS SNP’S CUTS COMMISSION MEANS ‘INCREASING AUSTERITY’


22 July 2018



The SNP’s Cuts Commission report would mean ‘increasing austerity’ to the devastation of Scottish public services, a new report has confirmed.

Under Nicola Sturgeon’s austerity plans, an independent Scotland would slash spending on the NHS, schools and police services in a bid to paper over the country’s financial black hole.

If the plans were implemented over the last decade a further £60 billion of cuts would have taken place, a doubling-down of the brutal austerity cuts imposed by the Tories in recent years.

The report from the These Islands think-tank is the latest in a series of papers to confirm that the Nationalists’ plans for separation would lock Scotland into a never-ending cycle of spending cuts.

It’s now clear that Labour is the party proposing to end austerity and deliver the real change that many Scots are looking for.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“It is now abundantly clear that the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland would result in austerity cuts that not even George Osborne would have dared to implement.

“If these proposals were put into practice Scotland’s already under pressure public services would be devastated, with spending slashed on the NHS, schools, and on other vital areas.

“For Nicola Sturgeon this is a price worth paying. The only change she is fighting for is for the lowering of one flag to be replaced by another.

“It’s now clear that it is only Labour that it is fighting for real change for Scotland and the ending of austerity.

“The next Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster will deliver real change with policies to increase child benefit to raise children out of the indignity of poverty and implement a real £10 per hour Living Wage to ensure that our economy works for everyone.

“Only Labour is fighting to build a Scotland that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR PROPOSE NEW ‘BUS PASS LAW’ TO PROTECT CITIZENS’ RIGHTS


20 July 2018



Scottish Labour will enshrine in law the right of all over 60s to a free bus pass, the party’s transport spokesperson has confirmed.

Colin Smyth will put forward a host of amendments when parliament returns from recess to radically overhaul the Transport Bill to give Scotland a public transport system that works for the many, not just the few.

The bus pass is under threat with SNP ministers recently conducting a consultation on raising the qualifying age and have chosen not to rule out the move.

Under Labour’s plans, the right of all over 60s to a free bus pass would be written explicitly into law with the qualifying age of 60 put into legislation to give it increased protection.

Labour also wants to see free bus travel extended to others including modern apprentices and companions traveling with disabled children.

It was a devolved Labour-led government that introduced the free bus pass for the over 60s and Labour will continue to defend their right to have one.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth, said: “The free bus pass for over 60s was one of many great achievements of Scottish Labour governments.

“Sadly, the scheme is now under threat with SNP ministers refusing the rule out increasing the age citizens can qualify for a pass in a bid to try and save money.

“Ordinary people in their 60s should not be paying the price of Tory austerity because the SNP refuse to use the powers of the parliament to fund our services properly.

“That is why Labour will table amendments which would enshrine the qualifying age for older people into law if passed by Parliament.

“Labour will continue to fight for a publicly owned transport system that works for the many, not just the few.”




ALMOST 50 INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS DELAYED OR OVER BUDGET IN SCOTLAND


20 July 2018



Almost 50 major infrastructure projects are delayed or over budget in Scotland, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows 15 major projects have gone over budget between November 2016 and March 2018.

The analysis also shows that 30 projects have had their completion date changed to a later date over the same period.

That means that, of the 49 projects for which estimated budgets and completion dates are given, 45 of them are over budget, delayed, or both.

Some of the projects highlighted in the research include the Gorbals Health Centre - running £5million over budget and five months late – and the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, which cost £13million more than expected.

Other projects include the NHS Orkney New Hospital and Healthcare Facilities, which are almost £10million over budget and delayed by five months.

Scottish Labour said the scale of delays and spiralling costs strengthened the case for a review of public procurement.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The scale of these delays and the spiralling costs seriously calls into question the SNP’s handling of major infrastructure projects.

“The fact that so many projects are over budget, delayed, or both is unacceptable – and, given financial and timescale details are only available for 49 out of 87 projects, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“We already know the SNP government is putting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money for public projects in the hands of private companies – and these figures show that people in Scotland are not getting value for money.

“There needs to be a wholescale review of public procurement in Scotland, including spending on major infrastructure projects.

“People in Scotland deserve better than a policy that lines the pockets of shareholders only to leave important works delayed and over budget.”




SNP ABSTAIN ON LABOUR BID TO DEFEND DEVOLUTION



17 July 2018

The SNP today failed to defend the devolution settlement by abstaining on Labour's New Clause 4 amendment to the Trade Bill.

Labour’s amendment would have ensured that there was no "power grab" on devolved areas from UK Government ministers in any future trade deals and that the Governments from the devolved nations would have to consent to any proposals on devolved issues.

Labour said that the SNP's failure to support this amendment while trying to push their own New Clause 20 and Amendment 25 exposed their real agenda of undermining the devolution settlement.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird, said: "The SNP could have ensured that the devolved administrations were defended by supporting Labour's amendment, but their amendments were simply a spoiling tactic to frustrate negotiations and further their quest for independence.

"The SNP are only ever interested in what is best for the SNP and this was shown up today. They could have voted with Labour to land a blow on a weakened Tory government and defend devolution. But instead of partnering with Labour to improve legislation the SNP left the field and gave the Tories an open goal.

"At every stage Labour MPs have sought to protect devolution and force a constructive way through the mess of the Tories' handling of the Brexit process.

"But at every opportunity the SNP have used the smokescreen of parliamentary amendments to undermine the settled will of the Scottish people. The SNP have used every vote as a veiled attempt to frustrate progress. All of this towards their ultimate goal of narrow separatism."




SCOTS DO 115 MILLION HOURS OF UNPAID OVERTIME A YEAR



17 July 2018

Workers in Scotland do 115 million hours of unpaid overtime a year, new figures released from Scottish Labour have revealed.

Analysis of the 2017 Annual Population Survey by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) estimates that, on average, Scots do 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime per week.

If these figures are taken to be representative of the year as a whole, they would imply a total of 115million hours of unpaid overtime in the year.

Labour said the figures revealed structural problems in the economy and effectively cut the wages of working class people in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“These figures reveal that we desperately need to rebalance our economy so that it works for people, rather than just people working for the economy.

“This overtime effectively represents a cut to the wages of working people across Scotland. It also reveals how desperately understaffed some of or our key public services are.

“We should be looking to strengthen the working time directive by ending the opt out.

“Instead under the SNP and the Tories, workers are doing more hours on unpaid overtime while the incomes of the richest soar.

“That is not an economy working for the many, it is one rewarding a privileged few.”




GENDER PAY GAP REVEALED: WOMEN MORE THAN £70,000 WORSE OFF THAN MEN



16 July 2018

Women in Scotland will earn more than £70,000 less over their lifetime than men because of the gender pay gap, new analysis from Labour has revealed.

Fresh analysis by Labour shows that in every age group women earn less than men on average.

Over the course of a woman's working life this amounts to £73,620 less on average.

Labour has a plan to close the gender pay gap, including:

- Introducing a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing – so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work

- Introducing a £10 real Living Wage

- Ensuring that more businesses publish pay ratios

- Introducing gender audits of all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“It is shameful that under the SNP and the Tories women in Scotland could earn £73,620 less than men on average well into their careers. "Closing the gender pay gap isn’t just a question of fairness – it is essential for our economy.

"There is so much more to do to shatter the glass ceiling for women.

"Only Labour will take the radical steps to close the pay gap for good, like a real living wage and forcing companies to publish pay ratios.

"If a company thinks a woman is worth a lower wage than a man then under Labour we’ll force them to admit it.

“This gross inequality is wrong and is holding Scotland’s economy back - it must be tackled by the SNP and the Tories as a matter of urgency.”






COMMENT ON BI-FAB JOB LOSSES


12 July 2018

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

“This a dark day for the Scottish economy.

“BiFab workers are highly skilled and the Scottish Government should be doing everything it can to protect these jobs - but instead these skills are at a real risk of being lost for good.

“Protecting BiFab’s workforce should have been at the top of SNP minister Derek Mackay’s in tray, but despite the Scottish Government having a stake in BiFab, he’s already failing workers and communities.

“Derek Mackay must immediately outline what steps he will take to ensure that these jobs are protected and what prospects lie ahead for future contracts.”


 

FAMILIES STRUGGLING TO COPE AMID RISING SCHOOL UNIFORM COSTS


12 July 2018

FAMILIES STRUGGLING TO COPE AMID RISING SCHOOL UNIFORM COSTS Commenting on the Education Committee’s report into poverty-proofing schools, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray, said:

"The rising costs of school uniforms and trips leaves far too many families struggling to cope.

"It is important that schools and local authorities take this into consideration and make a concerted effort to drive down prices as much as possible.

"The committee's report also lays bare the devastating impact of the loss of free school meals during holiday periods. Some children are sometimes left to go hungry as their families are forced to choose between heating and eating.

"Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council's groundbreaking initiative to feed children through school holidays was rightly recognised as a way to tackle poverty.”




REGRESSIVE COUNCIL TAX HITS THE POOREST THE HARDEST


12 July 2018

Council tax payers in lower bands pay a larger proportion of the value of their home compared to those in more expensive properties.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that a band A household pays 1.4 per cent of their property value in council tax.

At the top end of the scale, a band H property only pays 0.4 per cent of its value in council tax.

Labour said the figures underlined that the council tax is regressive and should be scrapped and replaced.

The party highlighted the figures as part of its ‘summer of socialism’ campaign, which this week is focusing on income inequality and the cost of living.

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

“Labour wants to redistribute wealth and power from the richest to the poorest, because the system is not working for working class people.

“People in lower banded properties are likely to pay a higher percentage of the value of their home compared to those at the top. That isn’t fair.

“The SNP came to power promising to scrap the council tax, but after 11 years of government the tax remains in place.

“We need a new approach to taxing wealth in Scotland. That’s why Labour backs a 50p top rate of tax on the richest and believe it is time to start a debate around taxing wealth.”



ALMOST £700 PER WEEK INCOME GAP BETWEEN THE RICHEST AND POOREST HOUSEHOLDS



10 July 2018

Income inequality has widened under the Tories, new figures from Scottish Labour with a near £700 gap in weekly income between the richest and poorest households.

Analysis of household income data published by the Scottish government reveals a £698 gap in weekly household income after housing costs between the richest and poorest households.

The gap is created not just by soaring incomes for the richest households, but plunging incomes for the poorest. There has been a near 9 per cent increase in weekly income for the richest against a 4 per cent drop in income for the poorest households.

Labour said the revealed a need to rebalance the economy and redistribute wealth in our economy.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance James Kelly MSP said:

"Under the Tories and the SNP income inequality has widened, with a near £700 gap per week in income between the poorest and richest households.

“This gap has been caused by soaring incomes for the richest alongside plunging incomes for the poorest.

“We need to rebalance our economy and redistribute wealth to make it work for working class people.

“Labour would make the richest pay their fair share and introduced an industrial strategy to deliver high skill, high paid jobs for more workers in Scotland.”




MORE THAN SEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG FOR CANCER TREATMENT IN SNP SCOTLAND


9 July 2018

More than seven thousand people have waited too long for cancer treatment under the SNP since 2011, Scottish Labour can reveal.

An analysis by the party of ISD Scotland figures shows 7,220 patients had to wait more than 62 days between being urgently referred for cancer treatment and that treatment actually starting over the last seven years.

The figures also show the problem is growing, having increased by 285 per cent between 2011/12 and 2017/18.

The analysis comes after a controversial move from the SNP government to review cancer waiting times, leading to a proposal for different standards – namely different waiting times for different cancer types.

Scottish Labour revealed the analysis ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS as part of a week that will shine a light on how the SNP is failing our health service - and outline what Labour would do differently to make our NHS fit for the future.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and swift treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes - instead the SNP government is failing patients across Scotland.

“Even one person having to wait too long for treatment for cancer is one too many – having thousands of people wait too long is a national scandal.

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

“The SNP's legacy at health is one of horrendous mismanagement and then total denial over performance – and new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman faces a mammoth task to give patients the treatment they deserve.

“Labour will deliver the support our NHS needs and cut waiting times so that if your GP suspects cancer under Labour you see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."




DRIVE FOR EQUALITY WILL MAKE THE NHS FIT FOR NEXT 70 YEARS

7 July 2018

Labour has said that tackling health inequalities is the key to ensure the NHS is fit for the next 70 years.

To mark the 70th birthday of the health service the party has announced that a Scottish Labour government will assess every policy for their impact on health inequalities.

These ‘health inequality assessments’ would extend to all government decisions from its budget, to policies in areas such as housing, transport, education and justice.

Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard said:

“Labour founded our NHS, based on need not ability to pay. The health service is our proudest achievement, socialism in action and Labour will always fight for it.

“On our health service’s 70th birthday, only Labour has a plan to ensure it is fit for the next 70 years. The sticking plaster solutions of the Tories and the SNP will only go so far – we need real and radical change in our society to take the pressure off of our hospitals.

“Right now in Scotland, life expectancy and quality of life has as much to do with the privilege of the postcode you are born into as anything else.

“The next Scottish Labour government will ensure a ‘health inequality assessment’ of every policy. That doesn’t just mean our health and social care policies, but all across government from our budget to housing, transport, justice and education.

“The fundamental reform our health service needs isn’t service closures – it is changing our society to work for the many, not the few.”




SARWAR OUTLINES 10 POINT ‘PRESCRIPTION’ FOR THE NHS

7 July 2018

Scottish Labour has revealed a 10-point prescription plan to ensure the National Health Service is fit for the future.

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday this week, but services and staff are under immense strain after years of underfunding.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, has today [Saturday] put forward plans that will ensure the NHS cannot just survive but thrive for the next 70 years.

The plans include using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to give the health service a cash boost and ensure every school in Scotland has access to a mental health counsellor.

Labour built the NHS in 1948 and it is only Labour in 2018 that is putting forward radical plans to ensure our grandchildren have a health service that is there for the many, not just the few.

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

“The creation of the NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement in government. “We have had events across Scotland celebrating its 70th birthday, but we have to be honest and admit that it is a service under immense pressure and our NHS staff are overworked, undervalued and under-resourced.

“We have been exposing a decade of mismanagement by the SNP government, but we have also been developing plans outlining what we would do differently to make it fit for the next 70 years.

“Labour’s 10-point prescription plan would transform our NHS and ensure it is there for everyone who needs it.

“Our plan would deliver more resources, a stronger workforce and take head on the challenges of cancer, mental health and social care.

“It would mean a generational shift in mental health services with access to a mental health counsellor for every school and crisis mental health services. It will mean a diagnosis within 2 weeks if your GP suspects you have a cancer and dignity in retirement with a proper social care package.

“Labour built the NHS and it is only Labour that has a radical and bold plan to ensure it is fit for the future.”


Labour’s 10-point prescription for the NHS

1. Use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver more money for our NHS.

2. A health inequality assessment of every government policy to ensure a positive impact on health outcomes.

3. A credible and deliverable workforce plan. Reverse cuts to training places made by Nicola Sturgeon and delivering a meaningful pay increase and a return to collective bargaining.

4. A generational shift in mental health services with access to a mental health counsellor for every school and crisis mental health services.

5. Protection of local NHS services to stop threats to paediatric, maternity and Out of Hour services.

6. Taking the fight against Scotland’s biggest killer head on with a cancer diagnosis within 2 weeks.

7. Access to vital lifesaving medicines, so patients don’t have to share their intimate stories on the front pages of newspapers or by protesting outside Parliament in order to get the medicines they need.

8. Adequately fund local government so we can end cuts to social care budgets and the scandal of 15 minute care visits.

9. Access to free sport and a bold obesity strategy so we can prioritise prevention and promote good health and wellbeing.

10. Impose a cap on what private agencies can charge for a single shift so that we can reduce agency spending which has skyrocketed under this Government.






Comment on Drug-related Deaths

4 July 2018

Commenting on new figures showing drug-related deaths in Scotland have reached record levels, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"Scotland's drug strategy has failed.

"These are absolutely shocking figures that should be a wake-up call for the SNP government.

“The fact that drugs deaths in Scotland are two and half times the rate of the rest of the UK is particularly troubling – as is the more than 200 per cent rise in the number of women dying from drug-related causes.

“Lives have been ruined and families left to cope with grief and trauma for years to come.

"The SNP government has slashed alcohol and drug partnership funding at a time when drug deaths were hitting record levels.

"SNP ministers need to give themselves a shake and take responsibility for their actions. If you underfund vital substance misuse services people die.

"I urge the SNP Government to have the courage to take a different course to ensure this shameful record is reversed."




SNP DELAYED DISCHARGE FAILURE COST NHS £440 MILLION UNDER STURGEON

4 July 2018

The SNP government’s failure to abolish delayed discharges in the NHS has cost the health service £440 million since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Labour has revealed.

Former SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison vowed to eliminate delayed discharges from the health service in 2015, but the only thing that has been axed since is herself.

Figures released from ISD Scotland show a total of 43,244 bed days were lost in May, meaning 205,871 have been lost so far in 2018 .

Nicola Sturgeon’s new Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must get to grips with this problem immediately, or patients will continue to suffer unnecessary stays in hospital.

Labour said years of SNP cuts to local council budgets has put social care services under significant strain leaving many hospital patients unable to access the services needed to return home.

Labour founded the National Health Service 70 years ago and the party will always fight to secure its future.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP government’s broken promise is costing Scotland millions of pounds each year, and putting an intolerable strain on NHS wards.

“Hundreds of patients each month are languishing unnecessarily in hospital beds.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of the SNP government’s £1.5 billion cut to council budgets.

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

“As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday it is only Labour - the party that founded the health service - that has a sustainable plan for its future.




ALMOST 500 OPERATIONS CANCELLED IN MAY

4 July 2018

Almost 500 planned operations were cancelled in May because hospitals couldn’t cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 489 operations were cancelled due to issues with capacity in May.

This means 4,236 operations have been cancelled so far in 2018 due to a lack of capacity in the NHS – meaning an average of 28 cancelled operations each day this year solely because the NHS couldn’t cope.

Scottish Labour said thousands of patients are being badly let down by the SNP government and the new Health Secretary must break from the decade of mismanagement.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Thousands of operations have been cancelled so far this year because our NHS couldn’t cope, leaving staff frustrated and patients in discomfort and pain.

“As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday our health service is seriously struggling to cope with a staffing crisis created by the SNP government.

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

“The new Health Secretary must quickly give our NHS the support it needs or she will end up dumped out of office like her predecessor.

“Only the Labour Party will use the powers of the parliament to fund our NHS to ensure Scotland has a health service that it fit for the future.”




A&E WAITING TIME TARGET MISSED FOR NINTH CONSECUTIVE MONTH

4 July 2018

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

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

New figures from ISD Scotland show just 93 per cent of patients were seen within the target time.

Labour said it is time for the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fund our NHS properly.

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

“For nine long months thousands of patients across Scotland have had to wait more than four hours to be seen at A&E wards.

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

“These successive missed targets are down to years of mismanagement of our most important public service by the SNP Government.

“This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Labour Party creating the NHS, only the Labour party will use the powers of the parliament to properly fund our NHS for the future and ensure we have a health services that works for the many, not the few.”




REVEALED: HUGE COST OF LOCUM GPS

3 July 2018

The huge cost of the SNP GP crisis has been revealed today, with freedom of information requests exposing some health boards are paying up to £1,400 a day for cover.

Freedom of information responses released to Scottish Labour has revealed GPs charged as much as £1,400 per day for cover in Orkney in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available.

The problem is not contained to rural Scotland and the Islands however, with charges in NHS Lanarkshire as high as £1,132 per day and £885 per day in NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

Two of the biggest health boards in the country – Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Lothians, were unable to provide the information.

However, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde does admit that out of hours locums are able to charge over £100 an hour.

Labour released the figure as part of a week spent campaigning on the health service, ahead of the 70th birthday of the NHS.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

“The NHS is our most valued public service and Labour’s proudest achievement.

“It is utterly shocking that the SNP GP crisis has created a situation where locum costs are over a thousand pounds a day.

“The reality is the SNP has underfunded primary care for over a decade and as a result family doctors are left over stretched, overworked and under too much pressure.




MORE THAN SEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG FOR CANCER TREATMENT IN SNP SCOTLAND

2 July 2018

More than seven thousand people have waited too long for cancer treatment under the SNP since 2011, Scottish Labour can reveal.

An analysis by the party of ISD Scotland figures shows 7,220 patients had to wait more than 62 days between being urgently referred for cancer treatment and that treatment actually starting over the last seven years.

The figures also show the problem is growing, having increased by 285 per cent between 2011/12 and 2017/18.

The analysis comes after a controversial move from the SNP government to review cancer waiting times, leading to a proposal for different standards – namely different waiting times for different cancer types.

Scottish Labour revealed the analysis ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS as part of a week that will shine a light on how the SNP is failing our health service - and outline what Labour would do differently to make our NHS fit for the future.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and swift treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes - instead the SNP government is failing patients across Scotland.

“Even one person having to wait too long for treatment for cancer is one too many – having thousands of people wait too long is a national scandal.

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

“The SNP's legacy at health is one of horrendous mismanagement and then total denial over performance – and new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman faces a mammoth task to give patients the treatment they deserve.

“Labour will deliver the support our NHS needs and cut waiting times so that if your GP suspects cancer under Labour you see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."



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