16 January 2018 Commenting on Scottish Tories voting against Labour’s amendment to Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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


16 January 2018 Responding to statistics revealed by the Federation of Small Businesses showing 70 per cent of Royal Bank of Scotland local branches have closed or are set to close, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment on RBS Branch Closures

1 December 2017

Commenting on the announcement that Royal Bank of Scotland plans to close 62 of its branches in Scotland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird said:

“These closures by RBS, on the back of cuts announced earlier this week by Bank of Scotland, will create even more banking deserts.

“Wishing away the need for a branch network while talking up emerging technology such as video banking does nothing for those communities – many of them in places already left behind by mobile and broadband rollout.

“Quite apart from the inconvenience caused to personal banking customers, thousands of small businesses on high streets across Scotland still handle cash and still need somewhere to bank it at the end of the day.

"Delegating day-to-day transactions to Post Offices does not discharge banks from their customer or wider social responsibilities.

“I will be writing to RBS and Bank of Scotland seeking urgent meetings to discuss the implications of these decisions and any alternatives which might be explored.”


23 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


23 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


6 November 2017

The average worker in Scotland has seen their wages plummet by almost £14 a week in real terms since the Tories came to power.

New analysis from Labour shows that the median weekly wage has fallen from £561 a week in 2010, to £547 in 2017.

Labour said the figures showed how working people had suffered under years of Tory austerity, and that the SNP had failed to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect the pay packets of working people.

The party challenged the SNP government to develop a strategy to lift wages and boost incomes in Scotland, saying the radical new powers of the Scottish Parliament meant that pointing the finger at Westminster was no longer good enough.

Labour would introduce a £10 an hour living wage, give public sector workers a pay rise and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to grow our economy.

Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said:

“These are deeply troubling figures that show the real price of Tory austerity, and the SNP’s failure to protect working people’s incomes.

“Both the UK and Scottish governments should be acting to protect people’s pay packets.

“The SNP government should develop a robust strategy to lift wages. The Scottish Parliament has powers over education, enterprise and economic development. It is not acceptable to simply point the finger down south. We need a plan to boost incomes in Scotland.

“Labour has a plan to make people better off. We would introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour, give hard-working public sector employees a pay rise and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to grow our economy. That would build a country that works for the many, not the few.”



1 November 2017

The SNP cannot hide from its record of NHS mismanagement, Scottish Labour said today.

Scottish Labour brought forward a motion highlighting how the SNP has let down patients and staff in our health service.

Most opposition parties united to condemn the SNP’s record – but it was saved from an embarrassing parliamentary defeat with the help of the Green Party.

Labour’s motion followed a damning Audit Scotland report into the state of our health service, which revealed:

• No progress and in some case declining performance on key performance indicators, with seven out of eight missed again

• The heath budget falling in real terms with health boards having to make unsustainable savings

• Spiralling levels of private agency and locum spending

• The NHS struggling to maintain quality of care

• An increase in the backlog of maintenance required – especially in buildings branded “high risk”

• A stubborn - and in some cases widening - inequality gap for public health

Speaking after the debate, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“The SNP is failing NHS patients and staff.

“A year ago Audit Scotland published the worst state of the NHS report since devolution. Twelve months on and standards have either stalled or declined.

“Seven out of eight key performance indicators are still being missed, with declining standards for cancer treatment and patients waiting for appointments.

“All this is happening amid a backdrop of underpaid, undervalued and under-pressure staff.

“The SNP’s mismanagement of our NHS has seen the health service lurch from crisis to crisis. Our NHS staff and patients deserve better.”



26 0ctober 2017

The SNP’s management of the health service is spiralling out of control, Alex Rowley said today at First Minister’s Questions. (Thursday 26th. October)

Questioning Nicola Sturgeon on Audit Scotland’s annual state of the NHS report, the interim Scottish Labour leader highlighted increasing health board deficits, prescribing costs and agency spending.

Mr Rowley also revealed that Labour will use its opposition business slot in Holyrood next week to debate the report further.

The Audit Scotland report, released today, has exposed widespread problems throughout the health service, with seven out of eight key targets missed.

Interim Scottish Labour leader, Alex Rowley, said:

“Anyone reading this report from the Auditor General on our NHS cannot be anything but concerned.

“Concerned about the budgets and the financial management of health and social care and the shortages of staff at every level and concerned for the impact of all of this on patients.

“Meanwhile, a lack of workforce planning is driving up costs through having to use agency staff and locums.

“The whole thing is spiralling out of control.

“Labour will use our debating time in Holyrood next week to discuss the Audit Scotland report further.

“After ten years in government Nicola Sturgeon cannot just continue with more of the same – we need a full government response to this report.”

Key quotes from ‘NHS in Scotland 2017’:

“Health funding continues to increase but NHS boards had to make unprecedented levels of savings in 2016/17.” (P11)

“People are waiting longer to be seen with waiting lists for first outpatient appointment and inpatient treatment increasing by 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in the past year. The majority of key national performance targets were not met in 2016/17 and wider indicators of quality suggest that the NHS is beginning to struggle to maintain quality of care.” (p11)

“The overall health of the Scottish population continues to be poor and significant health inequalities remain. Life expectancy is lower than in most European countries and improvements have stalled in recent years. Smoking rates have continued to reduce but drug-related deaths increased significantly in 2016/17 and are now the highest in the EU.” (p11)

“The 2017/18 health budget is £13.1 billion, an increase of 1.5 per cent in cash terms, and a decrease of 0.1 per cent in real terms from 2016/17.” (p13)

“It is becoming more difficult for NHS boards to identify the savings they need to make.” (p14)

“In 2016/17, NHS boards spent £171 million on agency staff, an increase of 79 per cent in real terms over the past five years. Spending decreased, however, by three per cent between 2015/16 and 2016/17.” (p17)

“NHS boards had a total backlog maintenance of £887 million in 2016/17, a slight decrease from £898 million in 2015/16. There has been a seven per cent increase in backlog maintenance classed as significant and high risk, to 47 per cent in 2016/17.” (P17)

“Boards reported spending £109 million on agency medical locums in 2016/17, an increase of six per cent in real terms on the previous year.” (P17)

“In the past year, the number of people waiting for their first outpatient appointment increased by almost 40,000, a 15 per cent increase.” (p21)

“The number of people that waited over the standard 12 weeks for their first increased by over 300 per cent (from 21,500 people waiting in the quarter to March 2013 to 87,500 people in the quarter to March 2017). Of these, the number of people that waited over 16 weeks for their first appointment increased tenfold, from 5,000 to almost 58,000 people.” (p21)

“As with last year, NHS Scotland failed to meet seven out of eight key performance standards in 2016/17.” (p22)

“Over the past five years, overall performance has declined in six of the eight key performance standards and remained static in one, with performance only improving against the four-hour accident and emergency standard.” (p22)

“There are signs that the NHS’s ability to maintain quality of care is under pressure and this needs to be closely monitored.” (p23)

“Scotland’s health is not improving and significant inequalities remain.” (p24)

“People living in areas of deprivation are still much more likely to be in poorer health than those living in more affluent areas. The gap is not closing and in some measures is widening.” (p25)

“The Scottish Government does not yet have a strategic approach to capital investment and developing health and social care facilities.” (p35)

Source: NHS in Scotland 2017 >>>




23 October 2017

The SNP government’s failure to tackle delayed discharge has cost the NHS more than £100 million in the last year, according to Labour analysis confirmed by the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice).

NHS Scotland estimates that it costs £214 per day to keep a patient in hospital who is medically cleared to return home.

In the period of September 2016 to August 2017, the most recent figures available, 511,972 bed days were occupied by delayed discharge patients, meaning the cost to the NHS for the year was £110 million.

SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison promised to abolish delayed discharge out of the system completely in February 2015.

Labour said one of the key reasons that delayed discharge remained a problem was cuts to the budgets of local councils who provide social care.

Labour social care spokesperson Colin Smyth:

“The SNP promised to abolish delayed discharge; instead it has cost our health service more than £100 million in the past year.

“The system is unsustainable. The SNP government cannot continue to slash the budgets of local services that people rely on and not expect it to have a knock on effect to our health service.

“Much of the delays in discharging patients are due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of years of an SNP government slashing local authority budgets, with £1.5billion cut since 2011.

“Labour would take a different path. We would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a National Guarantee for care workers.

“Labour would ensure all care workers are given appropriate training, paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel, and no worker would have to deal with the insecurity of a zero-hours contract.

“Only Labour would create a country that works for the many, not the few.”

NHS Scotland estimates that it costs £214 per day to keep a patient in hospital who is medically cleared to go home.

For the period Sep 2016 - Aug 2017, the total number of bed days occupied by delayed discharge patients was 511,972

That means delayed discharge has cost the NHS £110 million in that period.

What the SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison promised on delayed discharge:

“I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

Source: Shona Robison, BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Wednesday 25 February 2015


20 October 2017

Responding to the SNP government launching a consultation on the Scottish Investment Bank, Labour economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

"A Scottish Investment Bank was a Labour manifesto commitment in June, and formed the centre piece of the SNP's attempted relaunch in the Programme for Government. Whilst imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the SNP appear to have only sketched this out on the back of a fag packet.

“With confidence low and our economy fragile, businesses want action now but beyond an advisory board Nicola Sturgeon has announced no detail in terms of how the bank should operate. It sums up the approach of a government that has completely lost direction over economic policy.

“Nationalist ministers want opposition parties to write their tax policy and the general public to explain to them what an investment bank should do.

“As always with the SNP, it’s spin before substance, and Scots are starting to see through it. “


14 October 2017

There has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of pupils being taught in classes of 30 or more since 2011, new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals.

In 2011 the number of children in primary classes of 30 or more stood at 31,842. The most recent figures show that number now stands at 44,667.

The SNP was famously elected in 2007 on a promise to cut classroom sizes in Primary 1-3. But since it formed a majority government in 2011 and Nicola Sturgeon making education her ‘top priority’ in 2015, the trend has been for increasingly large class sizes.

Labour said the numbers underline the failure of the SNP on education, with 4,000 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power and £1.5 billion cut from local council budgets which fund our schools.

Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP came to power promising to cut classroom sizes – instead it has just cut the number of teachers in our schools.

“Promises, pledges and PR stunts on education cannot hide the SNP’s dismal record on our schools – 4,000 fewer teachers, £1.5 billion cut from local budgets, super-sized school classes and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and the rest.

“Not only has the SNP betrayed parents and pupils with this broken promise – it is one of the reasons John Swinney was told to his face at SNP conference, that Scottish teachers are ‘on their knees’.

“Just as ten years of the SNP has left Scottish teachers among the lowest paid and most overworked in the developed world, they have also delivered some of the biggest class sizes in the world in Scottish schools.

“Nicola Sturgeon put her top minister in charge of the education brief – but John Swinney has found himself overwhelmed and is unable to explain how his misguided reforms will cut class sizes.

“The real reform our schools need is more funding. That is why Labour is the only party with a comprehensive plan to fix our schools, with a review of pay and conditions for teachers and a commitment to use the tax powers to stop the cuts and invest in education.

“The SNP has developed a habit of adopting Labour policies in recent months - including a dedicated bursary to attract more graduates to train as science, technology, engineering or mathematics teachers. Ministers should go a step further and take on board Labour’s plan to stop the cuts and give teachers a better deal.”


13 October 2017

There is a huge gap in the levels of physical activity between the richest and poorest in Scotland, Labour can reveal today.

There is an 18-point gap between the percentage of adults participating in physical activity, from sports to walking, between the richest and poorest groups.

69 per cent of people from the poorest backgrounds have taken part in some sort of physical or sporting activity in the past four weeks compared to 87 per cent from the most affluent.

Labour’s figures come from analysis of the 2016 Scottish Household Survey. It follows the 2016 Health survey which highlighted the link between deprivation and ill health.

Labour said the figures show the need for radical action to close the inequality gap in society, and the failing approach of the SNP towards public health policy.

The party also said the gap was a further reason for Derek Mackay to resist calls to charge council leisure centres business rates.

Scottish Labour’s public health spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

“These figures show the challenges our health service will face in years to come unless SNP ministers get their act together on public health.

“We know there is a link between deprivation and ill health, and we can now identify a clear ’activity gap’ between the richest and the poorest. We need to see some credible action to close this gap, or our NHS will simply shoulder an even greater burden for years to come.

“The SNP government should commission a review into the impact of austerity on physical activity. £1.5 billion cut from local council budgets in the past six years will have hammered local sports clubs and community groups, making it harder for people to access facilities.

“These figures show a sluggishness from the SNP in dealing with Scotland’s deep routed health inequalities. Even when it comes to taking a 30 minute walk there is a 20 point divide between our most and least deprived communities.

“Taking steps to close the activity gap now will boost public health for years to come – and ease the pressure on our NHS.”



9 October 2017

Responding to Nicola Sturgeon's refusal to rule out another independence referendum before 2021, Scottish Labour business manager James Kelly said:

“The Nationalists seem unable to accept the result in June.

“The voters sent Nicola Sturgeon a message loud and clear in the general election - when the SNP lost almost half its MPs – that they do not want another divisive independence referendum.

“It is time the First Minister listened to that message and ruled out another divisive referendum for the duration of this parliament.”


8 October 2017

Responding to John Swinney's announcement at SNP conference today, Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"Hardly a day goes by now without the SNP U-turning and giving into Labour demands.

"Scotland's schools are blighted with a teaching shortage, with 4,000 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power, and urgent action is needed.

"We welcome John Swinney adopting one of the policies from our ten point plan for Scotlands schools, and look forward to him seeing the sense of the other nine too."


8 October 2017

A decade of SNP government has left Scotland divided, a new briefing from Scottish Labour reveals.

As SNP conference begins in Glasgow today (Sunday) a new briefing from Scottish Labour examines the Nationalists’ record on the economy, education and health.

It finds:

- Tax decisions favouring the richest.

- Spending cuts hurting the poorest.

- An attainment gap in our classrooms.

- A health service at ‘breaking point'.

Labour said the challenge for Nicola Sturgeon is to present a bold and radical agenda that uses the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop austerity.

Interim Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley said:

“As of October 2017, the SNP government has been in power for a decade. The legacy of that decade is one of division.

“Not just on the question of independence but an unacceptable divide between the richest and the poorest Scots.

“The SNP has made decisions in government which have divided Scotland between the rich and the poor in key areas such as tax, health and education.

“Nicola Sturgeon promised she would champion the poor and would make education her top priority to stop falling standards. She has done neither.

“It is only Labour which offers a positive vision for Scotland that works for the many, not the privileged few. Labour would do what the SNP has refused to do – use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect public services and deliver a fairer country.

“As Nicola Sturgeon prepares to address SNP conference this week, she should reflect on how she has divided Scotland – and outline a plan to bring Scotland together. If she cannot, Labour will.”


6 October 2017

Scottish Labour has accused the Scottish Government of being ‘breathtakingly complacent’ on mental health support for vulnerable young people.

Research by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) shows that at least two-thirds of teachers have not received adequate training in pupil mental health support and feel unable to do their job properly as a result.

The research also reveals that only one in 100 recall doing detailed work on mental health when they were student teachers, and only a third believe their school has an effective way of responding to pupils’ mental health problems.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed that vulnerable young people in Scotland’s schools were going without support, and renewed its call for schools to have access to a trained counsellor.

Scottish Labour Inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said:

“These figures should shock the SNP Government into action - teachers and schools are making it clear that they aren’t getting the support they need to help vulnerable young people.

“Scottish Labour has been warning about the growing mental health crisis in our schools for over a year, as have many others including the Scottish Youth Parliament – but the responses from the SNP Government, and Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt, have been breathtakingly complacent.

“Having finally admitted in March the need to review Scotland’s broken child and adolescent mental health service, which has rejected 17,000 young people from treatment in the last three years, Nicola Sturgeon revealed this week at First Minister’s Questions that the review hasn’t even started.

“Teachers are already overworked and undervalued by this government, now we know they feel they don’t have the training to support pupils with mental health concerns.

“The SNP should adopt Labour’s proposals for access to trained school counsellors and take immediate action to ensure no young person goes without the support they need.”


6 October 2017

Councils face a further potential £1billion cut to their budgets by the SNP by 2021, Alex Rowley will warn today.

In his speech to COSLA’s annual conference in Crieff, the Scottish Labour interim leader will cite research from the Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) suggesting the “best case” scenario for local authorities was a cut of over £800million by 2020/21.

But the FAI also warns that the figure could end up being more than £1billion.

The SNP has already slashed £1.5 billion from local authority budgets since 2011.

Mr Rowley will urge the SNP government in Edinburgh to use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and protect public services.

Scottish Labour interim leader Rowley said:

“The question people across Scotland are asking is, are we going to see an end to the cuts?

“The respected Fraser of Allander Institute has published a best case scenario for councils - £800 million more in cuts by 2021.

“That was the best case scenario. The worst case is over £1billion. That is simply unacceptable.

“Local services cannot take another £1billion of cuts. Our schools and our social work departments will be cut to the bone.

“The SNP must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts so we build a country that works for the many, not the few.”

Comment on Scottish Health Survey

3 October 2017

Responding to the Scottish Health survey 2016, Labour Public Health spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

"This report highlights yet again the link between ill health and low incomes. You're more likely to lead a healthy, active lifestyle if you come from a more prosperous background.

"SNP ministers should study this report carefully - it shows the big challenges that our NHS is going to face in the coming years from issues such as obesity and mental health conditions.

"The blunt truth is that there has been an utter failure from existing government strategies around public health. We need to see radical action to address the gap between the richest and the poorest in Scotland. The SNP need to realise that a government cannot tackle health inequalities without tackling the wealth inequalities in our society."


30 September 2017

John Swinney’s problems in the education brief are mounting up in a series of remarkable failures reported today.

The Herald reports that John Swinney is set to U-turn on his flagship scheme to set up Regional Education directors, the centrepiece of his “governance reforms” following pressure from Cosla and Scottish Labour.

Also today, the Times reports that over a quarter of teacher training places have been left unfilled for the forthcoming academic year, leaving Mr Swinney’s claims that he has dealt with the recruitment crisis in tatters.

Meanwhile the Times Educational Supplement reports that Education Scotland has destroyed all school inspection information it held prior to 2008, in the face of criticism that schools are being left uninspected for years on end.

Labour said the cases show that the SNP management of the education portfolio is an ‘omnishambles’.

Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This is humiliating for John Swinney. This is not an instance of one policy failure, but rather an omnishambles across the education portfolio.

“John Swinney has u-turned on one of his flagship reforms to education, been caught spinning nonsense on teacher training places and deleted years’ worth of school inspections data.

“When Nicola Sturgeon made education her top priority John Swinney was supposed to be the safe pair of hands to push through reform. Instead he has constantly dropped the ball on education.”

On John Swinney u-turning on regional directors, Iain Gray said:

“If John Swinney has listened to sense and backed down on his Regional Directors of Education, that is a very welcome, albeit embarrassing, climb-down.

“Local authorities have made a strong common sense proposal to improve support for learning while maintaining local control of schools.

“However the SNP are still threatening to set school budgets centrally, and they need to drop that unwanted idea too.

“Above all, the Education Secretary needs to listen to the evidence that our teachers are among the lowest paid and hardest worked in the developed world, and do something about that too.”

On teacher training places, Iain Gray said:

“I am sick of hearing from John Swinney that he has resolved the teacher recruitment crisis by increasing teacher training places.

“He must know that hundreds of these places are sitting empty, especially in key subjects such as Physics and Maths.

“The OECD has just told us that Scottish teachers are among the lowest paid and hardest worked in the developed world. We need Mr Swinney to urgently fix that instead of launching half-baked advertising campaigns which do nothing but provide him with something to tweet.

“The Health Secretary is paying bursaries to incentivise graduates to move into medicine - why can’t Mr Swinney do the same to encourage new teachers of Maths and Physics? It really is time John Swinney put money where his mouth is when it comes to teachers and teacher recruitment.”

On the deletion of schools inspection data, Iain said:

"This is simply astonishing, irresponsible behaviour by the key public body responsible for Scotland’s school system. Education Scotland has been under fire before for acting in the interests of Scottish Ministers rather than Scottish schools and pupils, but to destroy records so that we cannot judge progress or otherwise in schools is breathtaking.

"Not only does it show contempt for the historical context of developments in Scottish schools, it looks like nothing less than a wilful attempt to frustrate transparency and freedom of information legislation.

"The SNP government’s record on freedom of information is a disgrace, and now Education Scotland appear complicit too. The Information Commissioner should have something to say about this."




24 September 2017

The average Scottish household is £500 worse off since the Tories came to power.

Analysis from Scottish Labour as UK Labour conference begins reveals that average household income today stands at £24,336.

In 2009/10 - the last year before the Tories came to power but in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis household income was £24,846.

This is income available to households after taxes, including council tax and income tax, are paid and all benefits and tax credits have been received.

Labour said the figure exposed the Tories economic mismanagement of the UK, and that the tax and benefit changes the Tories have pushed through have not boosted the pay packets of working people.

Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley said:

"The Tories used to boast about a long term economic plan - in reality Scottish households are over £500 a year worse off.

"A Labour Government, in the immediate aftermath of a global financial crisis, did more to protect living standards that the Tories have.

"Tax cuts for the wealthy and big business may please the Tories around the cabinet table but they do nothing to boost the incomes of working class families.

"Only Labour has a plan to make our country work for the many rather than the privileged few. With a £10 minimum wage, ending the benefits freeze and investing in Scotland through a National Investment Bank to create good quality jobs we can reverse the cost of the Tories.


21 September 2017

Nicola Sturgeon must drop her plan to cut Air Departure Tax, Labour demanded today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Question, interim Labour leader Alex Rowley revealed that the SNP’s plan to cut Air Departure Tax would cost almost twenty times what it proposes to spend on fighting child poverty.

The SNP’s Programme for Government announced a Tackling Child Poverty Fund worth £10 million a year.

However, SNP plans to halve Air Departure Tax will cost £189 million by 2021/22.

Cutting Air Departure Tax is more likely to help higher earners.

Labour’s demand follows Holyrood voting last night to endorse Labour’s principles on income tax, and increases the pressure on the SNP to take a more progressive approach to tax.

Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley said:

“The SNP plans to spend almost twenty times more on a tax cut for frequent flyers than it does on tackling child poverty.

“Halving Air Departure Tax would cost £189 million in a single year compared to £10 million a year on the Tackling Child Poverty Fund.

“Every single time the SNP has a tax decision to make it sides with the millionaires rather than the millions.

“The SNP cannot run away from this debate forever. Nicola Sturgeon must drop this tax cut for the airlines and use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to tackle child poverty.


21 September 2017

Responding to tonight’s vote on tax in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour Interim leader Alex Rowley said:

“This is a significant moment ahead of the budget. Parliament has endorsed Labour's basic principles on tax and public spending.

“If we are to protect public services we need to be willing to increase taxation – when push came to shove SNP politicians sat on their hands.

“That simply is not good enough. Scotland deserves better than a government that doesn’t know whether it thinks taxes should go up or down.

"The SNP now must respect the will of parliament. Only Labour's tax plans can stop the cuts and protect public services."



20 September 2017

Responding to John Swinney’s speech on education today, Labour education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said:

“John Swinney is wrong to double down on these reforms, in the face of mounting criticism from teachers, parents, unions and academics.

“We have a schools’ system that has 4,000 fewer teachers and £1.5 billion cut from local authority budgets since 2011. Labour has been clear - Holyrood should use the new powers over tax to increase investment in education.

“John Swinney’s own consultation on reforms agreed with Labour – parents, teachers and unions all agree that we need to see more investment in the system.

“Instead Mr Swinney plans to force the changes no-one wants through parliament - with Tory support.

“We have tried to amend the last two Scottish budgets to that effect and the SNP has voted against our plans.