Labour will cut the gap between the richest and the rest, not public services

2 May 2016
A vote for Labour is a vote to cut the gap between the richest and the rest, not for cuts to public services.

That's the message from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale as she campaigns in Dunfermline today. (Monday)

Labour will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to tax the richest 1% who earn more than £150,000 a year, with a 50p top rate of tax to invest in schools.

Labour's fair start fund will mean £1000 of extra funding for each of the poorest pupils to cut the attainment gap.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"Labour will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms, not cut the budget for our schools.

"These cuts are a short-sighted move which will short-change Scotland. We need to give our young people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future. That means investing in our young people not accepting more cuts. We can do things differently now.

"Labour will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to tax the richest 1% so we can invest in our schools, and stop the cuts to our public services.

“More Labour MSPs in the next parliament means more voices standing against the cuts and for investment in public services

"If people want to stop the cuts so we can invest in the future of our economy then they need to give both of their votes to Labour. Voting for the SNP and the Tories is a vote for more cuts. Only Labour has a positive plan to stop the cuts and invest in the future."


The SNP need to come clean about the future of the NHS

28 April 2016

The SNP need to come clean about the future of the NHS, Labour said today.

In developments today:

- NHS Fife is facing £30 million of cuts

- GPs warn a lack of funding is putting patient safety at risk

- NHS 24’s IT system, which is already three years late and £50 million over budget, has been delayed again

Labour has pledged to increase spending on public services, including the NHS, by using the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to tax the richest to stop the cuts.

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“The SNP need to come clean about the future of our health service.

"Nicola Sturgeon can’t keep pretending there isn’t a GP crisis in Scotland.

"Promising to increase spending on our NHS when it is facing tens of millions of pounds of cuts is just dishonest.

“The SNP are making promises they plan to break on the NHS as health boards face millions of pounds of cuts, family doctors face their worst crisis in a generation and a £50 million IT project faces yet more delays.

“Labour will protect local services and increase investment in primary and social care to take pressure off our hospitals.

That means we can pledge an appointment in a GP surgery within 48 hours and a social care package within a week.

“Labour founded our NHS; it’s our most valued public service.

"In seven days people can vote to protect our NHS by backing Labour, or vote to cut it by backing the SNP or the Tories.

“Labour are the only party being honest with the people of Scotland.

If we want world class public services then we have to pay for them.

"Labour will tax the richest to invest in the future, and we'll stop the cuts to the NHS and public services. “


Kezia Dugdale comments on the SNP’s manifesto

19 April 2016

Commenting on the SNP’s manifesto, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“This is an SNP manifesto for cuts.

"There are tax cuts for wealthy people buying airline tickets, tax cuts for higher earners by raising the threshold and the SNP have dropped their promise to bring back the 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000.

There is not one thing that would stop Tory spending cuts.

"Last year Nicola Sturgeon campaigned on a manifesto that promised to increase taxes on the richest 1% earning more than £150,000 a year to stop the cuts and invest in our public services.

"Just twelve months on today’s SNP manifesto offers nothing but Tory excuses for failing to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament so we can end austerity in Scotland.

“The central issue in this election is how we use the new powers to stop the cuts to schools and other vital local services.

"The Scottish Parliament doesn’t have to be a conveyor belt for Tory austerity, but that requires bold political choices.

"With her manifesto today Nicola Sturgeon has ducked the difficult decisions.

"The SNP are now officially signed up to passing on Tory cuts that will see fewer staff in our schools, thousands out of work and the very fabric of our society at risk.

"That's a betrayal of everything Nicola Sturgeon campaigned for last year.

“Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today that if they are re-elected the SNP will not have a mandate for a second referendum.

"The wooly words in today’s SNP manifesto do not seek the explicit support for a second referendum from the people of Scotland.

It is not credible to say that opinion polls would give a mandate for holding a constitutional referendum.

"People are desperate to move on from the arguments of the past and to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

“It's now clear that the only way to end austerity and invest in public services is to use both votes for Labour.

"Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future of our economy or carrying on with the cuts to public services, Labour will use the powers to stop the cuts.”




Comment on latest unemployment figures

19 April 2016

Commenting on unemployment figures released today which show that unemployment in Scotland increased by 20,000 between December and February and is now higher than the rest of the UK, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Today’s figures on jobs show that there is no future for Scotland as a low wage, low skill economy.

“We must give our young people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future.

"That’s why Labour will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the top 1% earning more than £150,000 to pay a 50p top rate of tax so we can invest in schools and stop the cuts.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to our schools will simply cut into our future prosperity and hold our country back.

"We don’t have to accept those cuts. We can choose to do things differently in Scotland.

“Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on the cuts Labour will use the powers to stop the cuts.”




Labour will cut cancer waiting times

19 April 2016

Commenting on the latest statistics for breast cancer screening published today, which shows declining performance under the SNP, Scottish Labour Equalities spokesperson Jenny Marra said:

“Labour will deliver a better and more effective strategy for dealing with cancer.

"Too often in Scotland where you are from and how much you earn determines how likely to are to be diagnosed with, and survive, cancer.

“We know that cuts to public services will only increase inequality in Scotland.

"That’s why faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest or carrying on the cuts Labour will use the powers to stop the cuts.

“After nearly a decade of SNP government, we are witnessing failed performance on waiting times and worrying trends in screening, especially in poorer areas. Meanwhile their cancer strategy was a year overdue and months behind its equivalent in England.

"Labour will recognise the importance of swift action and cut cancer waiting times – a guaranteed faster diagnosis if you fear you have cancer. Under Labour If your GP suspects cancer you will see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."




Comment on Nicola Sturgeon speech to the STUC

19 April 2016

Commenting on speech to the STUC from Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour deputy leader and campaign manager Alex Rowley said:

“At the STUC this week Kezia Dugdale outlined her plans to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to public services.

"Whilst the SNP’s tax plans have been branded ‘pathetic’ by the General Secretary of the STUC, Labour will use the powers to ask the top 1% to pay more, with a 50p top rate of tax for people earning over £150,000 a year to invest in education.

“Labour would also halt the privatisation process of the CalMac ferries and fight to keep them in public hands. By contrast Nicola Sturgeon refused to use the front door of the STUC to avoid protestors.

“We can do things differently in Scotland now. Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on the cuts Labour would use the powers to stop the cuts.”

We will stop the cuts that would trap a generation in poverty - Kezia Dugdale

18 April 2016

A Labour Scottish Government will stop the cuts that would trap a generation in poverty, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Visiting a Community Food Share in Dumbarton today the Scottish Labour leader said that the next Scottish Government had a ‘moral duty’ to break from Tory austerity. Ms Dugdale outlined plans to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services in Scotland.

Labour said cutting education today will trap a generation of young people in poverty, without the skills to compete for the jobs of the future and get on in life.

Ms Dugdale also outlined plans for a fairer social security system in Scotland, including abolishing the bedroom tax and giving claimants from the Scottish Welfare Fund the option of cash payments rather than vouchers.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“The central question in this election is about how we use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts. For the first time we can break from Tory austerity rather than use the Parliament as a conveyor belt for Tory austerity.

“The next Scottish Government has a moral duty to break from austerity. We should offer people more than just a safety net. We should offer a springboard to a better future. That’s why a Labour Scottish Government will stop the cuts and invest in education. Doing nothing will simply rob another generation of opportunity and leave them trapped in poverty.

“Years of Tory cuts have driven too many Scots, and too many children, into poverty. We can now say enough is enough and deliver real change. That means building a fairer and more compassionate social security system for Scotland, but it also means stopping the cuts.

“Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in or carrying on with Tory austerity, Labour will use the powers and stop the cuts.”

Labour’s plans for a fairer social security system:

- Ensuring that children leaving care and going into higher education get a full grant, and not the bare minimum.

- Abolishing the bedroom tax once and for all, using new powers over Universal Credit.

- Supporting carers by raising carers’ allowance to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance.

- Tackling child poverty by doubling the Sure Start maternity grant, increasing its value to £1,030.

- Giving claimants the option of cash or in kind payments through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The SNP previously voted against Labour’s plans to give Scots the option of either cash or in kind payments through the Scottish Welfare Fund in the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill last year.


Nicola Sturgeon needs to start telling the truth on her secret Chinese deal

15 April 2016

Nicola Sturgeon needs to start telling the truth on the secret deal she signed with a Chinese consortium.

Today the Herald reports that Falkirk Council turned down a memorandum of understanding with China Railway Group No 3 because it would have led to pre-fabricated homes made in China, with no benefit for local jobs or the local economy.

Falkirk Council also confirmed that they had taken part in discussions with Sinofortune, the other company in the Chinese consortium, and the SNP Government about potential sites identified by the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon said that there were no actual proposals on the table. This was later contradicted by the consortium’s UK advisor Sir Richard Heygate, and now again today by Falkirk Council.

Scottish Labour’s Public Services and Wealth Creation spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“The more we learn about the secret deal the SNP signed with the Chinese consortium the more questions there are. Nicola Sturgeon needs to start telling the truth, fast.

“Falkirk Council said they knocked back a deal with this Chinese company because it wouldn’t create local jobs – the SNP now need to urgently spell out the details of what the Chinese consortium propose for Scottish projects.

“The SNP turned a housing shortage into a housing crisis. Nicola Sturgeon would be selling Scotland short if she is trying to solve Scotland’s housing crisis on the cheap.

“Only after Labour pressure the SNP admitted that they had signed a secret deal with a Chinese consortium, despite talks going on for a year.

“Nicola Sturgeon than said there were no proposals on the table – but that story has now been completely blown out of the water. We have a Scottish council explicitly saying that the SNP Government and one of the companies in the consortium discussed specific plans.

“Nicola Sturgeon has simply not been telling the truth and that is completely unacceptable. Having signed a secret deal, the SNP have sought to mislead Scots about what the details where.

“This deal stinks and it has done from the very beginning. It’s time for the SNP to come clean about this deal and publish all the documents relating to it going back to when discussions first started.”




Labour challenge other parties to match public spending pledge

6 April 2016

Scottish Labour has challenged the other parties to match their anti-austerity public spending pledge.

With tax the central issue of the Scottish election, Labour said parties had to spell out how they would use the new powers to break from Tory austerity.

Under Labour’s anti-austerity pledge spending on public services will increase between the Scottish election and the next UK general election.

Labour will take different choices on tax, including reversing George Osborne’s tax cut for the top 1% and cancelling the SNP’s plans to halve and then abolish air passenger duty.

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Tax is the defining debate in this election, and now it’s time for each of the parties to set out how they would use the new powers to stop the cuts.

“Our plans mean we can make an anti-austerity pledge – a guarantee that spending on services will rise under a Scottish Labour Government. It’s now up to other parties to match that.

“We can stop the cuts and take a different path from Tory austerity. The SNP’s tax plans will turn the Scottish Parliament into a conveyor belt for Tory austerity.

"Under Labour the poorest won’t pay a penny more than they do now and will be protected from cuts with Labour. With the SNP those at the top won't pay a penny more than they do now and the poorest will pay the price with deeper cuts.

"Nicola Sturgeon refuses to use the new tax powers to stop the cuts and protect public services. The SNP have been reduced to making excuses for not asking the richest 1% to pay a single penny more.

“The SNP need to be honest – they cannot protect public services whilst not raising more tax. Faced with a choice between using the powers of the Parliament to invest in the future or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, Labour will use the powers."



Labour’s Anti-Austerity pledge

This pledge will commit a Scottish Labour Government to increase spending on day to day public services in real terms. We will use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to break from Tory austerity.

That is the central test in this election – investment in Scotland’s future vs. more cuts - only Labour has set out a fully funded plan to end austerity and invest in public services.

The principles of the pledge, based on the current cuts planned by the Scottish and UK Governments:

· Spending on public services by the Scottish Government will rise in real terms.

· In normal times, the Scottish Government should not cut tax while cutting spending on public services.

· Legislation will mandate the new Scottish Fiscal Commission to report on compliance with this principle; in addition to a new responsibility to report on the future economic impact of any cuts being made by the Scottish Government.

The pledge will extend from the Scottish Election through to the next UK General Election.


Tax shouldn’t be optional for the richest and compulsory for the rest of us – Kezia Dugdale

6 April 2016

Tax shouldn’t be optional for the richest and compulsory for the rest of us, Kezia Dugdale writes in Commonspace today.

The Scottish Labour leader said the fallout from the Panama papers scandal; will reignite a sense of anger that there is one rule for the top 1% and another for normal working people.

Kezia Dugdale also makes the case for a 50p rate of tax in Scotland, saying the answer to the Panama Papers scandal shouldn’t be to back off from taxing the rich, and criticises the SNP for failing to back a tax on the richest.

Kezia Dugdale writes:

When the vast majority of people read about the Panama Papers my sense is that their first reaction is anger. People are rightly angry that the rich and powerful are hiding their wealth in tax havens.

Angry at one rule for them and another for the rest.

That was certainly my reaction. I thought about the injustice of massive cuts in public spending we are facing as a nation. The last few days have made even more determined to ensure that the top 1% pay more so that we stop the cuts and invest in the future of our economy.

Our response to tax avoidance and evasion should be to tighten up the rules and to go after those who play the system.

We’re having the same debate in Scotland. Last year the SNP supported bringing back the 50p top rate of tax, reversing the tax cut George Osborne gave to the top 1%. Nicola Sturgeon said she supported it across the UK and using the new tax powers of the parliament. She said it would raise billions for public services.

Now, when the power to bring in a 50p top rate has come to Scotland, she is against it. Where once she argued that it would raise billions she now says it would cost millions. While she once argued the rich should pay their fair share, she now says it’s not worth trying because they’ll just try to avoid paying.

Why is it that tax is optional for the richest but compulsory for the rest of us?

When the rich try to cheat the taxpayer we shouldn’t just treat it as an inevitability, we should hold them to the same standards as we do anyone else in society. Does the government shrug its shoulders in the face of a benefits cheat? Does it write off small tax underpayments for ordinary workers? It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t.

The proportion of income going to the top 1% has been increasing all of my life. How much longer are we going to tolerate growing inequality on the basis of the richest writing their own rules?

The similarities between George Osborne’s arguments when he abolished the 50p tax rate and the document published by Nicola Sturgeon to justify her u-turn are striking. In many places the excuses offered by the SNP are nearly word for word the same as those the Tories make. They are also just as wrong.

We hear that the rich will flee to other developed economies with lower taxes. Flee from Scotland and flee from the UK. But even basic research shows that raising the top rate of tax over 45p would not make us an outlier on taxation. Of the OECD club of 34 developed nations 20 have top rates of tax over 45%. 12 have rates of 50% or over. These include the nations whose economies and societies the SNP told us they wanted Scotland to emulate: Sweden, Denmark, Finland.

What is remarkable from nationalists is that there is no judgement made of those who, assuming they believe their argument is true, would abandon their country rather than contribute to its success. Where has the moral argument for fair taxes gone.

Just as Labour across the UK are making the case for taking on the tax havens, a Labour Scottish Government would make sure the richest are held to the same standard as the rest. We’d reverse George Osborne’s tax cut for the wealthiest few and restore a 50p top rate of tax on earnings over £150,000 a year. As part of our broader tax plan, we would use that money to stop the cuts and invest directly in our schools. To grow our economy and give our people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future we must invest in education.

It is incredible that the SNP, who complained so loudly about austerity, now argue for a tax plan that would not see anyone pay a penny more in income tax and which would actually see higher earners pay less.

I think they underestimate Scottish voters by imagining that we would never vote for progressive taxes where we all have a stake but the richest pay the biggest share. I also think they are underestimating popular anger at the unequal standards that apply to the richest compared to the rest of us.

Those who want to use their first and second votes to ensure that we use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to do things differently can use those votes for Scottish Labour.




SNP tax excuses 'falling apart' following HMRC intervention - Dugdale

31 March 2016

Commenting on the confirmation from HMRC that they will use their powers to prevent rich people avoiding newly devolved taxes, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"Nicola Sturgeon's excuses for not asking the richest 1% to pay more in tax to stop the cuts are falling apart. HMRC has confirmed that they will use their powers to stop those earning more than £150,000 a year avoid tax.

"We are very clear – Labour would reverse George Osborne’s tax cut for the wealthiest few so we can stop the cuts to our nurseries and schools. The new powers of the Scottish Parliament mean we can make different choices from the Tories so we can end austerity.

“The fact that someone earning a quarter of a million pounds will not pay a penny more in income tax than they do today under the SNP’s plan is shameful. Nicola Sturgeon now needs to stop the excuses and admit that she just isn't bold enough to make the richest few pay their fair share.

"Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on with the cuts, Labour will use the powers."



The SNP's position on cuts is "utterly hypocritical" - Labour

31 March 2016

The SNP's position on cuts is "utterly hypocritical", Labour said today.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said that the SNP now stand alone with the Tories in opposing fairer taxes and backing spending cuts.

The Herald today reports that the SNP Government has failed to publish a response to Naomi Eisenstadt's anti-poverty report - despite promising to do so by the end of March.

Speaking on a visit to Entrepreneurial Spark in Edinburgh to highlight the positive economic impact of Labour’s plan to invest in education, Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

“We have made a very simple pledge – a Scottish Labour Government will stop the cuts and low income earners will not pay a penny more than they do today. That means Tory austerity in Scotland can come to an end, because we will be bold enough to use the new powers to invest in the future. Unlike the SNP, we will never use the Scottish Parliament as a conveyor belt for Tory cuts.

"Those at the bottom won't pay a penny more than they do now and will be protected from cuts with Labour. With the SNP those at the top won't pay a penny more than they do now and the poorest will pay the price with deeper cuts.

“Only the Tories and the SNP stand against the wealthiest paying their fair share to stop the cuts. How on earth can the SNP claim to be anti austerity? On the day Nicola Sturgeon appears to have ditched her own poverty advisor's report, the SNP's position is utterly hypocritical.

“Our tax plans, including asking the richest 1% to pay their fair share, mean we can stop the cuts to schools and other vital public services. Investing in education benefits everyone and helps to grow our economy.

“Faced with a choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on with the SNP’s cuts to schools, Labour will use the powers.”


SNP and Tories join forces to oppose the rich paying their fair share

30 March 2016

The SNP and the Tories joined forces last night to oppose Labour’s plans for the top 1% to pay their fair share.

In the STV Leaders’ Debate, both Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson argued strongly against those earning more than £150,000 paying more in tax to stop the cuts and invest in education. Last week the SNP Government published an analysis arguing against a 50p top rate of tax for the richest, which made very similar arguments to a Tory Treasury document from 2012.

Kezia Dugdale exposed the fact that someone earning £250,000 a year would not pay a single penny more than they do today in income tax under the SNP’s plan. It was also revealed last night that under Ruth Davidson’s plan students would pay £6,000 after they graduate.

On a visit to a nursery in Rutherglen to highlight Labour’s plan for a Fair Start Fund, the Scottish Labour Leader said we need to stop the cuts and invest in the future. Labour’s Fair Start Fund would direct £300 for every nursery pupil from a deprived background. This would be paid for by setting a 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year. The Fair Start Fund would also apply to schools, with head teachers receiving £1,000 for every pupil from a deprived background.

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale:

“After last night’s TV debate it’s clear that only Labour is willing to ask the richest 1% to pay their fair share. Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon were practically falling over each other to argue that those earning more than £150,000 a year should not pay more in tax so we can invest in education. Voters expect the Tories to argue against those at the top paying more, but what people won’t understand is Nicola Sturgeon making the same case when she supported higher taxes just a few days ago.

“We are very clear – Labour would reverse George Osborne’s tax cut for the wealthiest few so we can stop the cuts to our nurseries and schools. The new powers of the Scottish Parliament mean we can make different choices from the Tories so we can end austerity.

“The fact that someone earning a quarter of a million pounds will not pay a penny more in income tax than they do today under the SNP’s plan is shameful.

“Tory plans for tuition fees and prescription charges would mean hidden tax rises on learning and on the sick. It says it all about the Tories when they won’t ask the top 1% to pay a single penny more but want students to pay £6,000 to learn and the sick to pay for their medicines. Labour supports free tuition and no prescription charges.

“Ruth Davidson’s callous shrug of the shoulders when asked about the bedroom tax tells you all you need to know about the Scottish Tory Party. They are just the same old Tories.

“Faced with a choice between using the powers of the Parliament to invest in our economy or carrying on with the cuts to schools and other vital public services, Labour will use the powers.”

Labour will end the SNP GP crisis and guarantee an appointment within 48 hours

19th. March 2016

A Scottish Labour Government will end the GP crisis created by the SNP and increase investment in primary care, Kezia Dugdale will announce today in her keynote speech to Scottish Labour's Spring Conference in Glasgow.

The Scottish Labour leader will also announce plans to guarantee every Scot an appointment at a General Practice surgery within 48 hours.

Under the SNP Government, General Practice is facing its worst crisis in a generation, with a quarter of practices struggling to fill vacancies and more than £1 billion cut from general practice under the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is expected to say:

“Labour will use our powers to offer a real plan for the future of our NHS. We will increase funding for the NHS year on year in real terms.

“Our Labour Party that established the NHS in the 1940s will be there to ensure that our health service is fit for the challenges of the 2040s. “Because the NHS isn’t just another policy agenda for Labour, it is part of who we are as a party, our pride in its creation inspires everything else we do.

“We can take the pressure off our hospitals by getting primary care right, delivering the NHS services people need in their communities.

“Instead of the cuts to GPs we’ve seen in the last decade, our plan for the NHS will guarantee an appointment at your local surgery that you can book online within 48 hours.”

The Scottish Parliament shouldn't be a conveyor belt for Tory cuts - Dugdale

17th. March 2016

Commenting after First Minister's Questions Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"Labour has been resolute on tax - we will reverse George Osborne's tax cut for higher rate payers and we will ask the richest few earning more than £150,000 a year to pay more so we can invest in our schools and nurseries. Despite saying they think George Osborne is wrong, we have yet to see any details of the SNP's tax plan for the top 15% and Nicola Sturgeon won’t even commit to her manifesto pledge from last year on the 50p tax.

"The Scottish Parliament shouldn't be a conveyor belt for Tory cuts. The powers mean we can choose a different path from George Osborne to stop the cuts to schools and other vital public services.

"We have a choice. We can wring our hands and wave the cuts through or we can use the new tax powers to end austerity. Scottish Labour will use the powers to stop the cuts."

Labour propose plans to protect private renters from rogue landlords

17th. March 2016

The party will propose amendments to the Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill to establish a Private Residential Tenancy Charter to drive up standards in the private rented sector.

Scottish Labour has been campaigning for better rights for private renters for years, including a ban on rip off rent rises and more secure tenancies.

Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

“Everyone in Scotland deserves a safe, warm and secure home. After almost a decade in office the SNP Government turned a housing shortage into a housing crisis and have only now woke up to the problems that have stacked up on their watch.

“Labour back a ban on rip off rent rises and support more secure tenancies for private renters. Too many young people in Scotland are stuck in a cycle from which they can’t escape. They end up renting to save for a deposit, but the rent is so high they simply can’t put enough money away.

“Today we will push for better standards in the private rented sector and offer real protection for private renters from bad landlords.

“We want to give the increasing number of private renters in Scotland the same rights as council and housing association tenants. It’s a simple step and a fair step which will make a real difference to the hundreds of thousands of people who rent privately and one the SNP should vote for in Parliament.”


SNP cuts to schools and services are not sustainable

16th. March 2016

Commenting on the Audit Scotland Local Government Overview, which charts a 5 per cent drop in revenue funding in the next financial year, bringing a total real terms fall of 11 per cent since 2010/11, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“This expert report confirms the huge cuts that the SNP Government have forced upon schools and local services for years – with another 5 percent to come in the year ahead. These cuts simply aren’t sustainable.

“These cuts will hold back our young people, our economy and our country. The most important economic investment any government can make is in education.

“We can’t cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms whilst the SNP cut the budget for our schools.

“Faced with the choice between hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and vital services or using the power of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future, Labour would use the powers and invest in our country’s future.”


SNP cuts undermine their own childcare promises

15th. March 2016

The SNP’s cuts will undermine their own promises on childcare Scottish Labour said today.

The National Day Nurseries Association 2016 survey has revealed huge underfunding of childcare in Scotland with half of Scottish nurseries saying they are unlikely or unsure to be able to deliver the SNP’s childcare pledge of an increase in funded hours from 600 to 1140 per year by 2020.

Labour said that the SNP’s budget, which forces hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts onto schools, nurseries and services, will only make this worse and challenged the SNP to set out their tax plans.

Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP Government cannot continue to ignore the warnings from expert groups about childcare, it is clear that the SNP’s cuts will undermine their own childcare promises.

"Childcare in Scotland is becoming more and more unaffordable and the SNP budget is not going to help anyone. The SNP budget cuts funding to build new nurseries by more than half and the underfunding of free hours is pushing up childcare costs for everyone.

“Scottish Labour has been arguing for years that childcare policy in Scotland needs to fit around the lives of working parents rather than an election leaflet. Experts, providers, academics and above all parents agree that childcare has to be about affordability and flexibilty as well as free nursery hours, but Scottish Ministers just won’t listen to them.

“Given the choice between hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts and using the powers of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour would use the powers to stop the cuts and grow our economy.”



Every party should vow to use these powers to build a fairer Scotland - Gray

15th. March 2016

Scotland’s political parties should vow to use the new powers to build a fairer country, Scottish Labour said today.

Commenting as Scottish Parliament debated the Scotland Bill, Opportunity spokesperson and Smith Commission member Iain Gray outlined how Labour would use the new powers to cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms.

Labour would use the new powers over tax to invest in education to cut the attainment gap, and new powers over social security to build a fairer Scottish welfare state.

Scottish Labour has set out different choices on tax to stop the cuts to schools and other vital services – including setting a Scottish rate of Income Tax one penny higher than the rate set by George Osborne; setting a 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 to invest extra in education; and not passing on George Osborne’s increase in the threshold for the top 15% of earners.

The SNP have not spelled out what they would do on tax – except back the Tory plan not to increase the basic rate.

Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The new powers coming to Scotland means we have the chance to radically change Scotland and build a fairer country. Every party should vow to use these powers to stop the cuts and grow our economy.

“The most important economic investment we can make in our country’s future is in education, and the most important policy we can pursue in education is cutting the gap between the richest and the rest. There is now no reason for the SNP to cut hundreds of millions from schools and local services.

“Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Parliament to invest in the future or carrying on with the SNP's cuts to schools, Labour will always choose to use the powers.

"Under Labour’s plans to use the new powers the wealthiest few would pay the most, including those earning more than £150,000 a year. I want to use that extra money to put power into the hands of teachers, who are best placed to take decisions about how we close the gap between the richest and the rest.

“We can use the new powers over social security to lift children out of poverty. Labour will abolish the bedroom tax, uprate carer’s allowance, introduce a full grant for looked after children entering higher education and double the sure start maternity grant for new parents who are struggling.”



Housebuilding statistics


15th. March 2016

Commenting on housebuilding statistics published today, Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

“Everybody in Scotland deserves a safe, warm and affordable home but the SNP government turned a housing shortage into a housing crisis and they are only attempting to reverse that damage now, after nearly a decade in office.

“Shelter Scotland say we need 60,000 affordable homes over the next five years, and that is exactly what Labour is committed to. We are the only party committed to that target.

"Scottish Labour’s plans would effectively double the deposit savings of those looking to buy their first home.

“Too many young people in Scotland are stuck in a cycle from which they can’t escape. They end up renting to save for a deposit, but the rent is so high they simply can’t put enough money away.

“Getting it right on housing is the twin track route to building a better nation, helping tackle poverty and grow our economy. That’s why Scottish Labour is committed to bold and radical plans on housing.”

Comment on Cancer Strategy

15th. March 2016

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government’s Cancer Strategy, Scottish Labour Equality spokesperson Jenny Marra said:

“Labour welcomes action on cancer from the Scottish Government but this plan has been delayed by over a year and comes ten months after England’s cancer plan was published. Patients up and down Scotland will be wondering what has taken the SNP so long.

“The facts show that the performance of the SNP Government on cancer simply has not been good enough. We have seen declining performance on cancer waiting times, worrying trends in screening and diagnosis, especially in poorer areas.

"Whilst we welcome many of the initiatives in this report, there is little here to address the underlying issues of public health, and health inequalities, both of which are directly linked to cancer.

“Cancer waiting times performance figures are due at the end of March, but this Government has missed the 62 day standard target for the last three years.

“Given that the number of people dying from cancer in Scotland is rising Scotland needs bold action on public health and health inequality to ensure this plan to delivers real change and results for patients.”

NHS staff are not getting the support they need from the SNP

15th. March 2016

Commenting on the latest A&E waiting times statistics which show another drop in performance from last week, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“Now more than ever we need an NHS with the resources to deliver care based on patient need, not the ability to pay. Our NHS staff perform miracles each and every day and deserve the best possible support and resources to do their jobs.

“A&E performance across the country is getting further away from the SNP’s waiting time target – it is clear NHS staff are not getting the support they need from the SNP Government in Edinburgh, with patients losing out.

“In the last year more than 92,000 Scots have waited longer than the SNP promised they would at A&E , with only a third of NHS staff believing that there are enough of them to do their jobs properly.

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service, it’s time for the SNP to end their sticking plaster approach which is doing nothing to equip our health service founded in the 1940s, with the resources it needs to meet the challenges of the 2040s.”

On the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which recorded a performance of 77%, Dr Richard Simpson said:

“It is a cause of huge concern that Scotland’s £850 million flagship hospital has the poorest A&E performance in the country. We are well past the stage of teething problems with this hospital.

“Last month Scottish Labour revealed the hidden A&E waiting lists across the country. These are wards filled with patients who a doctor has judged sick enough to go to hospital. “Today we find out that the immediate assessment unit has had thousands of patients waiting more than twelve hours in the last year.

“It cannot be right that the length of time a patient waits for treatment is measured if they go through one door in a hospital but not another.

“SNP Health Minister Shona Robison promised a transparent and accountable NHS but she is presiding over a system of hidden A&E waiting lists. The SNP Health Minister must investigate these hidden A&E wards as soon as possible.”

A sticking plaster to the SNP GP crisis

11 March 2016

Commenting on Shona Robison’s speech to BMA Scotland conference, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP with over thirty years’ experience, said:

“Any extra funding for primary care is to be welcomed, but the SNP have cut £1.6 billion from primary care in the past decade, so in that context £20 million is little more than a sticking plaster.

“The SNP Government in Edinburgh has presided over the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation. We are seeing the result of that now, with practices serving communities overstretched and under resourced. Many practices are unable to recruit partners or locums, with vacancies running at around 15%.

"I served as a GP for more than thirty years, it is a job which is an honour and a privilege to hold but today’s family doctors work under incredible stress and pressure now because of the choices made by the SNP Government.

“The SNP must fully resource and then require health boards to take urgent action to support the practices at risk. Instead of waiting for the new contract in 2017 whilst propping up the growing number of GP practices which have already collapsed and had to be taken over by the boards, action must be taken now.

“This sums up the sticking plaster approach from the SNP. For a health service established in the 1940s to be fit for the challenges of the 2040s we need primary care to be properly resourced."



Kezia Dugdale comment on GERS

10 March 2016

Commenting on the publication of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland [GERS] figures today, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"These figures from the SNP Government show once and for all the devastating impact leaving the UK would have had on Scotland's finances.

"The fact that the cuts that would have been needed after separation would have been five times more than those being imposed now by George Osborne gives a sense of the impact on our schools and hospitals. People were misled by the SNP in the run-up to the referendum and that is unforgivable.

"Voting to stay in the UK and the recent fiscal framework deal means that the Barnett formula is protected. The new consensus in Scottish politics around the principle of no detriment and the value of pooling and sharing resources must extend to all constitutional choices.

"We avoided these massive cuts by voting to remain in the UK and we can avoid the cuts that are actually taking place to schools and other vital public services now by voting Labour. We have put forward a bold plan to stop the SNP's cuts by setting a Scottish rate of Income Tax just 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne. Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future and grow our economy or carrying on with the SNP's cuts to schools, we choose to use the powers."


The SNP GP crisis is getting worse

9 March 2016

Commenting on the latest BMA survey which shows that GP recruitment problems in Scotland are getting worse, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP with over thirty years’ experience, said:

“The SNP Government in Edinburgh has created the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation, with a £1.6 billion cut to primary care in the last decade.

"We are seeing the result of that now, with practices serving communities overstretched and under resourced and a simply staggering vacancy rate which is getting worse despite repeated warnings from Scottish Labour.

"I served as a GP for more than thirty years. It was an honour to serve communities and know the families in your practice, but that was at a time when GPs had more time and better resources. The SNP government talks about a community care approach but has spent a decade overlooking the first port of call for the vast majority of Scots - the local GP practice.

“The SNP must require Health Boards to take urgent action to support the practices at risk rather than waiting for the new contract in 2017 whilst patching up the growing number of GP practices which have collapsed and have had to be taken over by the boards.

“This sums up the sticking plaster approach from the SNP, for a health service established in the 1940s to be fit for the challenges of the 2040s we need primary care to be properly resourced."

We need to call time on zero hours contracts for care workers - Neil Findlay

9 March 2016

Commenting on new figures published today which show the number of people on zero hours in Scotland stands at 59,000 Scottish Labour Equalities Spokesperson Neil Findlay said:

“We need to call time on zero hours contracts. 59,000 Scots don’t know where their next day’s work is coming from, how can you plan a household budget around that?

“We also see nearly 200,000 care workers across the UK on zero hours contracts.

“Labour’s National Guarantee for care workers would deliver better terms and conditions for care workers, including a ban on exploitative zero hours contracts.

“It’s the right thing for workers and it will raise standards across the service, ensuring that those who receive care get a better quality of care.

“Our NHS will feel the benefit too. A motivated workforce supported by more investment will keep more patients out of hospital, giving them the dignity of care in their own home and relieving the pressure on our hospitals.”

Kezia Dugdale comment on GERS

9 March 2016

Commenting on the publication of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland [GERS] figures today, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"These figures from the SNP Government show once and for all the devastating impact leaving the UK would have had on Scotland's finances.

"The fact that the cuts that would have been needed after separation would have been five times more than those being imposed now by George Osborne gives a sense of the impact on our schools and hospitals.

"People were misled by the SNP in the run-up to the referendum and that is unforgivable.

"Voting to stay in the UK and the recent fiscal framework deal means that the Barnett formula is protected.

"The new consensus in Scottish politics around the principle of no detriment and the value of pooling and sharing resources must extend to all constitutional choices.

"We avoided these massive cuts by voting to remain in the UK and we can avoid the cuts that are actually taking place to schools and other vital public services now by voting Labour.

"We have put forward a bold plan to stop the SNP's cuts by setting a Scottish rate of Income Tax just 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne.

"Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future and grow our economy or carrying on with the SNP's cuts to schools, we choose to use the powers."

Nicola Sturgeon's position on fracking is 'untenable' - Sarah Boyack

4 March 2016

Nicola Sturgeon's position on fracking is 'untenable', Labour said today.

Environmental Justice Spokesperson Sarah Boyack said the SNP leader must say once and for all whether or not she would support fracking if her government ordered report says it is safe to do so.

Labour also called for the SNP Government to release all information it holds on fracking, including minutes of meetings between ministers and businesses, regulators and campaign groups.

At First Minister's Questions yesterday Kezia Dugdale committed Scottish Labour to an outright ban on fracking and urged Nicola Sturgeon to support that call.

The First Minister refused to do so, claiming that her moratorium meant the same thing, even though her Energy Minister told the Scottish Parliament earlier in the day that they would decide whether to frack on the basis of research he has commissioned.

A number of environmental groups pointed out yesterday that a moratorium is just a temporary freeze and very different from a permanent ban.

SNP ministers are expected to make a decision on whether or not to go ahead with fracking after the election if they are returned to government.

Scottish Labour's Environmental Justice Spokesperson Sarah Boyack said:

"The SNP say their decision on fracking will be guided by a report that won't be published after the election.

"Nicola Sturgeon now needs to come clean - if that report says it is safe will she give fracking the green light? If the answer is no and she will not allow fracking whatever the report says then the SNP must support Labour's call for an outright ban.

“A moratorium is not an outright ban; it’s only a temporary stoppage.

" The public deserve to know once and for all whether or not the SNP will support an outright ban or whether they will continue to adopt their current wait and see approach.

"We know discussions have been had between the SNP Government and businesses, regulators, campaign groups and others.

"The government should publish all documents they hold on fracking, so that people can see once and for all exactly what SNP ministers are saying behind closed doors.

"Labour's position is very clear - no ifs, not buts, no fracking.

"We will go into the election with a clear commitment to ban fracking.

"Voters know where every party in Scotland stands on fracking, apart from the SNP.

"The public will rightly start to think that Nicola Sturgeon has something to hide on fracking. The First Minister's current position on fracking is untenable."

With the devolution of the social security we have a real opportunity to do things differently – Neil Findlay

1 March 2016

The devolution of social security offers a real opportunity to do things differently in Scotland, Scottish Labour said today.

Speaking in this afternoon’s debate on social security Scottish Labour Equalities Spokesperson Neil Findlay said that there is consensus between Labour and the SNP on introducing a fairer system, but the SNP have not outlined how they will pay for their plans.

Scottish Labour Equalities spokesperson Neil Findlay said:

“With the devolution of social security we have a real opportunity to do things differently.

“A strong foundation is vital to the creation of any new system but what is more important is what is built on top those foundations and how any new system is financed.

“We want to see child poverty at the centre of any system. One in four children in Scotland are affected by poverty – 220,000 of our fellow citizens. That is a collective shame that none of us can wash our hands of.

“We want to lift children out of poverty, so we will stop SNP cuts to schools and use social security powers to make life better for families.

“Scottish Labour will offer children leaving care and going into higher education a full grant, giving them the best opportunity to complete their studies and move on in life.

“We will raise the level of Carer’s Allowance to match the level of Jobseeker's Allowance, and we will more than double the level of maternity grant to £1,030, helping struggling mums with the cost of a new baby.

“We will also use the new powers to formally abolish the Tory bedroom tax in Scotland.

“Until the SNP show how they will pay for the extra things they say they want to do their plans will lack any credibility.”

Cancelled operations increase by a third under the SNP

1 March 2016

Operations cancelled because of too much pressure on our hospitals in the last month have increased by a third.

Figures released today show that 806 operations were cancelled in January due to capacity or non-clinical reasons. This compares to 590 cancelled operations in December, a 36% increase.

Scottish Labour have said that hundreds of millions of cuts to public services in the SNP budget will only increase the pressure on our hospitals, and will use a parliamentary debate tomorrow to challenge the SNP government to guarantee the protection of local health services and NHS staff.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP with over thirty years’ experience, said:

“Under the SNP Government we are seeing a huge increase in the number of cancelled operations because our hospitals simply can’t cope with the pressure.

“Under the SNP only a third of our NHS staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly. NHS patients and staff are losing out because of the SNP Government overworking and undervaluing those who work in our health service.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts from the SNP to local services will just increase the pressure on our hospitals. Job losses and service cuts can have a serious impact on deprivation, health inequalities and mental health in particular.

“We don’t have to accept that. Faced with the choice between cuts that will increase the already unbearable pressure on our health service or using the powers of the Scottish Parliament we must use the powers.

“Labour would take different decisions on tax to the SNP and the Tories and give our health service, established in the 1940s; the resources it needs to meet the challenges of the 2040s.”


We need investment and reform for our schools, not cuts - Kezia Dugdale

1 March 2016

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will set out bold plans to reform education in Scotland today

On a visit to Preston Lodge Secondary School in East Lothian with Opportunity Spokesperson Iain Gray, Ms Dugdale will set out a plan for a new Scottish Graduation Certificate.

This certificate could be treated as an additional qualification for admission to universities, and a key record of achievement for young people seeking employment.

The goal is to widen access to university for pupils who struggle with traditional exams.

The new Scottish Graduation Certificate would be a qualification gained at the senior phase of secondary school and would involve vocational courses, work experience and traditional exams.

This would allow formal recognition for young people with fewer traditional qualifications.

It would allow schools to offer more vocational options in partnership with colleges and employers, and university level courses.

The objective is a comprehensive education system for senior students in school, college and the workplace.

This would build on the highly successful Youth Awards network, which includes achievement gained through the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Scouts.

The Labour Government in Wales has secured an agreement with top universities for them to treat the Baccalaureate as a formal qualification for the purposes of admissions. This is designed to help widen access to university.

Kezia Dugdale has previously set out plans for major reform to primary schools through a Fair Start Fund.

This would see £1,000 invested in primary schools for each pupil from a deprived background.

Unlike in the past, however, this extra investment would go straight to head teachers to decide how this should be invested.

Labour has also set out a bold plan to set a Scottish rate of Income Tax 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne.

This would avoid cuts to schools and allow education spending to be protected in real terms.

The SNP and the Tories stood shoulder to shoulder to vote against Labour's plan.

Kezia Dugdale said: "Our schools need investment and reform, not more SNP cuts.

"To grow our economy and give young people a fair start in life we need to value the skills of all our school pupils.

"Creating a Scottish Graduation Certificate will develop a highly skilled workforce that will help young people compete for the jobs of the future.

"Too many young people who don't have more traditional qualifications don't get a second chance to get on to college or university.

" Thousands of young people across the country have skills and talents that simply aren't recognised by today's education system.

" Too often when schools try to do things differently they struggle because they are never given the recognition accorded to traditional exam results.

"We have set out a bold plan to reform our schools and to stop the SNP's cuts to education.

Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education or carrying on with the SNP's cuts to schools, we choose to use the powers."

Kezia Dugdale comment on new SPICe analysis of oil price impact

26 February 2016

Speaking at the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce 'Meet the Leader' event this afternoon, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will say:

"The plummeting oil price has had a traumatic impact on the economy of the North East of Scotland.

"I was born in Aberdeen and as a student at the University of Aberdeen I spent my summers packing food boxes for the oil rigs offshore and working in local bars and cafes.

"I know from personal experience just how important the oil industry is, not just for those who work directly in the oil and gas business but also for those in the supply chain and the local community.

"Thousands of jobs have been lost and firms have gone out of business. This is one of the toughest times the oil and gas industry has ever faced. The new analysis produced today by the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament paints a stark picture of the devastating toll the oil price crash has taken on the area.

"Despite that, there can still be a bright future for the industry and for the North East as a whole. With the right government support, the investment can return and jobs can be saved.

"The UK Government's Budget will be announced in a few weeks time. I want the Chancellor to use his Budget as an opportunity to demonstrate confidence in the long term future of the oil and gas industry by stepping up and playing his part.

"Whether that's through the fiscal regime to attract greater investment or in support for developing what could be a thriving decommissioning industry, there is a responsibility on the UK Government to act.

"The SNP Government must do much more too. Their response to the current problems in the oil industry began at a snail's pace, because to acknowledge the scale of the challenges here was too politically inconvenient. Eventually support to help people back into work was launched, but it has fallen far short of what is needed.

"Both the UK and Scottish Governments must step up and secure the bright future we all want to see for the North East."

Nicola Sturgeon must correct the record on job losses

26 February 2016

Nicola Sturgeon must return to Parliament next week to correct the record on job losses.

At First Minister’s Questions yesterday Nicola Sturgeon accused Kezia Dugdale of exaggerating the number of jobs that will be lost as a result of the SNP’s cuts.

The First Minister said:

“The reason why it is important to treat these issues seriously and not to be irresponsible in exaggerating is illustrated by something that Kezia Dugdale said in the chamber yesterday, which was repeated by Jackie Baillie.

"She said that Clackmannanshire Council was going to reduce the number of its jobs by 350.

"That is a puzzling claim, because Clackmannanshire Council’s budget was set the day before yesterday and the actual number is less than a third of the one that Kezia Dugdale cited.”

"However, an email sent today by the Deputy Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire Council to the office of Labour MSP Richard Simpson confirms the First Minister was wrong. Nikki Bridle writes:

“The Interim Workforce Strategy is supported by a Workforce Planning Business case which provides an estimate of potential reductions in the Workforce over the next three years (2016/17 to 2018/19) based on a range of assumptions, indicating that dependent on Council decisions on policy priorities and future financial settlements , the figure may increase or decrease.

"However, the estimated figure is stated as 320-350FTEs. This figure was the reference point for the recently approved Council Budget.”

On Wednesday the Deputy First Minister John Swinney said claims about job losses have been “utterly exaggerated”. Trade unions have said that thousands of jobs will be lost because of the SNP’s budget cuts for next year.

At First Minister’s Questions yesterday Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to set out how many jobs will be lost as a result of the SNP’s budget. The First Minister refused to do so.

Labour produced a plan during the budget process to set a Scottish rate of Income Tax 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne. This would have increased the Scottish Government’s budget by more than £100 million for 2016/17 and stopped the SNP’s cuts to schools and other vital public services. The SNP and the Tories stood shoulder to shoulder to vote against this plan and for more cuts.

Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Alex Rowley said:

“Nicola Sturgeon must return to Parliament and correct the record. The First Minister tried to dismiss the number of workers losing their jobs because of SNP cuts, but the reality is very different. Up to 350 jobs will be lost over the next three years in Clackmannanshire alone. Nicola Sturgeon should now apologise to the workers and be honest about the scale of the job losses caused by SNP cuts.

"Given the scale of the job losses across the country the SNP Government should set out how they intend to support those losing their jobs to find employment just as they have done in every other sector in Scotland.

“Trade unions have been clear that the SNP’s cuts will mean thousands of jobs will be lost and local services like schools will face major cuts. Instead of denying the reality the SNP should use the powers we have to stop the Scottish Parliament being a conveyor belt for austerity.

“Faced with a choice between using the powers of our Parliament to invest or backing the SNP’s cuts to schools and other vital services, we back to use our powers.”

Comment on Family and Childcare Trust report

24 February 2016

Commenting on a report from the Family and Childcare Trust which shows that childcare costs in Scotland are rising well above the rate of inflation and are outpacing rises across the rest of the UK, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This expert intervention makes a mockery of the SNP's childcare promises.

"Only 13% of local authorities in Scotland can offer sufficient childcare for parents who work full time, in England it is 45% and in Wales it is 40%.

"Costs have also risen sharply with some aspects of childcare being more expensive than anywhere in the UK apart from London.

"Childcare in Scotland is becoming more and more unaffordable and the SNP budget is not going to help anyone.

"Today the SNP will cut the funding to build new nurseries by more than half even though this morning the Chief Executive of the Trust said that underfunding of free hours is pushing up childcare costs for everyone.

“Scottish Labour has been arguing for years that childcare policy in Scotland needs to fit round the lives of working parents not simply fit on an election leaflet.

"Experts, providers, academics and above all parents agree that childcare has to be about affordability as well as free nursery hours, but Scottish Ministers just refuse to listen.

“Given the choice between hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts and using the powers of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour would use the powers to stop the cuts.”

‘Now that the deal is done, let's get on with making the argument for the EU’ - Dugdale

22 February 2016

It’s time to put arguments about political process behind us and get on with the positive case for the European Union.

That’s the message from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today.

Writing in the Daily Record today, Ms Dugdale highlights that nearly 45% of all our exports from Scotland go to the EU, and over 300,000 jobs are the direct result of European investment in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale writes:

“There has to be a more efficient way to strike a deal on the EU than what we witnessed over the past few days.

“Midnight meetings, working dinners, European leaders being ferried in and out of Brussels on their private jets.

“But at the end of it all, David Cameron struck a deal. In truth, it’s only a fraction of what the right wing of his party were promised by him three years ago, but it’s a deal that lets us now get on with making the argument for staying in Europe.

“I don't think Europe is perfect, but the truth is that if it didn't exist we would be trying to work out a way to create it.

“After the Second World War, the EU was born to stop once and for all the bloody wars that had punctuated Europe’s history and, in the Second World War had threatened our own security.

“In that, it’s been a success. Not only has it kept the peace in Europe, but it has helped secure peace worldwide.

“From its beginnings in ensuring our security, the EU is now crucial for securing jobs for people in Scotland.

“Nearly 45% of all our exports from Scotland go to the EU, and over 300,000 jobs are the direct result of European investment in Scotland.

"In fact, we lead the UK in attracting investment from countries in other parts of the European Union.

“Of course, there are many things about the EU that I want to see change. We need to have fairer rules about who can claim benefits when they come to Scotland, more openness about the way the EU works and how our money is spent and far greater accountability for those who lead the EU.

“Over the next few months, I won't shirk from making the positive case for keeping Scotland, and the U.K., in the EU and it's important that all of Scotland’s politicians do the same. Now that the deal is done, let's get on with making the argument for the EU and not carry on arguments about the process of the referendum.

“For me and my colleagues in the Scottish Labour Party this is our opportunity to show how our values – of solidarity and working together – can be just as relevant today. That's the Labour argument we’ll be making for Europe in the weeks and months ahead.”

Scotland’s hidden A&E waiting lists

21 February 2016

Scottish Labour can today reveal the hidden A&E waiting lists across Scotland.

Last year it was reported that an elderly patient died on a trolley after waiting eight hours for treatment in the Immediate Assessment Unit at the new £850 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The Immediate Assessment Unit is separate from A&E, as it involves patients who have been referred there by a doctor. There are thought to be a number of units like this across Scotland.

The performance of these units or the number of patients who use them is not transparently monitored. The units do not even have consistent names across the country.

Freedom of information request from Dr Richard Simpson has finally shed some light on these hidden A&E waiting lists with:

· More than thirty different units across the country

· With multiple titles

· With different waiting times targets, in some cases none at all.

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“Now more than ever we need an NHS with the resources to deliver care based on patient need, not the ability to pay. Our NHS staff performs miracles each and every day and deserve the best possible support and resources to do their jobs. “Instead, in Scotland today, we have hidden A&E waiting lists. These are wards filled with patients who a doctor has judged sick enough to go to hospital; these patients face a postcode lottery in terms of the care they will receive. There isn’t a consistent name or a consistent waiting time target in any of these wards.

“It cannot be right that the length of time a patient waits for treatment is measured if they go through one door in a hospital but not another.

“SNP Health Minister Shona Robison promised a transparent and accountable NHS – why is she presiding over a system of hidden A&E waiting lists?

“After nearly a decade in power and a majority in the Scottish Parliament the SNP have no excuses here.”


Too many young people are caught in a vicious cycle of private renting

19 February 2016

Commenting on new research from the Bank of Scotland which shows that first time buyers are, on average £1,440 a year better off than private renters, Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

"This is an important intervention which shows the vicious cycle so many young people are caught in. They rent to save up for a deposit but because rents are so high they struggle to save.

"Scottish Labour's ambitious plan on housing includes action to ban rip off rent rises and more help for first time buyers to save for a deposit.

“It's no surprise that you're better paying your own mortgage than someone else's. That's why we'd help double to deposit savings of first time buyers so they can own their own home."

Patients and staff deserve the truth on NHS cuts before the election

18 February 2016

Patients and staff deserve the truth about NHS cuts before the election, Scottish Labour said today.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde published board papers today confirming that the health board would have to save £69 million in the coming financial year.

The cuts are yet to be identified however, with a plan to be presented to the health board in ‘due course’.

The uncertainty of what these cuts will entail follows revelations including secret plans which identified closures of the Lightburn Hospital and the children’s ward at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital as well as emergency care and the maternity ward at the Vale of Leven.

These ‘secret cuts’ were dismissed by the Health Secretary, Shona Robison on the basis that health boards did not yet know their budget uplift for the 2016/17 financial year.

This paper confirms that in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, the scale of cuts needed have actually increased.

Labour have said that patients and staff deserve the truth before the election.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Patients and staff have a right to know before they cast their votes what the cuts to their NHS will look like. This cannot be another key decision kicked into the long grass.

“Right now the health service covering some of the most deprived parts of Scotland is facing cuts of over £5 million a month for the next year. That is potentially devastating.

“The SNP promised to stand up for Scotland against austerity – instead they are accepting austerity and it is our NHS that is paying the price.

“The experts at Audit Scotland confirmed that the SNP Government in Edinburgh cut the health budget and we know that only a third of NHS staff feel they have the support they need to do their job. These cuts will only make it worse."

The SNP Government have missed their A&E waiting time targets according to the latest figures published today.

16 February 2016

Figures published today show that 91% of patients attending A&E wards were seen within four hours compared to the SNP Government’s interim target of 95% or their long-standing target of 98%.

More than 2,000 patients waited more than four hours. At the £850 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital performance remains well below the SNP target at 87%.

The figures also show that 258 patients waited more than eight hours and 44 waited more than 12 hours.

Scottish Labour said that under the SNP NHS staff are overworked and undervalued, with only a third believing there are enough of them to do their jobs properly.

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“The SNP are demanding NHS staff hit their A&E targets without the resources they need to do so.

“Under the SNP Government in Edinburgh only a third of our NHS workforce believes there are enough resources for them to do their jobs properly and it is patients who pay the price.

“We need to ensure that our NHS, founded in the 1940s, is ready to face the challenges of the 2040s.

“Scottish Labour would take the pressure off of our hospitals by delivering better care at home with a national care-workers’ guarantee, which means a living wage and better terms and conditions to develop a workforce to deliver the care vulnerable Scots need.”

‘School budgets will fall by nearly £800 million because of SNP cuts’ – Gray

14 February 2016

School budgets will fall by nearly £800 million because of SNP cuts.

New analysis from Scottish Labour shows that local education budgets face annual reductions of £774 million by 2019/20, because of a cut of 16.2% across all areas of non-protected spending under the SNP’s current plans.

This week the SNP and the Tories voted against Labour’s plans to protect education spending in the next parliament. Scottish Labour would set a Scottish rate of Income Tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would mean the SNP’s planned cuts to schools and other public services could be avoided.

Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These cuts will be hugely damaging to the future of our country. The most important economic policy any government can pursue is investing in education. Instead because of the SNPs austerity budget across Scotland budgets for schools are being slashed, teaching posts lost and the opportunities children enjoy reduced.

“Faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament and cuts to our children’s future, we choose to use the powers and stop the cuts.

“We would set the Scottish rate of income tax one penny higher than George Osborne to stop these cuts which will rob an entire generation of young people of opportunity.

“The First Minister said that education would be the driving and defining priority of her government but instead her government is taking a scalpel to local education budgets across Scotland.

“Scotland won’t cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms by cutting the budgets for our schools by hundreds of millions of pounds.”

More than 130,000 patients treated in the wrong ward in the past two years

14 February 2016

More than 130,000 patients were treated in the wrong ward in the past two years, new figures from Scottish Labour can reveal today.

The practice, known as ‘boarding out’, is likely to see patients more at risk of dying, more likely to spend longer in hospital and also more likely to be readmitted after being sent home according to a government study last year.

Freedom of information requests from Scottish Labour revealed the figures, which may be much higher as large health boards such as Tayside and Grampian refused to release information.

Scottish Labour said that the problems with ‘boarding out’ showed the huge strain our hospitals were under, and said the SNP Government in Edinburgh should be investing more in social care to take pressure off of our NHS.

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of delivery based on patient need not ability to pay, equipped with the resources staff need to deliver the care Scots deserve.

“These figures point to huge levels of stress in our hospitals. We know that only a third of NHS staff believe they have the resources to do their jobs properly. This information suggests that too often there isn’t enough space for patients to be treated in the appropriate ward. That is hugely concerning.

“We know from the SNP Government’s own research treating patients in the wrong ward more likely to increase patient risk. Questions have to be asked of Shona Robison about what she is doing to deal with this.

“Scottish Labour would give our NHS established in the 1940s, the tools it needs to face the challenges of the 2040s. This starts with substantial investment in social care. Greater investment in social care would take significant pressure off of our hospitals and that starts with delivering a national care workers’ guarantee on wages, terms and conditions.”

Nicola Sturgeon has sold out the people who need her most – Kezia Dugdale

4 February 2016

Nicola Sturgeon has sold out the people who need her most by imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local public services, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour Leader said the SNP’s vote against her plan to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop cuts means they have been found out.

Earlier this week Kezia Dugdale set out a plan to set the Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne.

This would mean the hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts proposed by the SNP Government’s budget for 2016/17 could be avoided.

To ensure low income taxpayers receive a boost, a £100 payment would be introduced for those earning less than £20,000.

This would be administered by local authorities.

Council leaders across Scotland have confirmed this is possible.

Experts and trade unions have also said using the income tax power is a progressive measure as the richest would pay the most. Even SNP Minister John Swinney has previously described it as progressive.

Yesterday, the SNP and the Tories stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ to vote against Labour’s plan to stop the cuts.

Kezia Dugdale said:

“Nicola Sturgeon has built her career on telling us that more powers mean fewer cuts, yet she refuses to use the powers when it really matters.

She has staked her reputation on improving education, yet she cuts school budgets rather than using the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

“Nicola Sturgeon has sold herself as the radical alternative to Tory austerity, but yesterday she sold out the people who need her most.

“At the stroke of a pen the First Minister could stop the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts and thousands of job losses, but faced with the choice between using the powers of this Parliament and hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts she chose austerity.

“After this week people across Scotland are left asking why Nicola Sturgeon won’t just use her power to do the right thing.”

Comment on Budget vote

3rd. February 2016

Commenting on the SNP ‘s decision to vote with the Tories against Labour’s plan to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to avoid cuts to schools and other vital public services by setting a Scottish rate of income tax 1p more than that set by George Osborne, Scottish Labour's Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“This is bitterly disappointing from the SNP Government.

“Nicola Sturgeon promised that more powers meant we could be different from the Tories.

"Today she voted not to use the powers alongside the Tories. It is our children’s schools that will pay the price in cuts the SNP Government don’t need to make.

“When faced with a choice between using the powers of the Parliament to invest in the future or more cuts to our children's schools, Labour backs more investment.

"By voting with the Tories against using our powers, the SNP are backing more cuts.

“It is not too late to stop these cuts.

"The Budget process will continue until the end of the month and we will be appealing directly to individual SNP MSPs who have campaigned against austerity."



Nearly 14,000 assaults on NHS staff in the past year

1st. February 2016 There have been nearly 14,000 assaults on NHS staff in the last year, new figures reveal.

Analysis of freedom of information requests from Scottish Labour reveals 13,957 incidents of violence against staff for 2015/16 so far (up to December 2015).

The previous full year data, 2014/15, show that 22,771 incidents of violence took place.

This new information follows a week which the SNP Government was challenged over a rising number of working days lost in Scotland’s NHS due to staff stress.

Scottish Labour has called on the SNP Government to ensure proper prosecution for those who attack staff, and do more to ensure that violence against staff is minimised.

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“No one should face the threat of violence for doing their job.

"Our NHS staff are Scotland’s unsung heroes having dedicated their careers to helping others and saving lives.

“We learned this week that more working days are being lost due to staff stress but these new figures should concern us all.

“People who attack the staff who are there to help them should face tough penalties.

“The SNP Government must work with health boards, trades unions and staff to ensure that the conditions exist where such offences are minimised – and also to ensure that those who are violent are properly prosecuted.

“Many people will question if a fine is the most appropriate way to deal with assaults on NHS staff.”



John Swinney must now rethink his plans to cut local services to the bone

29 January 2016

Commenting on Cosla’s decision today to reject the package offered by the SNP Government which would include hundreds of millions of cuts to local services, Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

“It looks like councils of all political makeups have told the SNP Government that enough is enough. Resistance is growing to Swinney's attempts to bully communities into accepting his cuts.

“John Swinney must now rethink his plans to cut local services to the bone.

"The SNP Government's cuts to local budgets for schools and nurseries will pull the rob opportunities from so many young people in Scotland.

“We can’t cut the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms if we cut the budgets for our schools.

“This is why Labour are calling for economic and inequality assessments of the impact of the Scottish Budget on education and attainment.

“After nearly a decade in office and a majority in parliament the SNP aren't rejecting austerity – they are accepting it and trying to impose it on our local services.”

College students are being more than short-changed by the SNP, they are being ripped off

29 January 2016

Commenting on figures released today by the Scottish Funding Council which shows a £2.4m shortfall in FE bursary funds available to college students, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"Every single young person should have the best possible start in life. People's ability to learn should not be based on how much money they have, but today's figures show that college students are being more than short-changed by the SNP, they are being ripped off.

“NUS recently told Parliament that student support in colleges is “not fit for purpose”. Now they have provided the evidence that is the case.

"The SNP are asking for Scotland to judge them on their record - for college students that record is utterly appalling. Fewer staff, 152,000 fewer students going to college and less support for students who need it.

"That all adds up to a generation of missed opportunities in further education after a decade of the SNP in power."

Comment on Cosla council cuts statement

27 January 2016

Commenting on Cosla’s response to John Swinney’s new deadline for councils to agree a funding deal, Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

“It must be beginning to dawn on John Swinney that his plan to force councils to accept half a billion pounds of cuts for local services like schools and social care is the wrong path.

“Scotland’s councils have been treated by disdain by the SNP Government whilst being handed cuts which would devastate local services and cost up to 15,000 jobs.

"The SNP Government's cuts to local budgets for schools and nurseries will pull the rug out from under young people in Scotland. We should be cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms, not the budgets for our schools.

“After nearly a decade in office and a majority in parliament the SNP aren't rejecting austerity – they are accepting it and trying to impose it on our local services.”

Iain Gray reveals plans to close the attainment gap

23 January 2016

Every school in Scotland will receive funding to close the gap between the richest and the rest under plans unveiled today by Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour has published the estimated allocation each primary school would receive through its Fair Start Fund. Every primary school in the country would receive £1,000 for each pupil from a deprived background.

It would be for head teachers to decide how this money is spent to close the gap between the richest and the rest.

This would be paid for by increasing the top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 to 50p using the new powers coming to Scotland.

This money is over and above the Scottish Government's existing attainment fund.

Schools in Glasgow would receive almost £12 million.

Those in North Lanarkshire would be allocated almost £5 million and schools in Fife would receive an estimated £6 million.

A full list of the estimated allocation for each local authority is below and a full list for individual schools is attached.

New figures released by Scottish Labour on Friday revealed that at least 1,500 schools in Scotland, and one third of local councils across the country, don’t receive any funding through the SNP Government’s Attainment Challenge Fund.

Scottish Labour Opportunity Spokesman Iain Gray said: “We need to close the gap between the richest and the rest in Scotland. For too many children how much money their parents have determines how far they get on in life, rather than their potential and ambition. "That has to change.

“Under the SNP’s plans more than 1,500 schools in Scotland get no extra support to close the gap between the richest and the rest.

With half a billion pounds of cuts to local services like our schools coming from the SNP Government’s budget, there is a real risk that pupils already at a disadvantage will get left even further behind.

“A Scottish Labour Government would ask those lucky enough to earn over £150,000 a year to pay a little bit more in tax so we can create a Fair Start Fund to invest in our young people. "It’ll mean £1,000 of extra funding for every pupil from the poorest background, and we’ll give the money directly to head teachers, who know how to spend the money better than a minister sitting in Edinburgh.

“After nearly a decade in power and a majority in parliament there are no excuses for the SNP not to be using the new powers coming to Scotland to build a fairer future for our young people.”

85% of Scottish schools get no support to cut the gap between the richest and the rest

22 January 2016

Eighty-five percent of Scottish primary schools get no support to cut the gap between the richest and the rest.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale revealed the figures ahead of a visit to a school and a sure start centre in Newcastle today.

Around 1,500 schools receive no extra support from the SNP Government to close the attainment gap.

The Scottish Labour leader also revealed a third of Scottish local authorities get no support from the SNP Government’s Attainment Challenge Fund.

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICE) confirmed that the SNP Government plan to cut local government budgets by half a billion pounds in the coming year.

Cosla has estimated that this would put 15,000 jobs at risk.

Kezia Dugdale will visit a school and a sure start centre alongside Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, to see the steps that the Labour run local authority are taking to give every child the best possible start in life.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“I want every young person to get the best possible start in life. That means cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms but right now it is a postcode lottery.

“More than 1,500 schools in Scotland get no extra support from the SNP Government to cut the attainment gap, and neither do one third of our councils

“Nicola Sturgeon said education would be her number one priority – but in parts of the country she is doing nothing to help.

“The SNP budget will just make things worse, with £500 million of cuts to local councils for services like schools.

“A Scottish Labour Government would ask those lucky enough to earn over £150,000 a year to pay a little bit more in tax so we can create a Fair Start Fund to invest in our young people.

"It’ll mean £1,000 of extra funding for every pupil from the poorest background, and we’ll give the money directly to head teachers, who know how to spend the money better than a minister sitting in Edinburgh.

“After nearly a decade in power and a majority in parliament there are no excuses for the SNP not to be using the new powers coming to Scotland to build a fairer future for our young people.”

If Cameron doesn't back down Holyrood should act - Neil Findlay

19 January 2016

If David Cameron doesn't back down on the Trade Union Bill then Holyrood should act, Scottish Labour said today.

The Scottish Parliament's Devolution Committee today called on the UK Government to exempt Scotland from the scope of the Trade Union Bill, a position Scottish Labour supports.

However, Neil Findlay has today said that if the Tories fail to back down then all parties should get behind Scottish Labour's plan to amend the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament to block the Bill in Scotland.

He said:

"The Trade Union Bill is a blatant attack on the rights of workers across the UK. It is an unfair piece of legislation that will fundamentally damage the hard earned rights of workers in this country.

"David Cameron should back down and scrap this Bill once and for all.

"If the Tories fail to act then everybody in the Scottish Parliament should work together to prevent the Trade Union Bill being implemented in Scotland.

"Scottish Labour have tabled an amendment to the Standing Orders of Holyrood so we can block this Bill.

"If Nicola Sturgeon is serious about standing up for the rights of workers in Scotland then she will back our plans."

Teachers are not confident in Curriculum for Excellence - Iain Gray

19 January 2016

Commenting on a survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association revealing that teachers have low confidence in the new Curriculum for Excellence qualifications, Scottish Labour Opportunity Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Scottish Labour wants every young person to have the best possible start in life, and get the best possible qualifications to match their ambitions and aspirations.

“These figures are an alarming development in the rollout of Curriculum for Excellence. For a large majority of teachers to have little or no confidence to assess pupils at Higher level is hugely worrying.

“At Advanced Higher the number of teachers with any confidence to deliver appropriate course material and assess pupils appear to be a small minority. That simply isn’t good enough.

“This pressure on teachers is only likely to increase as the SNP Government plan huge cuts to local education budgets.

“We can see from this survey that teachers aren’t happy with the support they have received from Education Scotland and the SQA. SNP Education Minister needs to look at these figures as a matter of urgency.

A&E waiting times ‘utterly disgraceful’ – Richard Simpson

19 January 2016

Commenting on reports today that one A&E patient waited 22 hours and 13 minutes for a bed at Wishaw General, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“This is utterly disgraceful. Any wait beyond 4 hours in A&E should be exceptional.

“Last summer Labour warned that staffing levels in NHS Lanarkshire were at high risk, we are now seeing the effects of the SNP cutting the health budget.

“This news won’t just concern families across Scotland – it will horrify hardworking NHS staff.

“NHS staff have dedicated their careers to saving lives but they are being undervalued and overworked under the SNP,with only a third believing they have the resources they need to do their jobs properly.

“We need to move away from this crisis management in our NHS. Scottish Labour would invest in social care, taking pressure off of our hospitals and giving patients the dignity of care in their own home.

"We need to ensure our NHS that was created in the 1940s is fit for the 2040s, starting with a living wage for care workers."

 Minister’s contempt for part time courses “disgraceful” – Iain Gray

15 January 2016

Commenting on Roseanna Cunningham’s appearance on Good Morning Scotland where she defended a 152,000 drop in college students since the SNP came to power as a deliberate move to eliminate part-time courses that were not considered high quality, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This is a disgraceful response from the Minister.

"I suppose we should be glad she is admitting that the SNP have deliberately thrown 152,000 students out of our colleges.

"But her contempt for thousands of Scots who have used college study part time to raise their skills and improve their life chances is reprehensible.

"Second chance learners, women returners to work, workers attending night school, people with learning disabilities, it is their college based efforts she is sneering at here.

“For decades colleges have provided a route to better jobs and better life chances through part time courses and night school.

"My own father benefited from those kind of opportunities, and we all know someone who has.

"They will struggle to do so now, thanks to the SNP.

“Angela Constance is supposed to be Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

She has a brass neck using the Lifelong Learning bit of the title.”

 

Secret paper shows the cost to our NHS of SNP cuts

14 January 2016

Commenting on reports that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has outlined at least £60million of cuts, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Now more than ever we need a health service based on patient need not the ability to pay, with the resources it needs to deliver the care Scots deserve.

“These secret papers contain plans that would decimate health services in some of the most vulnerable communities in Scotland.

“Despite all the SNP rhetoric these secret papers make clear that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde needs to make £60 million of cuts.

The SNP promised to stand up for Scotland against austerity – instead they are accepting austerity and it is our NHS that is paying the price.

“The experts at Audit Scotland confirmed that the SNP Government in Edinburgh cut the health budget and we know that only a third of NHS staff feel they have the support they need to do their job.

These secret SNP cuts will just make it worse.

“After nearly a decade in government and with a majority in Parliament there is no excuse for the crisis management we see in our NHS under the SNP.

Scottish Labour would invest in social care, paying care workers a living wage and taking much needed pressure off of the NHS to give Scots the dignity of care in their own home.”

 

SNP cuts will make social care crisis worse – Kezia Dugdale

14 January 2016

SNP Government cuts to council budgets will make the social care crisis worse, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour Leader said the SNP Government’s £500 million cuts to council budgets next year will hit vital services like social care.

Yesterday, MND patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman published new figures which showed that 276 people in Scotland died last year whilst waiting for a social care package.

Kezia Dugdale challenged Nicola Sturgeon to back a living wage for care workers, something the SNP Government voted against before Christmas.

The Scottish Labour Leader said a living wage would make caring a more attractive career option and improve the standard of care people receive.

Last week it was also revealed that Nicola Sturgeon’s promise to double the number of MND specialist nurses working in the NHS has not been delivered.

Kezia Dugdale said:

“It is a scandal that it took a dying man to put in a freedom of information request for the scale of the social care crisis in Scotland to be exposed.

The fact that 276 people died waiting for a social care package is just not right.

Nicola Sturgeon’s £500 million cuts to council budgets will make the social care crisis even worse.

“The SNP Health Secretary admitted that there is a social care recruitment crisis.

Too many care workers suffer from low pay, poor conditions and insecure work.

Paying a living wage would fix that and it would improve the care people receive.

“Nicola Sturgeon had a chance to make a pledge to the 39,000 care workers earning less than the living wage and the families of the 276 people who died waiting for a care package.

"It shows exactly where her priorities lie that she refuses to back a living wage for care workers.”



 

Latest figures show over 500 operations cancelled in a month due to lack of capacity

5 January 2016

Commenting on the latest figures which showed more than 500 cancelled operations in November due to capacity or non-clinical reasons, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

"Scotland deserves a health service free at the point of use based on patient need, not the ability to pay. Our NHS is our most valued public service and it needs to have the resources to deliver the care Scots need.

“Now we see that more than 500 operations were cancelled in a month due to a lack of capacity in our NHS. The total numbers of operations cancelled have risen month on month throughout the autumn of 2015. That follows on from analysis which suggests 15 operations were cancelled every single day in 2015 due to a lack of resources.

“The number of patients cancelling operations has also risen by a quarter since the summer the SNP Government needs to investigate why this is happening”

“We know that only a third of NHS staff believe that they have the resources and staff to do their jobs properly. After nearly a decade in government and a majority in parliament there are no excuses for the SNP on our NHS.

“Scottish Labour would invest in social care to take the pressure off of our hospitals, allowing more people to get the care they need in their homes and freeing up space and resources in our hospitals. That starts with a living wage for care workers.

"It's time we moved away from short term crisis management in our NHS to investing for the long term, building a health service fit for the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s.”

 

Official figures confirm Scotland is facing a GP crisis

15 December 2015

Official figures published today confirm that Scotland is facing a crisis of family doctors.

Research published by ISD Scotland shows that thirty-four percent of GPs are likely to retire in the next ten years, whilst the average number of patients dealt with by a single practice has increased by ten percent in the last decade.

Scottish Labour have been warning about a developing crisis in family doctors for years, and have criticised the SNP Government for cutting the share of funding for general practice by over £1 billion in the last decade, as well as cutting medical student numbers.

Scottish Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP with over thirty years’ experience, is reviewing general practice in Scotland and will report his recommendations to Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale in the New Year.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service. Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of need to deliver the care Scots deserve regardless of how much money they earn.

“These figures show the growing severity of the deterioration in general practice and vindicates Scottish Labour’s concerns first raised and dismissed by the SNP in 2010 –under the SNP’s watch we staring into the face of a major GP recruitment crisis.

“It is unacceptable that the fulltime equivalent numbers of GPs has not been available since 2013, when it was 3735, as this is the most important data for determining workload. But we can infer from the numbers of patients per practice that there are far too few GPs and Scottish Labour’s survey showed a shortfall of 500 GPs.

“We have seen a drop in funding totalling over £1 billion, fewer medical students, fewer trainee vacancies being filled and now fewer out of hours sessions being staffed. Many practices across Scotland have restricted new patients from registering in order to contain their workload.

“We need a health service fit for the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s. After eight years in government, a majority in parliament and more power than ever before the SNP have no excuses for their failure to act sooner to protect our health service.”

 

Instead of trying to avoid blame, the SNP Government should accept responsibility for the bridge closure

11 December 2015

Scottish Labour today said that instead of constantly trying to avoid any blame for the Forth Road Bridge closure, the SNP Government should accept responsibility.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale highlighted the following:

- Minutes from a Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) meeting in October 2013, which confirmed that a number of key bridge capital projects were “deferred” because of a lack of funding

- The SNP Government cut the bridge budget by 65% since 2008

The FETA meeting which confirmed the cancellation of key projects noted “that deferral of part or all of these projects does increase the risk to the long term structural integrity of the bridge.”

On Tuesday SNP Transport Minister Derek Mackay said there was no link between cancelled repair works in 2010 and the bridge closure. However, on Wednesday Mr Mackay admitted that there was a link. He was recalled to Parliament to make a statement clarifying his remarks, however this only raised even further questions.

Kezia Dugdale also called on the First Minister to confirm that small vans could drive along the priority route, currently reserved for buses and HGV lorries, to help small businesses struggling because of the closure. Nicola Sturgeon failed to confirm any details.

Kezia Dugdale said:

“The Forth Road Bridge is more than just a road connecting Fife and Edinburgh. It’s a strategic asset that’s at the heart of the transport infrastructure for the whole country. Thousands of people rely on it to get to and from their work every day and businesses depend on it for getting their goods and services to their customers.

“The Transport Minister Derek Mackay told this Parliament on Tuesday there was no link between cancelled repairs in 2010 and the work needed now. On Wednesday he made the fatal mistake of going on the BBC and telling the truth that they were in fact linked. The public is rapidly losing faith in the Transport Minister’s handling of this situation.

“We know that key projects were delayed because of SNP Government cuts to the bridge budget. Short term decisions were made at the expense of the long term future of an important national asset.

“Under the SNP the Forth Road Bridge has suffered from budget cuts, the privatisation of services and cancelled repairs. Instead of constantly trying to avoid the blame, it’s time for the SNP Government to accept responsibility."

Comment on EIS ballot

12 December 2015

Commenting on college lecturers voting overwhelmingly for industrial action, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“No one wants to see industrial action but the SNP’s record on colleges has been abysmal. College staff were promised national pay scales by SNP Ministers, ensuring a lecturer in Edinburgh would be paid the same as a lecturer in Inverness.

"There has been little progress towards that and Ministers have walked away from their promise.

“Meanwhile the EIS are calling colleges cuts draconian, and they are right. The Further Education budget is less now than it was eight years ago when the SNP came to power, with cuts of over £50 million.

“There are 140,000 fewer students in Scotland’s colleges, and 3,500 fewer lecturers and in that time colleges have had to spend £90 million of scarce resources paying staff off, with bumper pay-outs to some former principals.

“Scotland’s colleges should be the envy of the world. Everyone, regardless of postcode or privilege, should be able to access the skills they need to get on in life and a thriving further education sector is an absolutely essential part of that.

“The SNP want to be judged on their record and the First Minister said education is her top priority. Well, the SNP’s record on colleges is shameful.

“That record means lost opportunities for our young people. After eight years in government, it’s time the SNP took responsibility for the mess they have made in Scotland’s colleges.”

Under the SNP our NHS staff are overworked and undervalued

12 December 2015

NHS staff in Scotland are overworked and undervalued. Scottish Labour said today.

The latest NHS staff survey showed that only a third of NHS staff believe that there is enough staff to allow them to do their jobs properly.

The survey follows an Audit Scotland report last month which confirmed that the health budget had been cut under the SNP.

Commenting, Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP and psychiatrist with over thirty years’ experience said:

"Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of use based on clinical need, not the ability to pay. Our NHS is our most valued public service and it needs to have the resources to deliver the care Scots need.

"Our NHS staff do incredible work every day but under the SNP government they are under valued and overworked. We hear stories about staff in tears and sick with stress at the new flagship hospital in Glasgow,

“These are people who have dedicated their careers to caring for others and saving lives. The very least we can deliver is the resources for them to do their jobs properly

"After eight years in government and a majority in parliament there are no excuses for the SNP on our NHS. But what we have seen from the SNP is a tendency to squeeze health spending in Scotland harder than even the Tories in England, whilst failing to manage our NHS.

"It's time we moved away from short term crisis management in our NHS to managing for the long term, building a health service fit for the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s.”

Commenting on the statistics published by Crisis identifying the link between sanctions and homelessness

8 December 2015

Scottish Labour Community spokesperson Ken Macintosh MSP said:

“Our welfare system is supposed to be there to prevent people going hungry or becoming homeless, now we discover that it is actually causing it. This report is truly chilling. It is horrendous to think that this winter, especially with our rain and wind storms, not to mention freezing temperatures, there will be hundreds of Scots sleeping rough every night, many of them left in such dire circumstances by a punitive sanctions regime.

"We already know that more and more people are being forced into poverty as a result of the Conservative’s unfair and unjust welfare reforms. We now know that benefit sanctions in particular are having a direct impact on homelessness with one in five of those surveyed who had been sanctioned becoming homeless and one in six forced to sleep rough as a result.

"This survey comes on top of homelessness figures for Scotland published earlier in the week which revealed that homeless Scots are spending longer and longer in temporary accommodation, with too many in entirely unsuitable Bed & Breakfast establishments.

"Our welfare system should be there to help people in times of crisis, not force them into one.

"The UK Government must urgently reverse its Dickensian attitude towards welfare and towards tackling poverty. The SNP Government in Edinburgh must use the full range of its powers over housing, health and welfare to ensure people have the help they need this winter including the most essential of all – a roof over your head.”

SNP Government need specialist team to handle private NHS spending

3 December 2015

The SNP Government have had to set up a specialist team to handle private NHS spending, which has rocketed in the past year, with:

• The number of agency nursing and midwifery staff increased by 53 per cent in 2014/15

• Spending on locum doctors increased by 22 per cent in 2014/15

• Agency spending has doubled in the past two years

Commenting Dr Richard Simpson, Scottish Labour's Public Health Spokesperson said:

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service, no more than ever we need a health service based on clinical need not the ability to pay, and every penny of its budget should be spent wisely.

"We have seen from the growing crisis in general practice and the highest ever rate of consultant vacancies that the SNP Government have made an absolute disaster of workforce planning in our NHS, this means the agency bill has rocketed.

"The SNP Government in Edinburgh need to make sure that money is being spent responsibly in our NHS, this money could be going much further, and caring for far more Scots with better planning from central government.

“This is why under the SNP Government Ministers are managing crisis after crisis in our health service rather than managing for the long term. Scotland deserves an NHS fit for the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s.”

Student Debt: SNP myths exposed

3 December 2015

The SNP’s spin on student debt has been exposed.

New analysis of statistics shows that, contrary to repeated claims from the SNP, students in Wales leave University with the lowest level of average student debt in the UK.

The analysis, from former Head of Higher Education in the Scottish Government and expert on student finance Lucy Hunter Blackburn, also confirms that the poorest students in Scotland end up with the highest student debt.

Commenting, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Scottish Labour wants every single young person to have the best possible start in life. That’s why we want to cut the attainment gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms and why we support keeping university tuition free.

“The SNP promised students they would end loans and pay off debt. Instead they have slashed the budget for bursaries and grants by £40 million and student debt has soared. The student debt book is now the Scottish Government’s biggest single financial asset – worth more than the new Forth Bridge.

“This new expert research confirms what Scottish Labour has been saying for months – that it is the poorest students who rack up the highest debt in Scotland. Those who start with the least end up owing the most.

“The analysis shows that it is Wales, not Scotland, where student debt is at it’s lowest, despite repeated claims from the SNP.

“When it comes to student debt the SNP are strangers to the truth.

“Thousands of young people from poorer families who have the grades to access the best courses can only get the extra support they need by borrowing more. We need to deliver better student support for our young people.”

Labour call for urgent action on GP crisis

30 November 2015

Scottish Labour has called for urgent action to tackle Scotland’s crisis in general practice.

The call comes as two expert reports reveal the problems in general practice.

The Ritchie Review on out of hours primary care calls for urgent workforce planning across a range of disciplines.

Also today a joint report from Glasgow and Dundee Universities revealed a postcode lottery for general practice, with practices in the most deprived areas being underfunded compared to the most affluent.

Scottish Labour have been calling for action on the GP crisis for months, as Scotland faces a potentially disastrous shortfall of family doctors within the next decade.

Scottish Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP with over thirty years’ experience, is reviewing general practice in Scotland and will report his recommendations to Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale in the near future.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service. Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of need to deliver the care Scots deserve regardless of how much money they earn.

“Under the SNP’s watch we have seen a growing crisis in family doctors . We have seen a drop in funding totalling over £1 billion, fewer medical students, fewer trainee vacancies being filled and now fewer out of hours sessions being staffed.

“Now the SNP Government’s own expert report recommends urgent action for workforce planning, whilst academics warn that it is the poorest communities losing out under current arrangements.

“I welcome both of these reports, they are serious pieces of work and I urge the SNP Government to listen to their recommendations.

“We need a health service fit for the challenges of the 2040s, not the 1940s. After eight years in government, a majority in parliament and more powers than ever before it the SNP have no excuses for not acting to protect our health service.”

Pearson calls for answers on police spying scandal

29 November 2015

SNP Justice Minister Michael Matheson should make a statement to Parliament outlining what the SNP government knew about the police spying scandal.

On Wednesday the Interception of Communications Commissioner said that the police service in Scotland had obtained communications data without judicial approval on five separate occasions.

Now Scottish Labour have called for Michael Matheson to make a statement to parliament outlining how much the SNP government knew about spying practices within the police force.

Scottish Labour Justice Spokesperson Graeme Pearson said:

"People need to have trust and faith in our police force, and that they will be there for them in times of emergency.

"Policing in Scotland once had a world class reputation, but it has been dragged through the mud by a series of scandals this year.

"Now we see that the police service in Scotland had carried out illegal surveillance on five separate occasions.

"Serious questions must be asked why police time and resources were used to hunt the source of a story rather than the potentially crucial information that story presented. It suggests a force more concerned with public relations than keeping people safe.

"Michael Matheson has said he knew nothing about this case but he has been SNP Justice Secretary for more than a year now, and has been invisible during the biggest crisis of confidence in Scottish policing in generations. This cannot be another policing scandal where he goes missing."

EIS members slam SNP college reorganisation

27 November 2015

Commenting on a survey of EIS members on the SNP’s college reorganisation, Scottish Labour’s Opportunity Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“I want Scotland’s colleges to be the envy of the world. Everyone, regardless of postcode or privilege, should be able to access the skills they need to get on in life. “Colleges mergers are one of the few public sector reforms undertaken by this SNP Government and it has been a complete and utter failure, not least for the 140,000 students who have been locked out of college courses.

“Just this week in Parliament we have seen the farce of outrageous pay offs for a former principal while the president of NUS Scotland told us that student support in colleges is ‘not fit for purpose’.

“Now lecturers have issued their verdict on SNP reorganisation and it could not be more damning. There is no aspect of mergers they believe has worked and critically, 90% of them say mergers have not improved learning for students.

“The SNP want to be judged on their record. Their record on colleges is an incompetent shambles of slashed budgets, forced mergers and cuts in student numbers.

“For young people that record means lost opportunity. After eight years in government and a majority in Parliament, it’s time the SNP took responsibility for their botched handling of the college sector."

SNP have doubled cuts to communities

26 November 2015

Scottish Labour stands united today against cuts to communities across Scotland.

Councillors from North and South Lanarkshire, as well as other local authorities across Scotland, protested outside of the Scottish Parliament today against SNP cuts.

Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

“People already struggling to cope with fewer local services, shorter care visits or the impact of council job losses will have been aghast to hear George Osborne has plans for further 30% cuts to local government.

But the point about the rally today is to make it clear that Labour Councillors and Labour MSPs do not believe we should simply be passive recipients of UK decisions.

We have a choice to make here in Scotland. John Swinney and the SNP Government have a choice to make about our approach to public services.

“The bad news is that past evidence is not encouraging.

"The Scottish Government received a 3% cut in their budget, but passed on a grossly disproportionate 6% cut to councils across Scotland.

"Local services are being hit twice with a cut from the Conservatives at Westminster and a second cut from the SNP at Holyrood.

“We want to hear more from this SNP administration than just how much they abhor Conservative austerity, we want to see decisions to match.

"Cuts to councils are cuts to communities and it is time this SNP government put its money where its mouth is.”

Labour to enshrine rights of carers in law

24 November 2015

The rights of carers should be enshrined in law.

That’s the message form Scottish Labour Equalities spokesperson Rhoda Grant MSP ahead of the Committee stage of the Carers (Scotland) Bill.

Ms Grant will move amendments to establish a national eligibility threshold for carers, ending the postcode lottery of support for carers across Scotland.

Rhoda Grant will also lodge an amendment to the legislation to establish a Charter of Carers rights, including the right to work, the right to leisure, and the right to health and wellbeing.

Scottish Labour Equalities Spokesperson Rhoda Grant said:

“Scotland’s carers don’t fit a stereotype, we have some carers who are as young as three and carers form a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. But whilst the type of people who are unpaid carers changes from family to family, they all should be entitled to the same support.

“Looking after a vulnerable family member or loved one can be an exhausting and stressful. Scotland’s unpaid carers aren’t looking to be treated as victims – they just want the same rights as everyone else.

“That’s why Scottish Labour are proud to bring forward amendments to end the postcode lottery for Scotland’s unpaid carers, and enshrine in law rights to work, leisure and health.

“It will be for other parties to support our proposals. This is about giving Scotland’s unsung heroes a fair go. After eight years in government and a majority in parliament there is no excuse for the SNP not supporting our plans.”

Education Bill amendments to guarantee at least 25 hours of teaching time NUS tell Education Committee College student funding ‘unfit for purpose’

24 November 2015

Commenting on evidence given to the Education committee from NUS Scotland stating college student funding is not fit for purpose, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This was Nicola Sturgeon’s big announcement in her Conference speech only weeks ago. She has boasted that it will support college students.

“In fact it has cut their support for living by two thirds. This is typical of the cack-handed incompetence of the SNP when it comes to Education generally and colleges especially.

“Every witness to the committee today gave evidence that FE student support is a shambles. It is time the Scottish Government started supporting Scottish college students instead of targeting them for cuts.

Commenting on further evidence that in Universities, the poorest students come out with the biggest debts, Iain Gray said:

“In 2013 the SNP slashed bursaries for poorer students at University, and replaced them with loans. Now those who go to University with the least resources come out with the biggest debt.

“The First Minister and her Education secretary have tried to deny these facts for months now, but the committee’s evidence leaves no room for doubt.

“They must restore grants and bursaries or their rhetoric about helping poorer students get into Higher Education is completely empty.”

Education Bill amendments to guarantee at least 25 hours of teaching time

20 November 2015

Scottish Labour will table amendments to the Education Bill to guarantee primary school pupils at least 25 hours of teaching time each week.

Scottish Labour has said parents sending their children to primary school should be confident that they will get at least 25 hours of teaching each week. Statutory regulation of the school week is supported the teachers’ union EIS.

The amendment would not seek to regulate how the 25 hours are used over the course of the school week.

A recent report by Reform Scotland said that the amount of teaching time a pupil gets can vary by up to 149 hours depending on where the school is, which can have an impact on a child's learning. Current legislation says that pupils should get 190 days of teaching a year, but a day is not defined.

A number of local authorities have considered reducing the number of teaching hours to allow them to cut the number of teachers employed, in the face of swingeing cuts to their budgets. These moves were resisted by parents and teachers.

Scottish Labour's Opportunity Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"As a father, grandparent and former teacher, I want children to have a guaranteed minimum number of teaching hours in primary school. We want every child to have the best possible chance at school, especially pupils from deprived backgrounds.

"The gap between the richest and the rest in our schools is as wide as ever under this SNP Government. More than 6,000 children in Scotland leave primary school unable to read properly and the ability of a young person to go on to higher education is still determined by how much money their parents have. That's just not right.

"At Stage Two of the Education Bill Scottish Labour will bring forward amendments to guarantee a minimum of 25 teaching hours in the primary school week. It's for individual local authorities and schools to decide how these hours are used, but primary pupils and parents deserve a minimum guarantee. These amendments are about protecting the rights of pupils and their parents.

"We need to make sure every young person in Scotland is equipped with the skills they need for the jobs of the future, jobs that will be found in industries yet to be created but that will be central to our economy in 20 or 30 years.

"Compromises on the education of our young people should never be made in a bid to cut staffing budgets. With 4,000 fewer teachers in Scotland under the SNP Government, children are already losing out."

Comment on EIS ballot

20 November 2015

Commenting on the news that the EIS are balloting members in Secondary schools for industrial action in relation to the excessive workload demands created by the new qualifications system, Scottish Labour Opportunity spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP record on education continues to be one of broken promises and mismanagement.

“The new curriculum and exams were brought in without the necessary resources. We saw the new Higher Maths shambles. We saw that enrolment and attainment in the new nationals has fallen. Now Ministers have driven teachers to the edge of industrial action.

“No one wants to see industrial action in our schools, and Angela Constance must get this sorted and quickly, otherwise parents and pupils will pay the price for her incompetence, yet again.

“Scotland’s teachers need and deserve to have the resources and the support they need to do their jobs. After eight years in office, a majority in parliament and more powers than any Scottish government before it there is no excuse for the SNP not doing more.

"Education is the single most important economic policy we can pursue. Cutting the gap between the richest and the rest and giving every young person the best possible start in life is vital to delivering a stronger Scotland”



SNP blasted by childcare campaign group

19 November 2015

Commenting on the Fair Funding for Our Kids campaign group criticising a lack of basic information after a meeting with SNP Minister Angela Constance regarding childcare policy, Scottish Labour Opportunity Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"Childcare is the single biggest expense for tens of thousands of families across Scotland. That's why we need a childcare policy that is developed to fit around the lives of working families, not written to fit on an election leaflet.

"The SNP Government has been focused on the number of hours available, with little care about quality, affordability, flexibility or even delivery. Worst of all they make promises and then appear not to care when those promises are not delivered on the ground. That is typical of the SNP’s arrogance in government.

"For the SNP Government to be accused of cheap sloganeering by campaign groups shows they should spend less time congratulating themselves, and more time explaining their policies.

"SNP Education Minister Angela Constance should be able to answer the basic questions of parents across the country.

"For low income families childcare costs in Scotland present an insurmountable barrier to parents getting into work.

"After eight years in government, a majority in Parliament and more powers than ever before there is no more excuses for the SNP here."



SNP’s botched reform of policing has seen pressure on staff rocket

10 November 2015

The SNP Government’s botched reform of policing has seen pressure on contact centre staff rocket.

Today’s major review into call handling by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland revealed a string of problems in contact centre operations at Police Scotland, including staff feeling under pressure to end calls quickly and using scribble pads to take details of cases.

Last week Scottish Labour Justice Spokesperson Graeme Pearson launched the Pearson Review of policing in Scotland, which outlined a range of recommendations to increase local accountability.

Commenting on the report, Scottish Labour Justice Spokesperson Graeme Pearson, a former senior police officer, said:

“The Scottish public must have confidence that when they need the police they will be there and they will keep our communities safe.

“This damning report confirms the complete and utter botched job the SNP have made of reforming policing in Scotland.

“The challenge now for SNP Justice Minister Michael Matheson is to fully disclose the problems in our policing service and for him to ensure that the SPA will get a grip.

“The report reveals a range of problems with IT systems and training, staff having to use scribble pads when dealing with calls and feeling under pressure to end calls quickly.

“When the M9 tragedy occurred, Michael Matheson said that it had nothing to do with a lack of capacity, a lack of resources, or staff feeling overburdened.

“We now know that to be completely false. He now owes an apology to police staff who have been left to take the blame by the SNP Government, the SPA and senior officers.

“The report finds that whilst savings of £1.8 million on policing have been made, the force had to spend £1.4 million on overtime.

“Over the course of this parliament we have seen an SPA chair go, a Justice Secretary go and a Chief Constable go.

“It is time for Michael Matheson to acknowledge the huge failings made in reforming Police Scotland on his watch, and get on with fixing them.

“The SNP Government should spend more time explaining itself and less time congratulating itself.”

Iain Gray : Scottish Parliament should challenge Competence of Trade Union Bill

10 November 2015

Iain Gray MSP, Scottish Labour’s Opportunity Spokesperson, is to challenge the competence of the Tory Government’s Trade Union Bill.

Speaking during a debate on the contentious legislation, Mr Gray revealed he has legal opinion on the issue and has now written to the Scottish Parliament clerks asking them if he can introduce a Legislative Competence Motion to potentially block the Bill in Scotland.

Mr Gray said:

“One of the great deceits of the attack on trade unionism which this Bill represents is to try and characterise trade unions as being about industrial conflict, strikes, and pickets.

“In truth they are about the fundamental right of workers and their families to organise in solidarity with each other for the betterment of all.

“Meanwhile, the Tory Government produces this Bill.

“Whatever it pretends to be, it is aimed at undermining the capacity of trade unions to organise, its purpose is to disable and even destroy the trade union movement once and for all, and especially public sector trade unions.

“The inference that the Trade Union movement is somehow one of mindless militancy is just absurd.

“Industrial action already requires the support of members in ballots, and the Bill’s attempt to impose thresholds on those ballots, thresholds which no elected politician would countenance when it came to their own election, are an anti-democratic outrage.

“There can be no doubt. This Bill is not designed to regulate the trade union movement, but to undermine it.

“It should be opposed in Westminster, and it should be resisted in local authorities, many of whom are following Labour Glasgow’s lead in declaring they will not cooperate with its measures.

“And Presiding Officer, it should be formally resisted in this Chamber too.

“Employment law is reserved. But we believe that the impact of some of this Bill on the executive competence of the Scottish Government does mean that it should require a legislative consent motion in this Parliament.

“The Scottish Government has significant statutory and budgetary powers to employ staff. The power to employ staff and determine their terms and conditions is a key executive power and an essential issue of executive competence.

“This Bill significantly impacts upon and undermines the Scottish Government’s executive power and executive competence in relation to employing their staff in that context. Accordingly, the Scottish Parliament should certainly have the right to debate an LCM on the relevant provisions of the TU Bill.

“I have therefore written to the Head of the Parliamentary business team, and asked the clerks to investigate whether an LCM would be relevant in the context of this Bill, making these arguments as to why I believe an LCM is competent and required and, if it is, I propose to bring one forward at the earliest opportunity.

“I believe that this chamber will say no to the TU Bill this evening, but we should find a way to say no formally too."

 

 



Comment on St John’s Children’s ward

7 November 2015

Commenting on reports that the review into paediatric services at St John’s Hospital in Livingston will be delayed until after the Scottish elections next year, Lothians MSP Neil Findlay said:

'This delay stinks.

The review of paedeatrics was to report before the end of the financial year but now we are told it is being delayed because of the Scottish elections and that won't report until June a month after people have cast their votes.

“This is an outrageous situation that looks very much as if this review has been politically manipulated by Ministers and the health board to hide what may come from this review from the voters.

“The people in West Lothian should be able to make an informed choice at the next election and our local SNP representatives should be judged on their record, and that of the Government they support."

SNP MP admits there's “no certainty” tax credit families will be fully supported

7 November 2015

A senior SNP MP has admitted there is no “certainty” the SNP Government will mitigate in full George Osborne’s planned cut to tax credits.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Big Debate programme this afternoon, John Nicolson was asked to “pledge now that the Scottish Government will mitigate in full the effect of tax credit cuts”. Mr Nicolson replied to say that “we can’t say that with any certainty”.

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale has set out plans to restore the money lost through tax credits for working families in Scotland. This would be funded by making different choices on tax from the SNP and Tory Governments.

Scottish Labour would not implement the SNP's planned £250 million cut to Air Passenger Duty and would not implement the Tory Government's planned increase in the threshold for those paying the higher rate of income tax.

Scottish Labour’s Public Services and Wealth Creation Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“The SNP Government’s response to tax credits has been nothing short of a shambles. First they said they wouldn't have the power or the money to act. Then they accepted they will have the power but won’t give any details.

Now a senior SNP MP has confirmed there is no guarantee working families will receive full support.

“Nicola Sturgeon was asked repeatedly in the Scottish Parliament to confirm that working families will be entitled to the same level of support under her plans as they are now. The fact that the First Minister couldn’t make that pledge shows exactly where her priorities lie.

The SNP Government can fully commit to a £250 million tax cut to make airline tickets a bit cheaper, but can’t guarantee support for working families.

“Scottish Labour has a fully costed plan to restore money lost through tax credits for working families.

"Politics is all about choices, and we have made our choice – we stand with working families.”

Pearson calls from major shake up of Scotland’s Police force to improve transparency and accountability

6 November 2015

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Graeme Pearson today launched his report on policing in Scotland.

Announced on 31st August, the aim of the review was to assess the effectiveness of the single police force and propose reforms to restore local accountability and reverse the impact of damaging cuts to staff and services.

Graeme Pearson held meetings across Scotland to speak to the public, rank and file officers, civilian staff, community groups, victim support staff and others.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Graeme Pearson said:

“During my meetings across the country, local people told me that the link between their communities and bobbies on the beat has been lost, despite the hard work and dedication of frontline officers.

“Those officers feel the breakdown too - the recent Police Scotland staff survey reported that officers feel they are losing touch with local people because of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ policing model.

“That’s down to the SNP’s drive to centralise and the failure of ministers to put in place proper structures to hold the police service to account. Those decisions by SNP Ministers have led to increased pressure on our police officers.

“Two years on from its creation, Police Scotland needs a shake up so that power once again lies with local decision makers and we get back to the kind of community policing that made Scotland the envy of the world at one time.

“My recommendations aim to do just that, giving officers more autonomy to answer questions raised by communities, as well as enabling better local oversight and improving the relationship between the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and local communities. “It is only with the consent of local people that the police can do their job properly. This consent must be constantly renewed and secured. Strengthening how local communities hold the police to account will help achieve just that.”

 

Two in every five NHS consultant vacancies lie unfilled for six months or more

25 October 2015

Two in every five NHS consultant vacancies lie unfilled for six months or more, new analysis from Scottish Labour can reveal.

The number of posts that lie vacant for more than six month has also more than quadrupled since the SNP formed a majority government in 2011.

The posts include Emergency medicine, radiology, general medicine, cardiology, dermatology, neurology, psychiatric specialties, general psychiatry, child & adolescent psychiatry, surgical specialties, general surgery, and paediatrics.

This week independent experts at Audit Scotland exposed the extent of problems in our NHS under the SNP, including huge increases in the use of temporary staff, agency staff and locum doctors all of which are more expensive for our health service.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the complete failure of the SNP Government in Edinburgh to deliver long term workforce planning in our NHS.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service. Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of need to deliver the care Scots deserve regardless of how much money they earn.

“Under the SNP Government in Edinburgh our NHS has suffered from a cut to the health budget and huge shortages of staff.

“This research shows that this problem is not confined to one part of our health service; there are long term unfilled posts for emergency medicine, general medicine, psychiatry and paediatrics. This is a problem infecting every part of our NHS workforce.

“Posts going unfilled for more than six months suggests a real problem in work force planning, and means our health service has to turn to more expensive private alternatives like locum doctors.

“The SNP want to be judged on their record of running our NHS. Since they formed a majority government the SNP’s management of our NHS has seen staff undervalued, under resourced and under intolerable pressure.

"The SNP’s record is not one which they can be proud of.”

 

The SNP’s sticking plaster approach to the NHS has let staff down

23 October 2015

The SNP Government’s sticking plaster approach to the NHS has let staff down, Scottish Labour said today.

Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie highlighted figures which show:

More than 2000 nursing jobs were cut during Nicola Sturgeon’s time as health minister

Training places for nursing and midwifery students were cut by more than a fifth between 2009 and 2012

Funding for Scottish medical students has been cut by 5% on average since 2008/09, reversing the trend of the previous Labour-led Scottish Government

Today also saw Gillian Smith, Director of the Royal Colleges of Midwives predicts a “time bomb” of midwives retiring from the NHS in the next few years.

Scottish Labour have been warning for months about a crisis in recruitment for family doctors.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service. Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of need to deliver the care Scots deserve regardless of how much money they earn. Our NHS needs to be fit for the future, but we are seeing a picture emerge of complete and utter failure from the SNP Government to plan for the years to come and give our health service the support it needs.

“Audit Scotland exposed the extent of the problems in our NHS under the SNP Government in Edinburgh as they cut the health budget.

“We are looking at shortages of nurses, midwives and family doctors because of decisions made by this SNP Government. How can they expect our NHS to face the challenges of the next decade when they cut training places for the people who will deliver the care Scots need?

"These problems in our NHS did not appear overnight, they began on Nicola Sturgeon's watch. Under the SNP Government NHS staff are undervalued, under resourced and under intolerable pressure. This sticking plaster approach is not working.”


 

Commenting on John Swinney's speech to SNP Conference

16 October 2015

Commenting on John Swinney's speech to SNP Conference, Scottish Labour's Public Services Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said :

"This is typical sleight of hand from the SNP Government.

"Councils are simply being offered the chance to make deeper cuts to local services like schools and care visits.

"If the SNP Government were serious they would agree to fund any reduction in business rates that councils make.

"The truth is that John Swinney is not adding one extra penny to the budgets for schools and care.

"The SNP's record in government isn't one to be proud of.

"Council budgets have been slashed by £750 million, there are 4,000 fewer teachers and the number of people working in local government has fallen by nearly 29,000 on the SNP Government's watch.

"So many of the local services that people rely on are under pressure because of decisions made by SNP Ministers."

 

Kezia Dugdale calls for more regular and comprehensive oil bulletins in wake of oil jobs crisis

15 October 2015

The Scottish Government should publish the oil and gas bulletin on a quarterly basis with a greater focus on the impact on jobs.

That’s the message from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today.

Speaking in Aberdeen, Ms Dugdale said the oil jobs crisis showed that regular reporting of oil and gas from the government was now essential.

The Scottish Labour leader also said the bulletins should focus on the impact on jobs, not just on the frontline but further back in the supply chain.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"The oil jobs crisis has affected families across Scotland, not only workers in the oil industry but households who rely on jobs in the supply chain too.

“For years those working in the oil industry and supply chain have made a massive contribution to Scotland’s economy.

It’s now time the SNP Government recognised that by setting up quarterly reporting of the condition of the industry and its effect on jobs.

It will along for long term planning for the industry, and more security and peace of mind for families

“Oil and Gas UK estimate that 65,000 jobs have been lost across the UK and that means tens of thousands in Scotland.

"These job losses in Scotland are larger than when Ravenscraig in Lanarkshire shut its doors and the aftermath of the coalfields being shut down.

It is an industrial crisis on a huge scale but the response from the SNP Government in Edinburgh has been to sit on their hands.

"This is too important an issue for the SNP to ignore because it is politically embarrassing.

They should commit to more regular and more in depth report about one of Scotland’s most valuable industries.”



Flagship hospital needs specialist support for second time in four months

13 October 2015

Scotland’s flagship hospital needs specialist support for the second time in just four months.

Today NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde announced special measures at the hospital as A&E performance fell to 77%.

In June The SNP Government sent in a special performance support team at the hospital for two weeks.

In May SNP Health Minister Shona Robison refused a suggestion from Scottish Labour to pause the transfer of patients to the new hospital to ensure a smoother transition.

Scottish Labour Public Services Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson said:

“This is an absolutely shocking state of affairs. For Scotland’s flagship hospital to need specialist support twice in just four months is utterly incredible.

“It now seems that the handling of the transfer of patients has been completely botched.

“The SNP Government’s A&E target wasn’t met at the hospital in the middle of summer and isn’t being met in the middle of autumn – do the SNP Government really expect hardworking NHS staff to cope in the winter at this rate?

“I asked SNP Health Minister Shona Robison back in May to consider pausing the transfer of patients to ease the burden on the new hospital and she said no."

“This is a problem made by the poor decisions of the SNP Government, like squeezing health spending in Scotland harder than even the Tories in England.”




Tax Credit cuts "Robin Hood in reverse" – Jackie Baillie

12 October 2015

Commenting on a report issued by IPPR Scotland today, Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“This expert research has confirmed that the Chancellor’s plans to slash tax credits will hurt the poorest families in Scotland whilst the richest will see more money in their pocket.

"This is Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the poor to give to the rich.

“Tax credits work. It's why the Labour Government introduced them in the first place. They help those in low paid jobs and ensure work pays.

“The so called national living wage from the Tories is a sham, and it was under Ruth Davidson’s leadership that the Tories voted against extending the real living wage to more low paid jobs in Scotland last year.

“Last week Ruth Davidson had a chance to call a halt to these cuts.

"She failed to do so and now the poorest in Scotland will lose out.

"A senior Tory likened these cuts to the Poll Tax, and Ruth Davidson should not need to be reminded of how disastrous that policy was in Scotland.

“After five years of the Tory Government and eight years of the SNP Government, the gap between the richest and the rest in our country is still unacceptably high, these cuts will only make it worse.”





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